While Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, the Christian world often overlooks this day which is special to Our Mother, Mary. In the Catholic Church, Saturdays are special days in the liturgy and are dedicated to the Virgin Mary. On most Saturdays throughout the year, priests may offer votive Masses in her honor, and in the Liturgy of the Hours, specific prayers and readings are dedicated to her.
The tradition of honoring the Mother of God on Saturday is an ancient custom widely attributed to the Benedictine monk Alcuin (735-804), a close advisor to Charlemagne, who composed a votive office for each day of the week, and two offices especially for Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary. Another tradition is that Saint Peter Damascene writes that Saturdays commemorate the completion of God’s work of creation. God rested on the seventh day, and Mary is the one in whom, through the mystery of the Incarnation, God made for himself a holy resting-place (St Peter Damian, Opusculum 33, De Bono Suffragorum, PL 145, 566). According to St. Thomas Aquinas, this choice has to do with the Resurrection of Jesus, which took place on a Sunday, and with the unshakeable faith of the Virgin on the previous day. Others have argued that since Sunday is dedicated to Jesus, it seemed logical to dedicate the previous day to his Mother.
Marian devotion on Saturday was confirmed during the private revelations of Our Lady of Fatima. On December 10, 1925, the Virgin Mary appeared to Sister Lucia in the convent of Pontevedra, Spain. A few years earlier, Lucia had been one of the three seers of Our Lady's apparitions in the small Portuguese village. In this new private revelation that occurred eight years after the events of Fatima, Mary requested the establishment of the devotion of the first five consecutive Saturdays in reparation for the offenses done to her Immaculate Heart.
Many Christians make a special effort to honor the Blessed Virgin in some special manner on this day. Some choose one favorite aspiration to repeat often throughout the day. Others pay a visit to a sick person, or to a poor family, or to someone who is lonely or suffering, in honor of our Lady. Still others visit a church or shrine dedicated in her honor, or simply make a special effort to be attentive in reciting the Rosary, the Angelus, or the Hail, Holy Queen. Honoring the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Saturdays and reciting the rosaries on that day developed over subsequent Saturdays. These included attending Mass on the 15 Saturdays before the feast of the Holy Rosary on Oct. 7, or honoring the Seven Sorrows of Mary for seven consecutive Saturdays.
Pope Paul VI, in his apostolic exhortation on Marian devotions in 1974, noted that honoring the Blessed Mother on Saturday originated “especially in the East.” In 1974, during the period of liturgical reform following the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul noted this long tradition of Saturday devotions and “Masses of Our Lady” calling them “an ancient and simple commemoration” that had been made “very adaptable and varied by the flexibility of the modern calendar and the number of formulas provided by the Missal.”
Today, in many Spanish-speaking areas, Holy Saturday is a time to honor Nuestra Señora de la Soledad or “Our Lady of Solitude.” A famous legend about the Lady of Solitude is remembered as follows; Legend has it that in 1620 a mule driver, guiding his mule train through the streets of Oaxaca on his way to Guatemala, suddenly discovered he had an extra animal, carrying a huge box on his back.
Outside the San Sebastian hermitage, the mule collapsed under the burden it was carrying. The mule driver unsuccessfully tried to get her on her feet. Finally, in order to avoid being punished he alerted the authorities who lifted the box. The burro stood up and immediately died. The officials were curious to see what was inside this box. They opened it and found inside the image of the Blessed Virgin of Solitude accompanied by Christ on it, along with a sign that said, The Virgin by the Cross. This amazing event motivated Bishop Bartolome Bojorquez to order a sanctuary built in honor of the divinity. Tourists who visit Oaxaca find a large boulder at the entrance marking the spot where the mule died from the weight of the box. Our Lady of Solitude is the patroness of Oaxaca. Every December 18, Oaxaqueños celebrate the day of the Queen of Oaxaca and is carried through the streets of the city on many religious celebrations.
However, most Church historians have traced the origin if the title to Queen Juana lamenting the early death of her husband Philip I of Castile in 1506. Isabel de Valois, wife of Felipe II, had in a private oratory a painting that she had brought with her from France and that represented the Virgin of the Solitude. The image of the picture aroused great devotion in the friars of the Order of the Minims of San Francisco de Paula, who had settled in Madrid following in the footsteps of the monarch. The friars asked permission of the queen to have a copy of the image for the chapel of their convent of Our Lady of Victory in Madrid. In 1565, finally, after more than a year of work, the statue of Our Lady of Solitude was presented to the convent of Our Lady of Victory.
Today, Our Lady of Solitude is the patroness of Badajos and Parla, Spain; Porto Covo, Portugal; and Acapulco, Mexico; and of Cavite Province, and the Philippines.