Saint Augustine, Florida: Our Lady of La Leche National Shrine and Mission of Nombre de Dios
About the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche:
On the grounds of the Mission of Nombre de Dios is the first shrine in the United States dedicated to Our Blessed Mother. Devotion to Our Lady of La Leche (Our Lady of the Milk) goes back to a 4th Century Grotto in Jerusalem. The story of the grotto in Bethlehem can be found here.
The devotion spread in the middle ages, particularly after the Crusaders came back from the Holy Land. The wife of a nobleman, expected to die during the birth of her child, was reportedly spared due to the intercession of Our Lady of La Leche. More particularly she was given the title “Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery”.
On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed on this site and proclaimed it for Spain and planted a cross dedicating the site to God. Mission Nombre de Dios was the frist shrine in the New World dedicated to the Blessed Mother.
The original cross is long gone, and the site is marked by a 208-foot stainless steel cross, an 11-foot bronze statue of the chaplain of Menendez’ fleet, Fr. Francisco Lopez de Mendoza, and other significant memorials.
In addition to the chapel (shown here) the grounds have shrines dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe (Patroness of the Americas) and Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The grounds are beautiful…a great place to pray and meditate.
Also notable are a cross over 200 feet tall, and an outdoor altar commemorating the first Mass celebrated on September 8, 1565 by the first Spanish settlers to arrive here. This Mass of Thanksgiving is widely believed to be the First Thanksgiving on the continent, over 50 years before the Pilgrims celebrated at Plymouth Rock, Mass. in 1621.
There is a a gift shop, walking trails, and shrines that make this a beautiful place to visit for spiritual renewal.
The Shrine was designated by the Bishop of Saint Augustine as an official pilgrimage site during the Year of Faith (October 2012 – November 2013).
According to the Bishop “The faithful who, making a pilgrimage in faith and participating here in the sacred liturgy or, at least pause for an apt time for recollection and pious meditations, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Apostles or Nicene Creed, and invoking the intercession of the Blessed Mother–Our Lady of La Leche–as well as our diocesan patron Saint Augustine of Hippo, be granted a Plenary Indulgence.”
“The usual conditions of being free from attachment to sin, sacramental confession, reception of Holy Communion and prayers for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, are also to be accomplished to gain the indulgence. The indulgence is obtained for the individual or it may be applied to the faithful departed, signed here“.
The Most Reverend Felipe J Estevez, DD, STD, Bishop of Saint Augustine.
Bishop Estevez announced in October 2019 that the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche had been elevated as a National Shrine by the US bishops’ conference.
The Feast of Our Lady of La Leche is celebrated on October 11.
Traveling to Mission Nombre de Dios and Our Lady of La Leche Shrine:
Address: 27 Ocean Ave, St Augustine, FL 32084
GPS coordinates: 29° 54′ 18.2304” N, 81° 18′ 57.9384” W
Tel: +1 (904) 824-2809 or +1 (800) 342-6529
Click here for the official website of the Mission Nombre de Dios and Our Lady of La Leche Shrine in Saint Augustine.
Here is an interesting story of an “accidental pilgrimage” to the shrine by Catholic author Regina Gulick.