According to an old and pious tradition, the image of the Virgin Mary known today as “Our Lady of Regla” dates from the earliest times of Christianity. Among her devotees was prominent St. Augustine (+430 A.D.); father and doctor of the faith, Bishop of Hippo and defender of the Orthodox Christian faith.
Additionally, the holy bishop had an image of the Black Virgin in his oratory, and it was the Mother of God who gave him the “rule” (“regla” in Spanish) to direct his monastic community. This explains the ancient title of “Our Lady of the Rule of St. Augustine” that was later given to the image in Spain.
After the death of St. Augustine, a persecution against Christians arose in the African church. This caused Deacon Cyprian, and other disciples of the Blessed Augustine, to flee to the coasts of southern Spain; bringing with them the venerated image whose devotion spread under the name of Lybian Virgin or “Beautiful African”. From there the devotion later spread to very distant lands like Belgium, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Venezuela and the United States.
The privilege to revive the devotion to Our Lady of Regla among Hispanic immigrants to the United
States fell on the founders of the Shrine and the Brotherhood of the Virgin of Regla. On June 25, 1982, Fr. Miguel F. Lobo and a group of devotees founded in the city of Miami, Florida, The Shrine and Brotherhood of Our Lady of Regla, with the purpose of building a Shrine to the Virgin. Religious services began to be celebrated at St. George Cathedral in Coral Gables, part of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese in North America, which generously opened her doors.
On September 7, 1982, the image of the Virgin of Regla was placed in the Cathedral of St. George, where it remained until Easter Sunday 1984, when it was translated to her provisional chapel in the city of Miami.
On March 25, 1987, the image of Our Lady of Regla was proclaimed “Patroness of Little Havana” by the parish council of the Shrine of Regla; and on September 7th of the same year, that title was ratified in a proclamation by the Mayor of the City of Miami, the Honorable Xavier Suarez. Wiith the psalmist we can say: “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23).
After an extensive renovation of the building to adapt it to the needs of divine worship, the Most Holy Virgin of Regla was solemnly crowned in the City of Miami on May 7, 1989. Father Miguel F. Lobo, with previous authorization of the Vicar General of the Western Rite, Archpriest Paul Schneirla, placed two crowns on the heads of the Divine Child and His Most Holy Mother while he said: “As we crown you on earth, so may we also be crowned by Christ in heaven.” The ceremony took place during the celebration of Holy Mass in the recently renovated Shrine.
St. Mary of Regla is not the only Black Virgin venerated in Christendom. Among other famous images we can mention the Virgin of Montserrat, a Byzantine statue brought from Constantinople to Catalonia, Spain; as well as the Black Virgin of Poland, a Byzantine icon. Both images show the Mother of God with a dark complexion.
This is briefly the story of Our Lady of Regla; a story filled with trials throughout the centuries. “Blessed are they t
hat love you for they shall rejoice in your peace. Blessed are they which have been sorrowful for all your scourges; for they shall rejoice for you when they have seen all your glory and shall be glad forever.” (Tobit 13:14).
Canon Miguel F. Lobo
27 February 2008