Today we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Belen, patroness of our school.
While the actual day is January 21st, we waited until today Monday to have the mass. I’ve always wondered why the feast day of our patroness is celebrated on January 21st. I’ve asked many, but no one, not even the older Jesuits at the Jesuit Hilton, seem to know. They clearly remember the school’s devotion to Our Lady and how they would hold processions through the ample corridors of the old school in Havana. They remember having her image loom large over the altar in the Belen chapel, but they don’t recall celebrating anything on the 21st of January.
This leads me to believe that it was something that they probably came up with here in Miami when the school got off the ground. Unfortunately, Fr. Ripoll and Fr. Arroyo, the two Jesuits who convinced Bishop Coleman Carroll to give the green light to start Belen on the fourth floor of the old Gesu School building, have passed away and have taken the answer to their grave. Why is Our Lady of Belen celebrated on January 21st? I don’t know… ask Mr. Owl. Actually, he wouldn’t know either, considering he doesn’t even know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. I guess the world will never know.
The fact is, we celebrate the feast of our patroness, our Mother, and guide. The image of Our Lady of Belen is very significant. She sits on the manger with the baby Jesus standing on her lap as she holds on to him, extending him out towards us. It almost seems like the child wants to jump out of her arms and into ours. You can almost hear Mary saying, “all in due time.”
Isn’t that just like a mother? Knowing full well that her son will one day be great and will do great things, she knows it will be in due time. She knows that for as much as she would want to protect him, her baby boy will one day have to leave the safety of her arms and venture into the world. Her baby boy will one day have to live through the hardships of life and suffer the blows of an unhealthy and sinful world. But all in good time.
For now, she knows that she needs to nurture her child. She knows that she needs to teach him how to eat without putting his elbows on the table, chew with his mouth closed, wash his hands before every meal, brush his teeth, study, and pray. She needs to guide him with a loving but stern hand towards a fuller understanding of who he is called to be and how that calling must necessarily be for the good of others. She needs to teach him how to be a man for others.
And that’s why she is our patroness. That is Belen. That is our life’s work. We are here to raise men for others. So, while we may celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Belen on the 21st of January, it is her example that we must follow all year long.
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was founded in 1854 in Havana, Cuba by Queen Isabel II of Spain. The task of educating students was assigned to the priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), whose teaching tradition is synonymous with academic excellence and spiritual discipline. In 1961, the new political regime of Cuba confiscated the School property and expelled the Jesuit faculty. The School was re-established in Miami the same year, and over the next decade, continued to grow. Today, Belen Jesuit sits on a 30-acre site in western Dade County, only minutes away from downtown Miami.