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It was surely praying at their ‘makeshift shrine’ that kept the Chilean miners sane

One of their first requests, after a crucifix, was for statues of Our Lady and the saints

By on Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Four miners carry a statue of San Lorenzo, the patron saint of miners, to the rescue shaft at the San Jose mine in Chile

Four miners carry a statue of San Lorenzo, the patron saint of miners, to the rescue shaft at the San Jose mine in Chile

As I write, the Chilean miners are being brought to the surface. It has been a “miracle”, many say; first that they were not killed, second that they were found, and now a miracle of human skill and ingenuity that they have so far come up safe and unharmed; please God this “miracle” continues to the end of an amazing story.

Of course, the word is being used, especially by journalists, as a way of speaking, a metaphor. Probably none of these are miracles as the Church understands the word. But the religious faith of the miners has undoubtedly been playing a part in all this.  There has, of course, been almost no coverage of this fact in the secular press, though on Monday the Guardian (of course) had a mean little piece with the headline “Chilean miners: Rival churches claim credit for the miracle” and the standfirst “Evangelical, Adventist and Catholic clerics are vying to stamp their own faith on the expected rescue of the trapped men”.

What nobody has done so far – that I have seen (I may be wrong of course, there has been vast international coverage of this story) – is to give a convincing account of what it is that has kept the men sane and united and undespairing, what has sustained their hope of deliverance from this truly appalling ordeal. And I have no doubt at all that it was their religion and that that there weren’t that many Adventists or Evangelicals down there.

Consider the following CNA report from Santiago, which appeared on August 27: “The 33 miners trapped in the San Jose mine in Atacama, Chile, have requested that statues and religious pictures be sent down to them as they wait to be rescued… Chilean officials say the rescue could take months but that they hope to reach the miners by Christmas… A small passageway has already been put in place so messages and supplies can be sent to the trapped miners.

“Although a crucifix has already been sent down, the miners are continuing to request more statues of Mary and the saints… to construct a makeshift chapel. ‘The miners want to set up a section of the chamber they are in as a shrine,’ Chilean’s Minister of Health, Jaime Manalich, told CNN.

“This week, President Sebastian Pinera spoke with the miners by phone and then placed a statue of St Lorenzo, the patron of miners, in the presidential palace together with 32 Chilean flags and one Bolivian flag to represent each of the miners trapped since August 5.”

One of the first things the miners’ relatives did at the pithead, while it still looked as though they must be all dead, was to set up a statue of St Lawrence, patron saint of miners (see above), who in statues of him in this role movingly wears a miner’s hat and carries a miner’s lamp. And the whole rescue mission was placed under his patronage: it was called simply Operation San Lorenzo.

The rescue, as I post this, is not complete; not everyone is out. But whatever the final outcome, there has already been one vastly moving outcome among the miners themselves: the whole thing has been a massive spiritual triumph, a glorious victory against despair and loss of hope, against the quarrelling and division which naturally and inevitably break out, so the psychologists tell us, whenever men are confined together for prolonged periods of time. And surely even the Guardian can hardly argue that this great human achievement had nothing to do with that beacon of hope, the shrine set up in a corner of that unspeakable underground hell.

  • Flordonez

    it has been the prayers of millions that kept them sane and is bringing them out of there safe… Catholics, Evangelicals, Adventist, Baptist we all pray to same almighty God.

  • The Sheepcat

    A fine commentary. I think you mean 'appalling ordeal', though.

  • The Catholic Herald

    Sheepcat – Thank you. It should now read correctly.

  • Brad

    Our Lord hears all prayers. He allows some events to come to sorrow (recent dead miners in Virginia) and some events to come to joy (miners in Chile). Both outcomes serve Him and are allowed by Him in that both outcomes are meant to turn man's heart back to Him: the hearts of those involved and the hearts of those who are watching from afar. Whatever happens on this earth is merely fleeting. He will attempt to give us chances for (re)conversion through both sorrow and joy. Ave, Maria.

  • schumpeter

    Please explain why God got them trapped down there in the first place?

  • Ratbag

    The Holy Father sent rosaries to each of the miners and the new Chilean Ambassador to the Holy See presented him with a Chilean flag signed by all the miners. He has kept a keen interest in their welfare and have kept them in his prayers.

    I'm sure their faith and The Holy Rosary kept them going. The Holy Rosary has always been a constant companion for those who have been dire situations like the miners. Thanks be to God and His Holy Mother for their safe delivery.

  • Marceli

    I thought it was St Barbara!

  • Lindsay

    William Oddie accuses the Guardian of meanness, then says this:

    <and adventists=”” all=”” and=”” at=”” doubt=”” down=”” evangelicals=”” have=”” i=”” it=”” many=”” no=”” or=”” religion=”” that=”” their=”” there=”” there.=”” was=”” weren’t=””>

    Then says this:

    I think his comment about Adventists and Evangelicals is an example of precisely that “quarrelling and division” he presumably deplores.</and>

  • Lindsay

    William Oddie accuses the Guardian of meanness, then says this:

    “And I have no doubt at all that it was their religion and that that there weren’t that many Adventists or Evangelicals down there.”

    Then says this:

    “a glorious victory against despair and loss of hope, against the quarrelling and division which naturally and inevitably break out, so the psychologists tell us, whenever men are confined together for prolonged periods of time”

    I think his comment about Adventists and Evangelicals is an example of precisely that “quarrelling and division” he presumably deplores.

  • Lindsay

    William Oddie accuses the Guardian of meanness, then says this:

    “And I have no doubt at all that it was their religion and that that there weren’t that many Adventists or Evangelicals down there.”

    Then says this:

    “a glorious victory against despair and loss of hope, against the quarrelling and division which naturally and inevitably break out, so the psychologists tell us, whenever men are confined together for prolonged periods of time”

    I think his comment about Adventists and Evangelicals is an example of precisely that “quarrelling and division” he presumably deplores.

  • Lonepine_va

    Did God refuse to let you get up when your morning alarm clock went off? Did God pick your sox for the day? Did God make you go have lunch at a certain time? Use your head ( your reasoning powers ) and see how God made us with intellect and a FREE WILL to do many things OURSELVES; both good choices and bad. There's an old saying “Action follows being.” Check that one out….

  • W Oddie

    Probably you're right. Mea culpa

  • W Oddie

    What? That's what I said.

  • W Oddie

    All the same, all I meant was that probably most of them were Catholics (hence the request for statues etc). But it does turn out that one of the miners was an Evangelical preacher. So there you are.

  • Mamasnookems

    It was all God that kept them alive and sane! It has nothing to do with praying to an idol or a statue or saint, it was all Jesus! Praise Him and give the glory to Him and Him alone for He is God!

  • Mmshah73

    jesus is a prophet of God and not God Himslef.

  • James H

    Simply not true. Read the gospels.

  • Ammazzamoro

    Only “a prophet” you must be joking. Have you no Hope? To deny the Incarnation of the Most High is to deny the enoblement of corporeal and spiritual suffering.


    alms. fasting. prayer.

  • Ray

    “Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” Pope Pius IX.

  • W Oddie

    There's no point in arguing with this chap, he's obviously a Moslem and doesn't accept the authority of the gospels.

  • Lindsay

    From the Guardian:

    'All important decisions were put to a vote but several figures, in addition to Urzua, became leaders. One key figure in the group's dynamics was Jose Henriquez, 54, a drill master and evangelical preacher who was named the group's official “pastor”. Henriquez brought calm, God and unity to the most difficult moments, said Bustos. “He was a leader without a doubt.”'

  • Jrdonlan

    “jesus is a prophet of God and not God Himslef.””

    THIS IS HERESY. The Arian heresy was dealt with in 400ad. Please get educated sir.

  • Jrdonlan

    However, there is only salvation inside the Catholic Church.

  • Mamasnookems

    Jesus said, ” I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” I pray that you get to know Jesus and He is the ONLY way to heaven! My God is alive and Jesus is alive sitting at the right hand of the Father.

  • Mamasnookems

    Only in Jesus Christ there is salvation, not works or priest or sacraments, Jesus did the work on the cross and it was finished there and He is alive and He wants us to follow Him only! Not a church or religion, Jesus is the ONLY way and He did not start the catholic church either, it is not in the bible.

  • Mamasnookems

    Praying at a makeshift shrine did not save them, it was God who saved them, they don't need a shrine or a statue to pray to God, remember after Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished” then the veils torn at the temple, God tore those so man can go to God anywhere, they don't need a priest or idolatrous idols to pray to! Praise God! we can come to Him, anytime, anyplace!!

  • CM

    Salvation is in the Catholic Church. The miners have a great devotion to Our Lady, the mother of Jesus Christ and the saints.

    What are you doing putting nasty comments on a Catholic blog.

  • Mamasnookems

    I am not putting nasty comments on here, I am just putting the truth on here. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, NO ONE comes to the Father except through Me. This is what Jesus said, that means the only way to eternal life is through Jesus ALONE! Not His mother, no saint, no one but Jesus. Are you denying Jesus had nothing to do with Salvation? You are sorely mistaken. I don't hate catholics, I would love to see them have salvation in Jesus, He did the work for us, gave up His life for us so we can be saved if we chose Him and not a church or religion, just Jesus, He does want a spiritual relationship with us. I will pray for your salvation CM. PS, I was a catholic till God opened my eyes to the truth.

  • curt

    Interesting thought- praying at a shrine with an image- that kept them sane. God says not to worship graven images and so what you are saying is that God kept them alive because they were breaking one of His commandments and praying at a shrine to a supposed saint who is supposedly in heaven which the Bible clearly states “the dead know not anything” and “the dead praise not the Lord”? And that's why God kept them alive. Friends, don't you all think its time to start reading your own Bibles and stop believing all that priests tell you is truth? That same Bible also says, “call no one father” except one your Father who is in heaven. That Bible also mentions nothing about purgatory. It also gives the definition of blasphemy “who can forgive sins except God”. Read your Bibles friends, read your Bibles before your probation closes! There is no name under heaven by which we must be saved!!!- Jesus Christ. Nowhere does it say the church! Not the adventist church, not the catholic church, not the muslim church! Nowhere does it say the pope! In the end, there is one kingdom that will stand and that is God's remnant people who “keep the commandments (all 10 of them) and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” and who are preaching the 3 angels of Revelation 14. Jesus is the rock that will fill the whole earth and His people who study the truths of the Bible and embrace all truth which is in the Bible! If any religion teaches people to break one of God's commandments, it isn't God's church. This is not rocket science, friends. Read your Bibles and you will know the truth “and the truth will set you free”.

  • Mamasnookems

    I agree with you Curt 100%

  • MJCarroll

    Matthew 16:18 states “And I say to you: That you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”. Sounds to me like Jesus started the Catholic Church!

    Look Mamasnookems, I can not work out if you are an Charismatic extremist 'doing your own thing' or an Evangelical Charismatic extremist but, it may be news to you but the Catholic Church is also Charismatic. One of the main strands of Catholicism is made up of Catholic Charismatic Renewal. They will absolutely agree with your definitive argument that Salvation is in Christ alone.

    However, the bible also goes on to say that “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The rules have been set down by the Vatican and we can therefore pray to Mary & the Saints for intercession.

    These two quotes in the bible are quite literally 'black & white' and there is no room for manoeuvre to say they have any other meaning.

    I think that the recent beatification of John Henry Newman in Britain will show the greatest example of the intercession of Cardinal Newman who was prayed to by Deacon Jack Sullivan. The miracle attributed to this intercession is 'miraculous' in the absolute sense of the word. It was literally impossible that Deacon Jack would have ever recovered and I personally challenge you to research this and say otherwise.

    Although the Vatican now states that it is not the only conduit towards salvation I think it is a shame that you seem to have had a charismatic conversion to Christ and was not aware of Catholic Charismatic Renewal. If you were aware of it I believe that the full beauty of the Catholic Church would have been made apparent to you. The Catholic Church DOES NOT give salvation but it is the ultimate conduit which will prepare you for the day that you will meet Christ and hopefully your salvation.

    You need to remember that the Catholic Church is the only Christian body which has kept ALL it's rules and Sacrements since the day of Pentecost. The other Christian religions have fallen away and 'picked and choosen' the bits that they liked and the parts that they could not stomach they discarded.

    The question is do you want to believe a Christian religion that has been around for 100 years or do you want to believe the only Christian religion that was actually around at the time of Christ. Logic alone will tell you that those present at the beginning (Pentecost) who received the full 'Baptism in the Holy Spirit' and the graces that are associated with the Crucifixion are the only ones who would have had ultimate understanding.

    So which Christian Church do you want to follow. The one that holds the full beauty of the Mysteries of the Sacraments, the Saints, the Martyrs and the Holy Mass which was handed down from the day of Pentecost or do you want to follow a Christian religion that threw a way all the challenging unpalatable bits?

  • Mamasnookems

    Jesus is the Rock of our faith, not Peter, here are some versesfrom God's word I can give you, 1 Corinthians 10:4, “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed then and that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” ( this was talking about the exodus from Egypt when Moses led them out of Egypt).

    !Peter 2:6,7,8. This is what Peter said, ” Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

    Therefore, to you who believe, He us precious; but to those who are disobedient. “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and ” A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

    and in Ephesians 2 :20-22 “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together grows, into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

    Acts 4:12 ” Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men

    by which we must be saved”.

    Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

    But these are few verses from the Word of God to help open some eyes. One more question,

    Can you provide a verse where you can pray to the saints and mary?

  • Ratbag

    One of the engineers involved in the team to free the miners is from the United States and is about to become a Roman Catholic Deacon.

  • Ratbag

    Well, Snookiepoops! You cannot come onto this Catholic website and admit that you don't have photos of your family in your wallet, on your laptop/computer, on your wall or your mobile phone! If you do, why do you carry them in the first place?

    Answers on a postcard please…

    The fact that we have pictures, crucifixes and images is not out of idolatory. The earliest Christians in the Catacombs drew symbols and pictures on the walls as well as making the first medals of saints and martyrs. Why? To remind them of the price paid for their faith. When the early Christians were martyred, every part of their bodies were put into phials (blood and remnants) and buried. Their relics were customarily placed under altars – something that the Roman Catholic Church still does.

    Who are you to say that members of the early Church were wrong and you are right?

    We are not so thick and stupid to think that those plaster, paint and enamel objects can actually move and help us out of a fix – it says so in the Roman Catholic Catechism! We have always been taught that these objects i.e. sacramentals are mere reminders, aide memoires etc. and not amulets, good luck charms, idols or talismans. For example, the ubiquitous portrait of Her Majesty The Queen on each coin or note or her coat of arms above the judge reminds UK citizens that they are British subjects living in the United Kingdom. It's the same with any sovereign state whether by flag, heraldry or image of a head of state. Wouldn't you not know that you were in the USA if you didn't see the Stars and Stripes outside virtually every conceivable building?

    When 9/11 happened, the only American-related monument in Manchester was that of Abraham Lincoln. I laid a rose at his feet for those who suffered in the attacks. Was that worshipping an idol? If you think it was, you need to see a professional! It was actually my way of expressing grief and support for those affected – one victim was from Stockport!

    Examples of images such as those of Our Blessed Lord on the crucifix and/or the Sacred Heart and Our Lady on the Miraculous Medal are like holy post-it notes – reminders of God's loving presence in our lives. We have the Holy Bible, yes indeed, there is no denying that. Artists, musicians and others have expressed their love for God through their art like Michelangelo, Raphael and Rembrandt. I remember seeing the Pieta in St Peter's Basilica in Rome. It was a mere reconstruction of a grieving mother over her dead Son. It moved me very much but I did not fall down and worship it!

    Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who saw the Blessed Virgin in Lourdes, looked at hundreds of sketches of the lady she saw in the rock and commented (paraphrased here): “Those poor artists! When they see her face to face, they'll realise that they have got her completely wrong!”

    To facetiously suggest that we worship idols is so way off, distorted and misunderstood I would not employ you in a shooting gallery to pick off ducks for a goldfish!

  • Mamasnookems

    Websters dictionary says: Idolartry- excessive devotion to or reverence for some person or thing.

    Idol- image of god used as an object or instrument of worship.

    In God's word it says in Isaiah 42:8 “I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images”. Also in !st John 5:21 ” Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”

    We are not to pray to saints or Mary at all. We don't need a “go between” or “mediator”, it is only Jesus we go to. As in Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace,that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We need to go to Jesus, to the throne of grace through faith in Jesus.

  • Mamasnookems

    Salvation IS in Christ alone, read your bible! I am a born again Christian, the same Christians that were in Paul and Peter's day, Peter did not start the church, Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone, and the church is the people not a literal building. I am so thankful that God has led me to Him to open my eyes to the truth. I pray for you and for others who don't know the truth, I pray for salvation for you, it is in Jesus alone, the one sitting at the right hand of God. The vatican changes things all the time,but Jesus is the same as yesterday,today and forever.

  • Mamasnookems

    Jesus said, “I am the Way theTruth and the Life, NO ONE comes to the Father except through Me. He never said “church” or Mary or saint, only in Jesus.

  • Topshottah

    1Ti 2:5 For there is one God: and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus:

    Had the Vatican not kept these words from the people in the early Christian era and during the Dark Ages, all these prayers to dead people and praying to Mary for petitions to Christ would never have taken root and created a false religion whose primary act it appears to be is a worshiping of that ancient babylonian pagan goddess called the Queen of Heaven, which title Catholics also give to Mary, making them one and the same.