What is a Canonical Coronation?

A "moment in faith" when heaven and earth unite.


Picture of sun shining through the trees

A Canonical Coronation is a formal act of the Pope and the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche will be honored with a crowning on October 10, 2021. This is a rare honor, so to explain the significance of a Canonical Coronation we referred to St Augustine Catholic magazine article "What is the Significance of a Canonical Coronation?" published in the January/February 2020 issue.


Our Lady wants to bring Christ to us and we to Christ!

Q: What is a Canonical (or Papal) Coronation?

A Canonical Coronation is a formal act of the Pope, as supreme pontiff of the church, to crown in his name an image of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or St. Joseph in the name of the Holy Father. The crowning acknowledges that the specific image, while having local significance, also has a universal importance for the Catholic Church as it pertains to the Salvation Christ won for us by the Paschal Mystery of his death and resurrection. The practice began in the 17th century but became increasingly popular from the late 1800's.


Q: How is a Coronation different than a May Crowning?

Many people are familiar with a May Crowning as many parishes and schools annually have one as a sign of their devotion to Mary. A Canonical Coronation is different in that this will only happen once to this specific image of Our Lady of La Leche. Once the ceremony of coronation takes place on Oct. 10, 2021, no other crowning of this specific image will take place since the Pope, as vicar of Christ and successor of St. Peter, had placed on this image crowns to symbolize the universal and perpetual nature of the graces that flow to the church from Christ through Mary's intercession under her title as Our Lady of La Leche.


Q: Is this the only Canonical Coronation in the U.S.?

It is only the fourth site in the United States to receive this honor. The others are Our Lady of Prompt Succor, crowned in 1895, in New Orleans; Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 1904, in New York City; and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, 2013, in Lake Charles, LA.


Q: What happens at the Coronation?

A papal legate will place crowns on the heads of the Baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is an official liturgical rite in the Catholic Church for use by bishops, will be celebrated. The ritual designates that, in the celebration of Mass, the coronation takes place following the homily.


Q: Why is this big deal for the diocese?

A Canonical Coronation places a "papal stamp" on a particular devotion of the church, in this case to Mary under the title of Our Lady of La Leche. Devotion certainly dates back centuries in various parts of the world; however, this particular shrine – which recently was named a national shrine in the United States – is noteworthy for the centrality of the devotion for almost 400 years.


Q: Our Lady of La Leche already wears a crown. How is this different?

New crowns are being designed to place on Mary and the Baby Jesus she holds as he nurses at her breast. These crowns will be considered permanent on the image in the historic chapel at the shrine in St. Augustine. Other images of Our Lady of La Leche will continue to have the crown on Mary's head as it presently is used.


Q: What kinds of devotions does this encourage?

In the first place, as devotion to Mary under this title manifested over the centuries, the Blessed Mother's intercession is an important one for mothers and families. In this, the church also calls to mind that Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary, was born into this life – the mystery of the Incarnation. This leads to a second importance which is the sanctity of human life. The care which mothers, fathers, and all family member must have during pregnancy and the early years of an infant's life is foundational to one's human life, as well as one's life in Christ.