Friday, October 26, 2012

Venezuelan Folk Saint Jose Gregorio Hernandez is 148

Venezuelans will be lighting a candle today for the country's most popular folk saint, Dr Jose Gregorio Hernandez, who was born on 26 October 1864 in the small Andean pueblo of Isnotú, Trujillo State.

The good doctor spent his short lifetime helping the poor and performing miracles until he was tragically killed on 26 June 1919, run down on the corner of Amadores and Uparal in Caracas by one of the first cars in the city. 

Since then, millions of Venezuelans have prayed to a small statue of Jose Gregorio Hernandez, or carried a printed image of him to help overcome illness or bad health for themselves or family members.

His tomb in the church of La Candelaria, Caracas, and his birthplace in Isnotú are popular places of pilgrimage, especially by the sick and infirm seeking a miracle cure.

The many claims of miraculous healing attributed to Jose Gregorio Hernandez over the years led Pope John Paul II to declare him "venerable" in 1986 - an important step on the road to sainthood.

But devotion to "El Medico de Los Pobres" (The Doctor of the Poor) or "El Siervo de Dios" (The Servant of God), as he is known, extends beyond the Catholic Church. 

Statues, prints and scapularies of Jose Gregorio Hernandez - depicted in a black suit and hat with a Charlie Chaplin moustache, or in a doctor's white coat.- are sold outside and inside some churches.

You can also find them in stores known as perfumerías (literally perfume shops), which sell a dizzying array of soaps for washing away bad luck and love potions to make you irresistible, alongside shelves of statues of saints and characters from the Cult of Maria Lionza.

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