In October of 1717, three Brazilian fishermen were out fishing, in order to supply a banquet the townspeople of Guaratinguetá were giving in honor of a visiting nobleman. Since it was outside the season for finding fish, they prayed to the Immaculate Conception for help.
After many hours of coming up empty, the fishermen were about to give up. They cast in their net one last time and brought up the body of a terra cotta statue. Casting their net again, they brought up the head. They cleaned the statue, which turned out to be an image of the Immaculate Conception. Naming the statue “Our Lady Aparecida” (Our Lady who appeared), the fisherman wrapped it in cloth and cast their nets again. This time, they caught so many fish their boat was in danger of sinking.
The statue came to be associated with many miracles brought about by the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and was an object of veneration. A prayer chapel was built; when that became too small, a church was built on the hill of the Coqueiros, around which a village sprang up. When the crowds outgrew that church, a new and bigger one was built; it was given the title of minor basilica in 1908. An even bigger basilica was begun in the 1950s; today, it is the second largest place of Catholic worship in the world, after St. Peter’s, and the largest Marian shrine. Our Lady of Aparecida is the patroness of Brazil, the largest Catholic nation in the world.