By Anne Attea
Coordinator for Latino Minsitry
My father is a man of prayer and has a strong Marian devotion. As a child, I would occasionally see him praying the rosary, and while he taught us to pray it, he never imposed the devotion on us, except while traveling. Truthfully, I think it was my parents’ way of garnering a half hour of relative quiet when trekking cross country with 5 rambunctious kids! Each one of us had to lead a decade…
As I grew, my father’s devotion continued to intrigue me, but I wasn’t inspired enough to follow his example. Furthermore, I didn’t particularly relate to the usually blond hair, blue-eyed statuette found in most churches. She didn’t look like me and certainly didn’t seem to have the same interests or personality. Jesus was the teacher, healer and rabble rouser – more my kind of guy, and it was his stories that captured my imagination.
Several decades later, I am still unpacking the Jesus stories. However, Mary also has a prominent place in my prayer life now thanks to the Hispanic/Latino community. I have come to know her through Our Lady of Guadalupe and the impressionable devotion that is characteristic of many Mexicans and others throughout the Americas. It is the study of her and the accompaniment of her devotees that has allowed me to know Mary as first disciple, loving mother, protector, comforting and compassionate presence, and the strong, courageous, radical woman that she is.
Pope John Paul II, too, could recognize the power of Mary as revealed in Guadalupe.
In the late 1990’s, he proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe the “Patroness of the Americas” – north, central and south. She is the patroness of all, and her feast day will soon be upon us come December 12. What follows is a summary account of the Guadalupe story.
Juan Diego was a poor, peasant Indian man who was walking through the Mexican countryside on his way to church. As he passed by Tepeyac, the ancient temple site to Tonantzin, an Aztec virgin goddess, he heard music. Looking around for the source of the music, he saw a beautiful maiden. She spoke to him and identified herself as the Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, and told him to go to the bishop. He was to request that a temple be built in her honor on that spot at Tepeyac. The bishop refused to see him, and Juan left dejectedly.
Again he encountered Mary who charged him with the same request. This time, he patiently waited at the bishops’ residence until he was received. However, the bishop still refused to believe his story and sent him away. He was not to return unless he had a sign from Mary.
Juan told Mary about his encounter with bishop and she left him large fragrant roses, flowers not commonly found in December, to take back as a sign. He picked the roses and put them in this tilma (cloak/poncho). In front of the bishop he unfurled his tilma and let the roses fall to the floor. Only then did they all discover the magnificent image of the Blessed Virgin that is still preserved today in the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City. Ultimately, the bishop believed in Mary’s appearances and built the shrine Mary had requested.
From the time that Mary appeared to Indian peasant Juan Diego, and left her incredible signs, she has profoundly affected and inspired the Christian faith of the people of the Americas and especially Mexico. Why?
Mary appeared in 1531, only ten years after the arrival of the Spanish conquerors.
During those years, the one true God had been presented to the people via European missionaries. God was harsh, swift to punish and distant, an import that came with the European culture and way of life.
An oppressed people recognized Mary as a symbol of new power and new life in an age devoid of hope and freedom because she provided them with a new way of knowing the God the missionaries preached. Mary was morena, dark like the Indians, and spoke words of consolation in the midst of great suffering. Thus, Our Lady of Guadalupe is often referred to as the “Maria morena”, or dark Mary, because of her Indian/mestizo (half European/half Indian blood) features. Furthermore, she appears to a lowly, poor peasant man rather than to the wealthy and powerful. The conquered people have found someone with whom they can identify. She is a common woman, someone who will know the pain of childbirth, live as part of the working class, and suffer all the ills of survival. Yet, she is also the Mother of Jesus, a loving, compassionate mother, who desires nothing more than to draw all people to her Son and to offer them her love, protection, and help.
The descendents of those first believers continue to invoke her protection and help today.
All are invited to share in the festivities here at Ascension that reverence and honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. Below is a schedule of activities:
Thurs, Dec 11th:
6 – 9:45 p.m. Vigil with song and prayer
10 p.m. Mass
Fri, Dec 12th:
5:30 a.m. Mañanitas (the traditional morning serenade)
6 p.m. Procession with Aztec dancers
6:30 p.m. Mass
7:30 p.m. Fiesta in the cafeteria
Vengan y celebren con nosotros. ¡Les esperamos!
Come and celebrate with us – we await you!