Our Lady of Guadalupe feast celebrates Blessed Mother's generous response of faith

Marco Urbina nervously wrapped his fingers around a maraca as he waited in the church vestibule for the dancing to begin. The 14-year-old has attended Holy Trinity's annual Las Mañanitas and Mass to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe since he was 6; now he's part of the matachines — a group of dancers who perform a ritual dance in honor of the Queen of Heaven.

"We dance for the Virgin Mary," said Marco, with a wide grin and a dimple in his cheek. "It's like celebrating a special birthday for the greatest woman who ever lived."

It was a celebration that started just before dawn at the parish, located in St. Ann. Around 4:30 a.m., people began gathering at church as Mariachi Nuevo Azteca played traditional songs. As they trickled in, they one by one came to the altar to place roses at the foot of a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The roses are a symbol of one of the most significant apparitions in Church history.

When the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico in December of 1531, she instructed him to build a church at the top of Tepeyac Hill. To help prove Our Lady's appearance to the archbishop, she instructed the saint to collect Castilian roses at the top of hill, which during December would have normally been barren. When St. Juan Diego presented the roses to the archbishop, the image of Our Lady appeared on his tilma. The feast is celebrated Dec. 12.

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego is often told through song and performances. The mariachi band had everyone singing along with "La Guadalupana," perhaps one of the most well-known songs that tells the story:

"Y en la tilma entre rosas pintada

su imagen amada se dignó dejar;

Desede entonces, para el Mexicano

ser Guadalupano es algo esencial."

"Painted on the tilma, left among the roses, was her beloved image that she chose to leave," explained Holy Trinity pastor Msgr. Francis Blood. "From then on, to be Mexican means to be 'Guadalupano.' It's essential."

Our Lady of Guadalupe serves as a prime example of someone who responded generously in faith as she became the mother of Jesus, Msgr. Blood said in his homily. St. Juan Diego should also inspire others to be Christ's messenger to others.

"God is asking you to be the Juan Diegos of today, to bring the message of the Gospel to others and to bring Christ to birth in everyone."

Carrying on the feast day tradition is important to the Catholic Hispanic community, said Sister Rose Ann Ficker, SSND, director of Hispanic ministry at Holy Trinity. The early morning Las Mañanitas and Mass became an annual fixture at the parish shortly after Hispanic ministry started there in 2003. Nearly half of the parish's population is Hispanic.

"They feel so authenticated by this," she said. "There's just this love; their mothers are important to them, and here we have God's mother, who's also our mother." She appeared to St. Juan Diego as someone familiar to the indigenous people. "She's speaking in this very tender way — you are my smallest ones. I love you. I am here to help you. I've got you in my mantle."

The celebration continued after Mass, with a reception including Mexican breads and pastries, hot chocolate and champurrado, a warm drink made with milk and corn starch. Benjamin Delgado, who enjoyed the post-Mass feast with his wife, Adriana, and their four children, said that sharing this tradition with his children is important, despite having to rise at an early hour.

"The love of God brings us together, and that's important to pass along to our children," he said. "God has given us a symbol (through the Blessed Mother) of how our lives are supposed to be," he said. "We believe this is the mother of God. She can be the intersection between us and God."

Holy Trinity will celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with a Mass in Spanish at noon Sunday, Dec. 13. The church is located at 3500 St. Luke Lane in St. Ann. 

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