By Barb Arland-Fye
A major celebration for Hispanic Catholics is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, which honors the Blessed Mother as patroness of the Americas.
The origins of the feast date to the 16th century in Mexico, when Mary is said to have appeared before an Aztec indian named Juan Diego. She told him of her desire to see a church built in the place where she appeared so that people could experience her compassion.
She instructed Juan to go and tell the bishop what he had seen and heard. Juan did as he was told, but was discouraged by the bishop’s initial response. At Mary’s request, Juan visited the bishop a second time. The bishop asked Juan to obtain a sign from Mary as proof of who she was.
Mary honored the request, instructing Juan to gather some roses and bring them to her. He cut the roses, put them in his tilma, or cape, and presented them to her. She rearranged the roses and instructed Juan to return to the bishop and present him with the flowers. Juan did, and when the bishop took the flowers from the tilma, he saw a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary, just as Juan had described her.
Many conversions to Catholicism occurred following the apparition, according to various sources. The story remains a powerful sign of hope for Catholics in Mexico and those who have immigrated to the United States.
Two teenagers from the Diocese of Davenport were asked to share thoughts about what Our Lady of Guadalupe means to them. Here are their responses:
Karla Guerrero, 18, a member of St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty, said the celebration has been passed down as a tradition from all the families in Mexico. “We give (Mary) a happy birthday. We dance for her. We all know the story. It’s really important for us to give her thanks, too. She makes miracles for the people who believe in her.”
Personally, it’s important to Guerrero to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The teen-ager will be among the dancers in a procession that starts at 11:15 a.m. Dec. 13 and travels about four blocks from downtown West Liberty to St. Joseph Catholic Church. Participants will recite the rosary along the way and dance out of the church, backwards, so they never have their backs to Mary, said Father Dennis Martin, pastor.
Laura Juarez, 16, a sophomore at West Liberty High School and member of St. Joseph Parish, says Mary is “the mother of God and my mother, too. The Virgin Mary is basically my intercessor who prays for me. She was a great woman who decided to do the will of God. She set a good example for me to follow and I should accept the will of God, just as she did.” Juarez, who also will dance in the procession, said she prays to the Virgin Mother when she can.
Men will carry a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe through the downtown, as part of the procession. Following Mass, the dancers will dance out of church to the parish hall where all participants will enjoy a potluck dinner, Fr. Martin said.