By Fr. Joseph Sia
Each year in Columbus Junction (and in some other parishes with Hispanic Ministry), from Oct. 28 to Dec. 12, a number of parishioners gather every night in church to pray a rosary. At each session, a family is host; meaning, they are in charge of bringing the image of Our Lady to the church from their home, they offer an intention and they lead the recitation of the rosary. This includes special prayers that recall the words at the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Juan Diego, a litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the singing of Marian songs. Sometimes, the family will have hot chocolate and bread to share in the parish hall afterwards.
The tradition of praying a rosary each of those nights, for a total of 46 rosaries, has its roots in the recognition that there are 46 stars on the mantle of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The faithful see their prayers as an offering of love to the Blessed Virgin Mother, especially as she celebrates her feast day. Indeed, on Dec. 11, the tradition calls for the singing of the “mañanitas” at midnight to greet the Virgin on her special day. The climax is the procession on the morning of Dec. 12 to celebrate the Eucharist and honor the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The perseverance of the parishioners who come every night has made me fall in love even more with the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is wonderful to know that the Virgin of Guadalupe continues to touch the hearts of many men, women and children. Now, it is the spiritual heirs of St. Juan Diego who are keeping the faith alive in their adopted land and passing it on to the future generation. It gives me hope to see the many kids and teenagers who come to church to pray the rosary together with their parents and siblings.
This is truly a worthy devotion that is a testimony to the special role of the Virgin Mary in our church. May it always encourage many Catholics, both lay and clergy, to carry on the mission of evangelization that Our Lady of Guadalupe began 500 years ago.
(Father Joseph Sia is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction and sacramental minister at St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty.)