Hispanic community celebrates important feast day Print this post

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe honored, celebrated

by Bob Reddy, (Editor, Florida Catholic Venice Edition)

FLORIDA CATHOLIC – The significance of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Catholics in the Hispanic community is difficult to quantify. Witnessing how the day is celebrated through reverence, tradition and festivals would only provide a small sample of what the day means to individuals in the community.

“This is every holiday wrapped into one for us,” Juan Diaz said after attending the opening Mass for the St. Jude Parish celebrations in Sarasota on Dec. 11. The parish held 36 hours of non-stop celebrations and vigils which was bookmarked by Mass and processions honoring Our Lady.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is the acceptance of the Hispanic people into the Catholic Church,” Diaz explained. “We were welcomed by the Blessed Virgin Mary with open arms. What an honor and important moment for all Hispanics.”

Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with Mass, Eucharistic adoration, festivals and other events. The day marks the culmination of events when the Virgin Mary appeared to Indian peasant St. Juan Diego in December 1531 near present-day Mexico City.

For the parishioners at St. Jude Parish the celebration included an overnight vigil, early morning celebrations, Eucharistic Adoration and lots of food and music.

Parishioners knelt as a rendering of Our Lady of Guadalupe was carried in at the beginning of the Vigil Mass on Dec. 11. Many held their own statues of Our Lady or had artwork depicting the scene of St. Juan Diego before the Virgin Mary. Each was blessed after the Vigil Mass by Father Celestino Gutierrez, Pastor of St. Jude Parish.

This scene was repeated at parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice.

For the faithful at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, more than 1,000 turned out for the Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival. The statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was carried on the shoulders of four men and the based was covered in white and red roses.

At each of the celebrations many of the participants wore traditional clothing from Mexico, dancers in Aztec dress (with the image of Our Lady embroidered in the costume), mariachi bands and others. The processions also included young children dressed as Our Lady and St. Juan Diego.

One of the largest celebrations in the Diocese of Venice occurred in Hardee County where St. Michael Parish in Wauchula and the associated Holy Child and St. Aflonso chapels, combine for a daylong celebration in Zolfo Springs. The Festival of the Our Lady of Guadalupe attracts more than 2,500 people each year.

Another large event takes place at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples where the process on Dec. 12 was so large it forced the temporary closure of U.S. 41. During the two days of activities more than 5,000 faithful participate in the related events.

The story of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe dates to 1531. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego, a peasant farmer in Tepeyac, Mexico. Our Lady appeared with dark, Indian-like skin and spoke to him in his own Aztec language. Mary sent him to the local bishop to ask that a church be built on Tepeyac Hill, in what is now modern-day Mexico City, so she could be close to her people.

The bishop wanted proof of the vision, so St. Juan Diego returned with out-of-season roses in his tilma, or cape, which bore the image of a life-size, dark-skinned imprint of the Virgin Mary. Today, the basilica on Tepeyac Hill is the second-most-visited Catholic shrine in the world — behind only the Vatican.

At the time, Indians endured a brutal life under the control of the Spanish. Modern-day Mexicans embrace the Our Lady of Guadalupe because Mary appeared to a simple peasant. Our Lady of Guadalupe is esteemed as the champion of the poor and downtrodden. Many of her devotees pray to her to ask for help during difficult times and to give thanks. In Mexico, the feast day is a national holiday.

Since that time, Our Lady of Guadalupe has been embraced throughout Latin America and the Vatican declared Her as a Patroness of the Americas.

Father Gutierrez told the faithful of St. Jude that the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe represents a unifying moment for the parish and Hispanic community. He added that the story of Our Lady is especially appropriate in helping people deal with the difficult economic times of today. “She is looking down on us and will guide us through.”

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