In his monthly post, Mr. Brian Ching, C.S.C, shares how he came to see Mary, Our Blessed Mother, in a new light after the Guadalupe celebrations at St. John Vianney Parish this past year. As you will see, they really are celebrations!
One of the graces of working in a parish that spans two cultures is that I get to see the best of what each culture has to offer. For the first 25 years of my life, the 12th of December came and went without much fanfare. Sure it was a feast on the liturgical calendar and as the Patroness of the Americas, I celebrated by going to Mass with the proper readings and prayers, maybe a festive Mexican dinner, yet I never truly understood the depth of meaning that Our Lady can have.
As Americans our religious pluralism guarantees that each person is able to worship as he or she chooses. Yet we lack the merging of a cultural and national identity with a religious feast in the same way that Our Lady of Guadalupe represents the religious, cultural, and national identity for many Mexicans and Mexican Americans.
This year I was graced to be present here at St. John Vianney, for our celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Though the 12th of December this year fell on the Third Sunday of Advent (and yes we did use the mass and readings for the Third Sunday of Advent), the celebration of Our Lady was still prominent. It was such an inspiration to see what great devotion people have to Our Lady, especially under her apparition as Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The celebration started at 5:00 AM Sunday morning with the singing of Mañanitas, devotional songs to Mary. It was remarkable to see the Church absolutely full so early in the morning in honor of the Blessed Virgin. It was decided that this year our regular Sunday 1 p.m. mass would be the one emphasizing Our Lady of Guadalupe, when I arrived at the church thirty minutes before Mass started, it was already entirely full, with people starting to gather in the vestibule. By the time mass started, the crowd had filled the church, the vestibule and the plaza in front of the church to the parking lot. After mass we had a procession that stretched a few blocks with Our Lady of Guadalupe carried in front followed by dancers and mariachis. After the procession finished we were welcomed back at the church with tamales, menudo, and cake while being entertained by dancers.
The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe here at St. John Vianney was an inspiring witness to the great importance and role that Our Lady can play in our lives. Americans are often very reserved when it comes to the demonstration of our faith. Yet there was a great power in watching this very public display and emotive display of love, affection, and devotion to Our Lady. I got the comforting sense that Our Lady was not a distant figure, from our past, but someone very close and dear to us. Our Lady of Guadalupe is a reminder that Mary still has a great power to resonate with our lives and our human experiences. The great devotion with which Mexicans and Mexican-Americans celebrate and honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, their very dynamic and public demonstration of their devotion and faith, can teach us great lessons about the role that Mary can play in our lives. May Our Lady always be near to us and may she continue to inspire us to say yes to the Lord and grow closer to her Son, Jesus.