December was a full month at Nuestra Madre Santisima de La Luz Parish in Monterrey. The coming of December means the coming of the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe is a major part of the faith of the people of Mexico. They celebrate that Mary came to their country as an indigenous woman in order to help the spread of Catholicism in their land. The days surrounding this celebration are full of activity. As I mentioned in my previous post, the celebration begins on December 3, nine days before the feast, with a novena of rosaries. Families and groups within the parish get together and pray a rosary each day for nine days leading up to the feast of Guadalupe. On December 11, after praying the last of these rosaries, the people go to the vigil Mass. In our parish, there is a Mass in each of the chapels with a celebration after. At the conclusion of Mass, a mariachi band enters the chapel and sings what are called "mananitas." They are songs specific for this celebration that are sung to Mary. Afterwards there is a celebration with many typical Mexican foods and drinks.
On the morning of December 12, the day begins at 6:00am at the parish with a rosary and more "mananitas" for the Virgin. As part of this service, everyone offers a rose for Our Lady of Guadalupe, a sign of great respect and affection of the people. I was very impressed at the number of people who attended and the faith and devotion they showed in honoring their patron. After the rosary, the parish held a continental breakfast for everyone who went. That evening, there was a procession around the neighborhood. This procession included many "danzas," or dancers that do indigenous Mexican dance, many images of Our Lady of Guadalupe (even including a couple of the youth dressing up as the Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego) and many of the parishioners singing many of the mananitas along the way.
The procession ended at the parish, where there was a solemn Mass. After the Mass, there was another social where the parishioners continued the celebration while partaking in a taco dinner. This was my first time experiencing the celebrations surrounding Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I was certainly taken by the love and devotion the people have for her. The celebrations were very lively and certainly exemplified the importance she has on the faith lives of the Mexican people.
Shortly after the celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we began our celebrations for the end of Advent/beginning of Christmas. Beginning on December 16, various groups within the parish do what are called "posadas." It is a reenactment of Mary and Joseph walking the streets of Bethlehem, asking for room in the inn. There are many different ways this is carried out, but the most traditional way is to travel to different houses in a given neighborhood. At each house a group of people enter the house to act as the innkeeper and a group stays outside to act as Mary and Joseph. Through a dialogue of sung verses, the people outside ask permission to come into the house, but the people inside the house reject them. They go to about 7 different houses and at the last house, the people inside do let them in.
Once all are gathered inside the house, everyone prays a rosary together and enjoys some food and fellowship. Traditionally, a group would repeat this each day until December 24, but usually a group will just do this once on one of the days between December 16 and 24. Additionally, they often do not travel from house to house, but rather from door to door in a room or building. I had the opportunity to participate in many of these posadas and I really felt like I was walking in the footsteps of Mary and Joseph during that first Christmas. After the final posadas on Christmas Eve, the people gather for a rosary at the parish and the beginning of the Christmas Masses that evening. It is a beautiful way to prepare for Christmas and really to enter more into the journey that led to the coming of our Savior on this earth.
Mr. Ryan Pietrocarlo, C.S.C. is completing a pastoral year as a seminarian in the Congregation of Holy Cross. He and other seminarians post twice each month for the Spes Unica Blog. Ryan graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in biochemistry prior to joining the Holy Cross formation program. He is from East Rochester, New York