Over 1,000 individuals celebrate, honor ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ in Murrieta
Friday, December 20th, 2013
Issue 51, Volume 17.
In nearly every Catholic Church in America you will find a Society of Guadalupanos. Named after their patroness, La Virgen de Guadalupe, this grass roots organization, established in the early 1900s, is made up mostly of Mexican American women who meet to pray and help people in need in their respective communities. But on Dec. 12, come rain, shine or freezing temperatures, the group sponsors the most colorful and extraordinary celebration on the Vatican declared feast day honoring "Our Lady of Guadalupe".
"I love her with all of my heart, she means the world to me," said Dee Padilla, Director of the Society of Guadalupanos at Saint Martha’s about Our Lady of Guadalupe with whom, like most of her faithful followers, she feels an unfathomable spiritual connection to.
This group at Saint Martha’s raises funds all year to treat
parishioners and non-parishioners alike, who through faith alone, believe the historic Catholic day commemorates the last in a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe to an indigenous, Mexican man named Juan Diego in 1531, that left her iconic image emblazoned on his traditional cloak known as a tilma.
Devotees of the dark-skinned Virgin got up before the sun came up to attend mass that began with 4 a.m. "Mańanitas", the Spanish version of Happy Birthday, only dedicated on the morning of a person’s saint’s day, and on this occasion dedicated to the Patroness of the Americas.
But the elaborate celebration began at 5 p.m. and included praying the rosary, a live performance of the apparitions by the church’s Latino Youth Group, and a traditional mariachi band who played before, during and after a special mass.
All were encouraged to dress in traditional Nahuatl clothing to honor Juan Diego, the first indigenous saint of the American continent.
While millions travel to Mexico to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12 to see the 482-year-old image of the woman, dressed in a blue cloak covered in stars and standing on a moon that is held up by an angel, according to Dee Padilla, Director of the Guadalupanos Society at Saint Martha’s, over 1,000 people attended the local commemoration.
"In the previous years we didn’t have any room, we had to be outside and it would rain…it was really tough, now we have a beautiful center that accommodates more than 1,000 people," says Padilla with a beautiful smile as she rushes off to greet guests and present the Ballet Folklorico of Temecula.
The rest of the Guadalupanos were busy in the kitchen who couldn’t serve guests the tamale dinner fast enough.
Before the food and music started in the Life Center next to the church, many who attended the mass placed roses in front of the large replica of the original icon.
A variety of the fragrant flower, which only grew in Spain, is said to have miraculously covered the frozen soil on Tepeyac Hill, precisely where the mysterious woman told Juan Diego they would be. He was to pick them and place them in his tilma and take to a Spanish archbishop who refused to believe the humble, native man who told him about the previous two visitations. The beautiful woman, who resembled the indigenous Nahuatl people, requested a church be built at the site to unite people of different ancestry under God.
"This day is so special and very beautiful for our culture," says Margarita Barajas, one of many in attendance who credits the Virgen de Guadalupe’s intercession with a miracle.
"I don’t want my children to forget how important this celebration is for our culture and family, she reunited me with my son," said Barajas as she pointed to the small boy sitting on the church hall floor in front of her.
Three-year-old Alexander Flores, in full Juan Diego costume, didn’t seem to know all the details of his role in making Guadalupe Day extra special for his family, but he was mesmerized by the children performing traditional Mexican dance.
Skeptics say more testing should be done to prove the image is a painting and some experts argue that the mere fact the tilma, with the revered image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, hasn’t disintegrated after hundreds of years is a mystery in itself because it’s made from agave plant fibers.
But whether you believe in the story or not there is no denying that the image’s mission of unity across cultures has been fulfilled and the group of people gathered at Saint Martha’s annual celebration honoring La Guadalupana reflects that beautifully.
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