Auxiliary Bishop of Denver Jorge Rodriguez referred to all those who have had the opportunity of visiting the Basilica of Guadalupe and passed under the “Tilma” of St. Juan Diego on the moving walkway: “I bet you had the same experience as I did: When you are standing beneath the image and you look at it, you are filled with such excitement that it brings you to tears.”
“Let’s ask ourselves why this happens,” he continued. “The excitement and urge to cry are of the same kind one feels for his own mother. They’re very strong sentiments that we don’t have for everyone.”
Bishop Rodriguez celebrated the Mass in honor of “La Lupita” (term of endearment for Guadalupe) on the vigil of her feast day Dec. 11, at the Parish-Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Hundreds of faithful came to pay tribute to the patroness of the Americas and awaited till midnight for this Marian feast to sing with mariachis the traditional song “Las mañanitas.”
Many arrived at the church hours in advance, awaiting the Eucharistic celebration. Despite the cold, many more chose to participate in the Mass through a projection shown in tents located outside the church.
As is the custom, on the following day the parish-shrine offered Masses at every hour – all very crowded – from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thus, the faithful celebrated devoutly the anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady to St. Juan Diego, in which her image was miraculously stamped on his cloth.
A mother in heaven
“When mom is near, the child feels safe, protected. The mother always keeps her son under her watchful eye,” said Bishop Rodriguez. “‘La Morenita’” (‘dear tanned lady,’ as many Mexicans refer to her) felt that her children needed her and made herself present in a very close, tender and beautiful way.”
And while the indigenous people were considered valueless, Mary spoke in their language. “She appeared with tanned skin, when light skin was the one regarded with high status and lineage,” recounted the bishop. “The indigenous people realized that in their insignificance, poverty and degradation, they were loved by God, just as their mother came to tell them,” he assured.
“Jesus loved his mother infinitely more than we love our own – and oh don’t we love our mothers!” said Bishop Rodriguez. “That’s the kind of relationship Jesus wants us to have with his mother.”
Meanwhile, Monsignor Bernard Schmitz, pastor at St. Joseph Church in Denver, celebrated an 11 p.m. Mass this Monday, in which he referred to the poor and simple, who like St. Juan Diego recur to the Virgin’s protection. “They are certainly the ones who live a material poverty,” he pointed out. “Others are poor in their suffering of a chronic illness or a divided family. Others live in poverty because they suffer from loneliness, many elderly people live in poverty due to a lack of company.”
Also speaking of this matter, Father Benito Hernandez, pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe, highlighted during his homily at the 5 a.m. Mass celebrated this Tuesday, Dec. 12: “We cannot feel alone because she, our ‘Morenita’ from the Tepeyac, keeps us company wherever we go; in our battles and in our daily sufferings.”
A devotion from the homeland
Other parishes of northern Colorado also joined in celebrating the “Lupita.” Saint Michael the Archangel in Aurora had a celebration on Sunday, Dec. 10, beginning with a Rosary, a Sunday Mass followed by a serenade with mariachis to the Virgin and a reception containing a play of the apparitions by children.
“I had the opportunity to participate in something religious, as [the feast] of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said Aldo Raidi, 10, a young parishioner of St. Michael Church who played Juan de Zumarraga, the bishop who asked Juan Diego for proof of the apparitions. “If I were the bishop, I would have believed St. Juan Diego the first time he told me he had seen the Virgin,” he said.
Kelsey, another church member, played the Virgin Mary. She believes that with this play, “we can teach the children who the Virgin Mary is.
“I have heard that there is a great feast for the Virgin in Mexico and I would like to go see it one day,” the young actress added.
Many adults were moved by the performance, remembering their childhood in Mexico, where this devotion was sown. “It’s a tradition that is deeply rooted [in us] and that comes from our grandparents,” said Rafael Dominguez, a layman from St. Michael’s. “It is an honor to celebrate [Our Lady of Guadalupe] in a country that is not your own, to be able to bring these practices and play a small part in supporting our community and celebrate with her.”
Moreover, Laticia Lujan, another faithful parishioner, shared movingly how the “Morenita” interceded for a great family need: “I have a granddaughter who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 5. I prayed for the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe and she was cured. Since then, I venerate her every single year.”
Similarly, thousands of faithful Catholics from northern Colorado gathered around the Mother of God with songs, as “La Guadalupana” and “Buenos días paloma blanca,” and said the prayer with which Father Hernandez concluded his homily: “We ask you for the strength to do the will of God in our lives and may your Holy Mantle, Virgin of Guadalupe, accompany us [and] cover us with its love, now and forever.”