Friday, December 19, 2008

la Virgen de Guadalupe

I didn't have a chance to mention this last week, but I went to mass at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland last Friday for the feast of la Virgen de Guadalupe.

Wikipedia explains, "Our Lady of Guadalupe, also called the Virgin of Guadalupe (Spanish: Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe or Virgen de Guadalupe) is a 16th century Roman Catholic icon from Mexico representing a Marian apparition. It is perhaps Mexico's most popular religious and cultural image. Our Lady of Guadalupe's feast day is celebrated on 12 December, commemorating the account of her appearances to Saint Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City from 9 through 12 December 1531."

Well, even to this lost-sheep the service was amazing. The Post-Gazette did an ok job covering it, and I reprint their article in full:

"Anyone near St. Paul Cathedral knew that last night was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A mariachi band played on the steps before Mass, drawing a crowd on the Oakland street.

The statue of the Virgin was carried into the cathedral on a litter decorated with paper roses. It was placed on a stand surrounded with tiny white lights that appeared to radiate from her image.

The Mass was sponsored by St. Regis Parish in Oakland and the Latino Catholic Community, which meets at St. Regis. About 1,000 people attended, some in brilliantly embroidered clothing of their native lands. There were also the regular evening Mass-goers of St. Paul and students whose teachers had sent them to learn about Latino culture.

Rebeca Dosal, who moved to Shadyside from Mexico, was delighted with the turnout for the first Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe ever held in Pittsburgh's cathedral.

"Having this festival here is like a dream," she said. "Everyone will be able to know how much love we have for Our Lady of Guadalupe."

That devotion dates to 1531 in Mexico. An Aztec convert to Christianity, Juan Diego, is said to have seen a woman with dark skin, surrounded by brilliant light, who identified herself as Mary.

She told Juan Diego to ask the bishop to build a church for her, but the bishop did not believe Juan Diego. So Mary made roses bloom in December, and told Juan Diego to gather them in his cloak and carry them to the bishop. When he spread his cloak filled with roses before the bishop, it was imprinted with a vivid image of Mary as a pregnant Indian woman.

Last night Bishop David Zubik preached in Spanish, illustrating the stories of the angel's announcement to Mary and Mary's appearance to Juan Diego with a line from comedienne Gracie Allen.

"In the show, she is trying to encourage her husband to be a man of hope. So she tells him, 'Never put a period where God intends a comma,'" Bishop Zubik said.

"I'm asking people to look at the situations in our own lives that we need to surrender to God, and to believe that we should not put a period where God intends a comma."

In Mexico, 15 million people go to the Basilica of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. Hundreds of thousands celebrate in U.S. cities with large Mexican-American communities.

Pittsburgh's celebrations are modest, but growing. Anglo members of St. Regis pitched in, ushering and learning Spanish songs to join the choir. Devotion is spreading far beyond those with ties to Mexico, said the Rev. Daniele Vallecorsa, pastor of St. Regis and chaplain to the Latino Catholic Community.

In 1946, Pope Pius XII proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of the Americas. Many Catholic anti-abortion activists have developed a devotion to her because she appears pregnant, Father Vallecorsa said. Latinos who come to the United States from Central and South America learn the devotion from Mexican immigrants here, he said.

Bishop Zubik, who had a large Latino population in his previous diocese, was eager to celebrate Guadalupe here.

"It's a necessity to recognize that we are indeed a culture that is a fabric of lots of different cultures. That is what Pittsburgh was built on. This focuses on the immigrants coming to Pittsburgh in this century," he said.

Ann Rodgers can be reached at or 412-263-1416.
First published on December 13, 2007 at 12:00 am

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