Perhaps the most anticipated occurrence to recently envelope the local Roman Catholic community is the pilgrimage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a patron of hope for Mexicans, specifically.
A replica of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s image, blessed by Pope John Paul II, was sent to the United States from the Vatican, and has been traveling through various pastoral regions within California since early September.
According to Catholic belief, in December of 1531, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Indian, near the site of what exists today as Mexico City. The Virgin’s apparition was a significant event in Diego’s life-and in the lives of innumerable Mexican Catholics, for that matter.
The brown-skinned Virgin Mary, from simple appearance and demeanor, portrayed both a sense of serenity and a reassurance of hope when she appeared to Diego. Her primary mission was to encourage Diego to approach the Catholic bishop and request that a shrine be constructed at that site in her honor.
Native Mexicans, during that period, had lost a great deal of belief in not only themselves, but also in the state of their nation, which had been undergoing turmoil and oppression for some time. The Virgin of Guadalupe arrived with the intent of helping to salvage these people’s’ hopes and restructuring their faith in the Roman Catholic Church and God.
Diego approached the bishop for help on several occasions, but was met with nothing more than doubt and rejection during each visit. Because the bishop himself was doubtful of the future of the church, he wanted Diego to bring him proof of the Virgin’s apparitions.
Therefore, Diego again was met by the Virgin Mary soon after, at which time she encouraged him to visit the bishop once more. It was during the last visit to the church leader that the efforts of Our Lady of Guadalupe-and those of Diego-had resulted successfully.
Diego approached the bishop and unveiled the front of his worn cloak, which, to everyone’s surprise, exposed the image of the Virgin Mary. Some fresh, red roses (which are extremely rare during December) also fell from the cloak, symbolizing that the Virgin was going to create miracles and bring hope to a people that seemed to lose sight of it.
Our Lady of Guadalupe has since existed as a revered saint for most people who are of Mexican descent, and a modern basilica now stands in Mexico at the site in which she appeared to Diego less than half a century ago.
It has been said that Diego never really existed, but that he serves as more of a symbol to others than as a reality.
In any case, millions still gather at the site in which the Virgin Mary appeared to pay her tribute on Dec. 8, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Locally, the number of people who have turned out for the Virgin’s celebration is also overwhelming, proving that she is also revered among Mexican Catholic communities in the United States.
Some parishes annually schedule for early-morning mañanitas, Masses and renditions of the Virgin’s apparition on Dec. 8 as a dedication to Our Lady.
Now, the blessed replica of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s image has been to more than 25 area churches in the two months it has been in the area. On each two-day visit to individual Catholic communities, the Virgin is met with believers embellishing her with flowers and following her on their knees, all while tears of newfound hope, peace and joy fill their eyes.
Each person who visits Our Lady of Guadalupe has a story that is personal and special to him or herself. According to media reports covering the pilgrimage, one woman said she felt obliged to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for helping her get through a challenging year, while a man said his purpose for coming was to seek guidance for a family problem.
Our Lady of Guadalupe means different things to different people. It fills visitors with a sense of hope and encouragement in the same way it has done with Diego (whether or not her is fictional). But as the matriarch of Jesus and symbol of patriotism, the Virgin Mary is, after all, the patron saint of Mexico.
Araceli Esparza, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.