The growing popularity of the Feast Day has led to many diocesan wide celebrations around the country, but that is not necessary in the Diocese of San Bernardino, says Petra Alexander, Director of Hispanic Affairs for the diocese.
“The Feast is really in the roots of the community and so each prepares its own,” she says. “That is best.”
At Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Chino the festivities began on Dec. 8 with a carnival and procession. Amid the bustle of Aztec dancers, food vendors and mariachis, Jenny Rivera stopped to place flowers near a grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the side of the church and offer a prayer.
“She’s done so much for me. I believe in her,” said Jimenez, who belongs to a parish in Los Angeles County but brings her grandchildren to religious education classes at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Chino. “I bring her flowers if my grandson got a job, if my kids are sick… you’ve got to take it to the Virgin Mary.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioner Rubi Lemus puts it more succinctly.
“She’s my mother and the mother of all.”
Indeed, Alexander says that Hispanic people have a natural affinity for the maternal aspect of the story.
“Latinos have a great sensitivity to the role of the mother in the home,” she says. “And we recognize very quickly that she has the same role in the Church.”
But even with the huge crowds and children in costume at the Feast Day events, Alexander says that she is concerned about how well the values found in the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe are being absorbed by young people.
“Children participate but I don’t know what is happening with the spiritual part of the story,” she says, “the message of compassion, love and social justice.”
She said Juan Diego’s courage and determination to share his encounter so that others could know the love of Our Lady and the salvation offered by her Son is the aspect of the story that must be embraced by Catholics – young and old – today.
Juan Diego’s role is most inspiring to Alex Marquez, who was one of many dressed like the 16th Century peasant for the procession in Chino.
“It’s such a beautiful circumstance that God chose such a simple person to do something so big,” said Marquez, who participates in the Chino procession every year. “It’s a message that says anyone can be chosen.”