The auditorium of Marist High School in Eugene is filled for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Guadalupe in context
To understand the pivotal role Our Lady of Guadalupe plays in the lives of Mexicans, one needs to know a little history, says Raúl Velázquez, director of Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese of Portland.
As part of the conquests of the early 16th century, Spaniards kidnapped and killed tribal Mexican leaders to quell rebellion. The people were left leaderless. Some believed the Europeans fulfilled a prophecy about a saving people coming from the east, while others wanted to overthrow what the saw as invaders. In this context in 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared as a native woman asking
Juan Diego to build a temple to console the people. Symbols in the famous Guadalupe image show a move from the old Aztec religions to Christianity. Mary, who is pregnant, has her back to the sun and is standing on the moon, showing her son's superiority to the gods who were symbolized by celestial bodies. In addition, Mary appeared on a hill that held the temple of the earth goddess.
"This Lady came to offer consolation, to offer healing to people," explains Velázquez, who is from Guadalajara. "We were left without direction. This Lady came and offered all we hungered for."
In the traditional Guadalupe hymn, worshipers sing that their devotion to Guadalupe is essential to who they are.
The story of a miracle of roses in December and the image appearing on Juan Diego's tilma became everyday knowledge for Mexicans.
Father Martinus Cawley, a Trappist monk at Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey in Lafayette, has translated the Guadalupe story from the original Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. It began as an oral text, but was eventually set to writing.
"Greatly did they marvel at how divinely miraculously it had appeared, for it had not been any earthbound mortal who had painted that Sacred Representation," the narrative poem says.
In the early 19th century struggle for independence from Spain, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla invoked Our Lady of Guadalupe in the cause. Her image flew on banners of the poor farmers and civilians who attempted a failed revolt. In the 1920s, the Cristeros used the emblem in their fight against the government, which had suppressed the church.
In 1999, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of all the Americas.
EUGENE — Archbishop John G. Vlazny gathered with hundreds of worshipers who came for an Our Lady Guadalupe Mass Dec. 12 at Marist High School here.
"In truth, through baptism we are all followers of Guadalupe," the archbishop said in a homily delivered in Spanish. "Just like Juan Diego we are messengers of the good news of our Savior. It is precisely because we are baptized that we have the responsibility to carry out the good and saving works of Jesus, the Son of Mary, today in this time and here in this place."
The miraculous Guadalupe image, which has baffled scientists who examine it, is more than just a drawing, the archbishop said. Somehow, it communicates Mary's true presence.
Mary appeared to a humble native man, Juan Diego, in 1531 and sought to console a confused, conquered people. To convince local church authorities of her request to build a church, roses bloomed in winter and the image of Mary appeared on Juan Diego's cloak.
"Yes, the roses bloom once again in December when the Mother of God brings us our Savior," the archbishop told the crowd, reminding them of the Advent season. "The humble and lowly of this world become heirs to the kingdom of glory. Truly, nothing is impossible with God."
The archbishop asked worshipers to observe the Year of Faith, in which Pope Benedict hopes all will "strengthen our friendship with God through his Son Jesus and Jesus’ holy mother Mary." The archbishop urged the crowd to invite relatives, friends and neighbors to join the Catholic family.
This was the archbishop's first time in Eugene for the Guadalupe feast. News of his coming energized preparation for the celebration.
Norma Ouellette, coordinator of Hispanic ministries at St. Alice Parish in Springfield, helped Father David Jaspers organize the liturgy, along with a committee made up of Floribella Rivera, Josefina Cardenal, Celia San Pedro, Alma López, Ferdinando Montes, Juan Silva, Ismael Mora and Omar Moreno. Catholics in the whole city, Hispanic or not, were invited.
“Father Jaspers wanted us to be together and celebrate together this important tradition of faith," Ouellette told El Centinela. She explained that the celebration is not only a Mass, but a "Mexican tradition that gathers everyone as one family."
During prayers of the faithful, petitions were read in a panoply of languages — Spanish, English and dialects from Mexico and the Philippines.
Organizers like Omar Moreno from St. Mark in Eugene say the feast of Guadalupe is an important part of spirituality and tradition. "She is everything to me," Moreno says. "It is so deep inside my heart that I cannot verbalize how much she means to me.”