December 12 is the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patron Saint of the Americas.
December 12 is when Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated around the world as people reflect on the many virtues of Our Lady of Guadalupe, including faith, humility and understanding. Here in Ecuador, Our Lady of Guadalupe was celebrated by the entire town last weekend. Ribbons were strung in garlands over the streets and along the fences the day before the celebration.
The next day, the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was carried from where she normally sits in the local Catholic church and carried in a procession to the beach. Since this is a fishing town, and as she is considered here the Patron Saint of The Fishermen, hundreds of people followed her statue to the beach and then through the town in a parade.
The people sang songs to praise to her and live bands played. People from the town passed out water and sweet tea in plastic bags, candy was passed on huge trays and fried cheese and potato pastries were also given out. When we hung back behind the crowd, a man grabbed some pastries and handed them to us (before he ate one himself) smiled and said “Welcome!”, embodying two of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s most cherished virtues: kindness and understanding.
Missionaries who first came to Mexico with the conquistadors had little success in the beginning. After nearly a generation, only a few hundred Native Mexicans had converted to the Christian faith. Whether they simply did not understand what the missionaries had to offer or whether they resented these people who made them slaves, Christianity was not popular among the native people.
In 1531, it is said that miracles began to happen. Jesus’ own mother appeared to humble Juan Diego. The signs — of the roses, of the uncle miraculously cured of a deadly illness, and especially of her beautiful image on Juan’s mantle — convinced the people there was something to be considered in Christianity. Within a short time, six million Native Mexicans had themselves baptized as Christians.
In Mexico, Mary appeared to Juan Diego not as a European Madonna but as a beautiful Aztec princess speaking to him in his own Aztec language. (see photo above of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s beautiful image which appeared on Juan’s Diego’s mantle) Mary appeared in such a way so that the culture in which the people of Mexico lived their lives was respected.
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