Guadalupe Celebration strikes note of charity and unity
Our Lady of Guadalupe took center stage in the heart of one of the world’s most populous cities as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was filled by tens of thousands of devotees who gathered for the Guadalupe Celebration. If any of the attendees entered the renowned stadium – more typically the scene of sports contests and rock concerts – expecting simply to be spectators on a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the entertainment capital, they left with their hearts, souls and minds deeply stirred and their faith in Jesus and his Mother greatly strengthened.
The event was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles under Archbishop Jose Gomez, and the Institute for Guadalupan Studies in Mexico City. Held beneath sunny Southern California skies, it was the largest Catholic in Los Angeles since Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in the Coliseum in 1987.
On an attractive stage constructed on the south end of the Coliseum, a well-choreographed program of Christian musicians and performers got the people singing and swaying, and a number of inspirational speakers gave witness to the Catholic faith and told the miraculous story of Guadalupe, when suffering humanity, in the person of Mexican peasant Juan Diego, was met by the maternal care of the Mother of God.
For weeks leading up to the event, TV, radio and newspaper ads were run, inviting people to request the free tickets, and on the day of the Celebration dozens of media outlets, both religious and secular, turned out to cover the highly anticipated program. So many images of Our Lady of Guadalupe were seen on the streets and airwaves that it seemed the city had reclaimed its original name: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles, or “The Village of Our Lady Queen of the Angels.”
Throughout the three-hour program, cheers went up from the crowd each time Our Lady of Guadalupe was invoked, and Spanish speakers responded with the chants “Que Viva!”
The program started with thunderous drums and dancing of hundreds of Matachines and Azetcas performers, dressed in traditional colorful garb. They were followed by a procession of the tilma relic, a piece of Juan Diego’s garment on which the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted when she appeared to him in 1531. The procession was led by dozens of Fourth Degree Knights in full regalia, with Archbishop William E. Lori, Supreme Chaplain, carrying the small piece of the tilma in a reliquary. He processed from one end of the football field to the other and placed the reliquary on an altar before a large image of Our Lady.
Kneeling before the relic, he began praying, “O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the true God and Mother of the Church,” and asked her to present the prayers of all those in the stadium to her Son, Jesus Christ “our only Savior.” Archbishop Lori also asked her, the Mother of Life, to bring about a true Culture of Life so that everyone from the unborn to the sick and elderly may be afforded true dignity and respect. He asked Mary’s intercessions for families, the upbringing of children, an increase of Catholic fervor and love for the sacraments.
In the first major address, Archbishop Gomez spoke in English and Spanish, welcoming all the faithful, whom he called Guadalupanos. He thanked Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and the Knights of Columbus for co-sponsoring the event and being “so generous and apostolic.”
“The Knights of Columbus has always had a great love for the Mexican people,” he noted.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Mother not only for Mexicans or Latinos, he added, she is a Mother for all people of the Americas, from North to South. She is calling all people of the hemisphere to follow the teachings and the example of Jesus, he added.
Supreme Knight Anderson noted that the Knights of Columbus chartered its first council in Mexico in 1905, Guadalupe Council. In the decades following, Knights stood with the Church and their fellow Catholics during a long period of persecution by the Mexican government, with martyrs praying the words, “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!”
Interspersing Spanish within his English address, Anderson added that Our Lady of Guadalupe came to build a Civilization of Love throughout the American hemisphere, where there are today more practicing Catholics than anywhere else in the world. “We are uniquely blessed by Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he said.
“If Our Lady of Guadalupe is our Mother, then we are all brothers and sisters,” said Anderson. This means that we must treat everyone with justice and mercy, carry out charitable actions to help the most needy, and unite under the guidance of the Blessed Mother.
Msgr. Eduardo Chavez brought the thousands to their feet with a spirited talk that explained the mystery and meaning of the Guadalupe event. Rector of the Institute for Guadalupan Studies, he delivers talks in many parts of the world, and served as postulator for the Cause for Canonization of St. Juan Diego, who was made a saint in 2002. Msgr. Chavez spoke about how Juan Diego represented all humanity when meeting Our Lady on the Mexican hill of Tepeyac in 1531. Knowing his fears, weakness, doubt and most of all his good heart and faithfulness, the Blessed Mother led Juan Diego on a path of deeper conversion to become a dynamic witness to the Catholic faith. Because of his witness to the miracle at Guadalupe, some 8 million Mexicans were baptized in a few short years.
Today, we are called to follow in the footsteps of Juan Diego, listening to the Blessed Mother as she leads us to Jesus, and overcoming our fears and weaknesses to become witnesses to the faith in simple ways in our daily lives, Msgr. Chavez added.
The program also included a bilingual rosary, led by singer Danielle Rose, who performed musical interludes between mysteries. Prayers of the rosary were led by clergy and well-known figures in sports and media. A multi-act drama of the Guadalupe event, with actors playing Juan Diego and the Blessed Mother, was also performed at intervals during the program.
Irish singer Dana Scallon sang “We Are One Body,” which she wrote for World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, and other popular Catholic songs. Also performing were Pedro Fernandez, a Mexican star of TV and films, who performed traditional ballads and contemporary Latino music, and Filippa Giordano, an Italian international musical performer, who sang as the tilma relic was carried in procession.