December 12th: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

By Sister M. Citlali

A Place in Every Heart

Holy Mary of Guadalupe, save our country and preserve our faith!

With this little ejaculation, the Mexican people cry out to their Queen, “La Morenita del Tepeyac!” There is a place for her in every home, but above all in every heart.

The Guadalupano event that took place in 1531 is the seal and banner of every Mexican. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the true God for whom we live, appeared to the Indian Juan Diego to whom she gave the mission to go to the bishop and reveal her desire:

“I want very much, I want very much, that here they raise my sacred little house…”

(Nican Mopohua)

The Blessed Mother asks for a sacred little house to be built for her on the hill of Tepeyac because, from there, she wants to welcome all her children. No matter the race, color, or nation, she is simply the Mother for all.

“She is our identity, our identity as Mexicans. She is our Mother.”

With these words, Yadira Oseguera shares with us her personal experience and, at the same time, her work experience in a company where the employees requested an image of the Morenita to bless them and have her maternal gaze always on each worker.

“That gives them security, shelter in times of crisis,” Yadira continued.

Mother and Queen of Mexico

These words made me remember that when I was only 7 or 8 years old, the awareness awakened in me that the Virgin of Guadalupe is really the Mother of all Mexicans. I would always pass by a beautiful colonial-style church called Santo Domingo with my parents on my way to school. One day, when I was returning home, my dad picked me up from school and, as usual, we went to the church. My dad always made the sign of the cross in front of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that was there. In my childlike curiosity I couldn’t help but ask, “Dad, why is there an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in every church? He answered: “Because she is our Mother and the Queen of Mexico.” In my childhood, those words were engraved in my heart, and every time I entered a church, I always looked for the image of Our Lady, which I found immediately.

“She is our Mother and the Queen of Mexico,” and that is why her children show her their love in every possible way. December 12th is a very special date that is celebrated in a grand way in Mexico.

Artists, politicians, the rich, the simple, the humble, all go to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to honor the “Morenita.” Those who cannot make it to the “sacred little house” celebrate in their parishes and homes in countless ways.

The sweet and fresh scent of roses in the middle of winter reminds us of the beautiful Guadalupan miracle. Churches are beautifully decorated all over Mexico. Our country’s flag is usually wrapped around the picture of the “Morenita.”

Dancers come to the basilica; people full of faith and warm love for their Heavenly Mother enter the basilica on their knees as an expression of a petition or to show their gratitude for some miracle received.

Unique Customs

In the south of Mexico, in Chiapas, there are two beautiful customs for this day: the first is the well-known “antorcha Guadalupana,” which are pilgrimages of families or acquaintances who gather to go to the Basilica of Guadalupe, but on foot, running with a torch in hand, because, arriving at the basilica, they will present this fire to the Morenita as a symbol of their ardent filial love. When the runners arrive at their destination, they have the mission of carrying the Guadalupan fire back to its place of origin, in San Cristobal de las Casas. They take the fire back to the hill of Guadalupe, the church dedicated to Our Lady.

When I asked Guadalupe Elizabet Burguete, a faithful devotee of the Virgin Mary, who used to carry the “Guadalupana Torch” with her family, what motivated her to participate in this beautiful tradition, she answered:

“From the beginning, the emotion of knowing that we were going as a family and that the journey was exciting because faith helps us to finish the journey no matter how tired we feel. Sometimes we would go to faraway places. We had promised to run barefoot, but this was not always easy, our feet would hurt, but to think of the motivation: our Virgin of Guadalupe and her blessings, this was very beautiful indeed.”

Bare feet, tiredness, emotion make us realize that love can do everything. Love for Our Lady of Guadalupe is the strength, the driving force of each child of this loving and merciful Mother.

With this same love and dedication, we come to the second tradition. We dress the children between the ages of 1 and 6 as Indians and take them for three years in a row to the hill of Guadalupe, the Church in San Cristobal dedicated to the Virgin. There, they ask for the special protection of the Virgin, remembering that she loves the simple of heart and that she appeared to our mestizo people and not to the rich.

Another beautiful and pious tradition that precedes this feast is the famous 46 rosaries in honor of Our Lady, prayed in churches or by devout families from October 28th to December 12th in preparation for this beautiful day. The 46 rosaries represent the 46 stars on Our Lady’s mantle. This tradition dates back more than 100 years and began as an initiative of Monsignor Antonio Plancarte y Labastida, who was the abbot of the temple of Tepeyac in the 19th century.

“Las Mañanitas”

On December 11th at midnight, the Virgin is awakened with the traditional “Mañanitas.” In Mexico City, renowned singers feel honored to be summoned to sing to the Morenita. The television stations transmit this beautiful moment so that those who cannot be there physically can sing to the Morenita from their homes. These traditional mañanitas are echoed in the different parishes throughout Mexico.

And, to the sound of the traditional Guadalupan chant, the warm words that describe the Guadalupan miracle resound in the heart. (The following is an unofficial translation of the original Spanish song):

“From the sky a beautiful morning, from the sky a beautiful morning

The Guadalupana, the Guadalupana, the Guadalupana under the Tepeyac (repeat).

Pleading, she clasped her hands together, pleading, she clasped her hands together, and her bearing and her face were Mexican, and they were Mexican, and they were Mexican (repeat).

Her arrival filled all of Anahuac with joy, light, and harmony, with joy, light, and harmony (repeat).

Next to the mountain, Juan Diego passed by, next to the mountain, Juan Diego passed by, and then he came closer, and then he came closer, and then he came closer when he heard singing (repeat).

“Juan Dieguito,” the Virgin told him, “Juan Dieguito,” the Virgin told him,

this hill I choose, this hill I choose, this hill I choose to make my altar (repeat).

And on the tilma, among painted roses, and on the tilma, among painted roses,

she deigned to leave her beloved image, her beloved image, her beloved image (repeat).

Since then, being Guadalupano is something essential for the Mexican, being Guadalupano, being Guadalupano is something essential for the Mexican (repeat).”

Her Image, Sealed in Our Hearts

As we can see, this song reflects the soul, the feeling of the Mexicans, because when we sing: “And on the tilma among painted roses, … her beloved image she deigned to leave,” in reality, we are saying that the tilma then was a piece of cloth, but now it is the heart of every Mexican, in which she, Our Lady of Guadalupe, lives and is loved. Since she left her beloved image in our land, being Guadalupano is essential; it is the identity of Mexico, of Mexicans.

Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico, and Empress of America!