By Catholic News Service
LOS ANGELES — Our Lady of Guadalupe “always leads us to Jesus, who will show us the way to find peace,” Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said Dec. 4.
“Jesus will show us the way to the true happiness and love in our lives,” he told thousands of the faithful gathered for an annual outdoor Mass at East Los Angeles College’s Weingart Stadium.
“True conversion is to change the way in which we live,” Archbishop Gomez said in Spanish during his bilingual homily. “Let’s ask our Mother Mary to help us discover what are those small things we need to change in our lives.”
He reminded Massgoers of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s message of hope, compassion, unity and love.
“God wants us to remain united, to be close to him and close to each other, especially in our families. Let’s make of our families a model of unity and a place full of love,” the archbishop said. “Our homes should always be where Jesus should be present and a place where all can find love, compassion and mercy.”
The liturgy followed a procession through the streets of East Los Angeles that included “andas,” or decorated handmade carts with framed images or statues brought by families and parish groups to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Themed “Holy Mary of Guadalupe, Mother of life and peace, pray for us,” the procession and Mass commemorated the 491st anniversary of the apparitions of Mary to the peasant Juan Diego, who was canonized in 2002 by St. John Paul II.
The Mass featured the images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and of St. Juan Diego that have been hosted by several parishes and cemeteries of the Los Angeles Archdiocese since October.
It was preceded by a musical tribute to Mary, including singers Araceli Sipaque and Jose Franco, and dances by the archdiocese’s Filipino ministry. Mariachi Charros de Oro de Adrian Cruz was part of the Mass.
The celebration is the oldest religious procession in LA. It was established by Mexican Catholics who fled persecution by the Mexican government during the Cristero War in 1931.
Commemorating the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it recalls the miraculous apparitions of Mary to St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac Hill near what is today Mexico City in December 1531, when she left her image on his “tilma,” or cloak.
Her image has been a symbol of unity, peace, compassion and hope for people around the world. She also is the patroness of the Americas.
Starting in mid-October, the images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, known as La Peregrina, and St. Juan Diego began a pilgrimage to visit 25 parishes and Catholic cemeteries, where hundreds of faithful had the opportunity for veneration.
La Peregrina, a pilgrim image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, is an exact digital reproduction of the original image in Mexico City’s basilica, which has been blessed and touched to the original image.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and one of St. Juan Diego were gifts hand-delivered 17 years ago to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by Msgr. Diego Monroy, then rector of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
St. Juan Diego’s feast is Dec. 9.