Thursday, December 11, 2014

celebrating la Morenita

photo credits here
Even before the sun breaks through the horizon on December 12, the burst of firecrackers ring throughout Mexico to announce the greatest national fiesta of the year—the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

At la Villa de Guadalupe, the National Sanctuary near Tepeyac Hill, pilgrims begin to arrive days earlier to camp out on the Plaza surrounding the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Many travel for days to get there, entering la Villa on their knees as a sign of their devotion and gratitude for la Virgen Morenita’s protection. By nighttime on December 11, millions have already gathered and the monumental atrium leading to the Basilica is standing room only. Much like a family member holding a beloved’s picture close to the heart, the pilgrims carry images of their Mother Guadalupe on their backs, banners and bodies.

For these faithful pilgrims, the chants, ballads and traditional dances that are part of Guadalupe’s liturgical celebrations are well known, having been passed down from generation to generation. 

During the annual dance at Guadalupe Plaza, detailed ballads chanted by elder Indians have chronicled for hundreds of years every aspect of the Guadalupe story: the miracle of the roses; Juan Diego’s account; and the progression and care for the sacred image. Initially communicated only orally, the story of Guadalupe was first recorded through Aztec pictographic chronicles called mapas. The first authored document, “el Nican Mopohua,” was written in 1556 in the official language of the Aztec empire, Náhuatl.

Celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe always culminates with the reenactment of the familiar story. In 1531, just a few decades after Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World, the Mother of God appeared three times to a humble Chichimeca Aztec baptized as Juan Diego. Our Lady asked him to be her special messenger and provided proof of their encounters for a skeptical bishop in the form of two signs: a cloak full of fresh roses in December and a miraculous image of herself on Juan Diego’s tilma, or shawl.

Yet the 483-year-old Guadalupe apparition is not only one of earliest Marian apparitions. It is also the only time in history that Our Lady has shared her portrait.

[from my article -- "Our Lady of Guadalupe" -- published

Monday, December 8, 2014

con flores a María

Today’s feast of the Immaculate Conception marks the end of the Month of Mary in Chile.  In case you missed it, here’s a link to my post describing what I learned about the celebration down under.

Michael and I were blessed to be in Santiago de Chile when the Month of Mary began, and we serendipitously stumbled upon Marian celebrations at two special places there. That’s what I like to call God’s sense of humor.

At the famous statue of Mary on the Cerro San Cristóbal, which overlooks the city of Santiago, dozens of musical groups dressed in traditional clothes took turns dancing and processing in honor of Our Lady.

by Mary's statue, pilgrims leave their prayer intentions and light candles

Here are two videos I took with my phone that day:



We also learned about a new-to-me Marian devotion under the name “La Purísima” when we stopped at the Santuario de la Virgen de lo Vasquez–located roughly halfway between the capital of Santiago and the seaport city of Valparaiso. 

The pilgrimage site at Lo Vasquez must have been packed today as hundreds gathered to celebrate in festival-style the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the culmination of the Month of Mary.

Hermana Juana, one of the shrine’s pastoral team of ministers assisting pilgrims at the Sanctuary daily, was kind enough to tell me the story of the image:  found by a local peasant in the nearby hills in the early 1800s, and blessed by the financial and moral support of the local landowner who built the original shrine. 

It never ceases to amaze me how throughout history and across the globe, Our Lady consistently chooses to bring her presence to the lowliest, the poorest, the most humble of her children—and always with the message, “I am your Mother.

Con flores a María, traditional Marian song
Venid y vamos todos con flores a porfía, con flores a María, que Madre nuestra es con flores a María, que Madre nuestra es. 
De nuevo aquí nos tienes, purísima doncella, más que la luna, bella, postrados a tus pies.  
Venimos a ofrecerte las flores de este suelo, con cuánto amor y anhelo, Señora, tú lo ves.  
Por ellas te rogamos, si cándidas te placen, las que en la gloria nacen, en cambio, tú nos des.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Happy Advent: do we want to be transformed?

my Twinkies! Cecilia and Ignacio

Thanksgiving weekend was truly wonderful.

I love the crazy chaos of a full house, all of us sharing space and breaking bread under one roof.  And even though I’ve been a grandmother for almost four years now, I’m still getting used to—and blessedly surprised—by the thrill of grandchildren around me… running, crawling, and squealing in delight (for the sake of this thread, we’ll just ignore the crying part which we all know is inevitable!).

It certainly made missing those family members who are absent this year—and those no longer with us, a little less painful.  Even grief, especially grief, is made bearable when shared.

Yet it feels like a blinked, and here we are, already lighting the second candle on the Advent wreath!

I confess that I spent that first Sunday of Advent in bed—or running between my bed and bathroom.  A crazy stomach virus made its way through pretty much everyone who was at our house for Thanksgiving… which was an amazing 22 people this year!

I was thankful that I was the last person in the bunch to get sick, and that it was a very strong but very quick virus.

As far as Advent goes, I’ve been playing catch up every since. The plus side is that all the down time has given me the opportunity to read some beautiful Advent reflections.

My friend Susan Stabile, for example, has already published several insightful Advent blog posts this past week, including this one ("Why does Advent matter?"—where she quotes a Henri Nouwen Advent Prayer, one I don’t remember ever seeing before:

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”

In her typically direct manner, Susan proposes three questions to reflect on as we embrace the active waiting of the Advent season:

Do we want to be transformed?

Do we believe we can be transformed?

What is the transformation God asks of us?
 Here we go... 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I desire to desire... my Thanksgiving prayer

Charleston, NC

Every single day we lose two minutes of sunlight. That’s a fact. And I have to confess that the combination of less light and my melancholic spirit is truly messing with me.

I also think that the dramatic shift from Spring time weather and sunlight in Santiago de Chile one day—to brutal winter temps and our first real snow of the season the next day, has truly exacerbated my already fragile and volatile emotions.

my backyard, November 2014

I want to rejoice and be grateful and enjoy life and even embrace its many changes as everything keeps shifting around me, especially this week as our family gathers around the table and each other. But in all honesty, I’m struggling. And I’m failing.   

Perhaps it’s time I give myself a break and simply embrace the swing in my prayer from “Lord, I desire to surrender all… embrace all” to the more ornery but realistic, “Lord, I desire to desire (or even desire to desire to desire) to surrender all… embrace all.  Or not.

Truth be told, that’s the first thing I’m grateful for, the fact that God takes me as I am, where I am, every time.  And for now, that is enough of a prayer, no?

Two more things. 

First, a question. Are you interested in receiving a FREE digital version of Magnificat Magazine’s Advent Companion? If so, just drop me an email or leave a message here or on Facebook. I have a hand full of codes to give away, and you could be the one to get one!! 

Finally, my wish and prayer for each of you as we bring another liturgical year to a close is that you may be blown away this week by the awareness of God’s presence in your life! Keep an eye out for Him. He’s dying to be seen.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving and weekend my friends!


Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day’s work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.

~Charles Reznikoff in “The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink