A lively nod to Our Lady

Sunday mass opened with a conch horn, a drum beat and a procession of authentically clad Aztec dancers. The whole extravaganza startled my mom and me in a delightful, this-is-going-to-be-even-cooler-than-we-thought kind of way.

Pope St. John Paul II named Our Lady of Guadalupe the Patroness of the Americas 15 years ago, and decreed that every church in the Americas should celebrate her feast day.

At St. Therese parish here in Wisconsin, we’ve taken that edict to heart with a fascinating celebration including a mariachi band and an honor guard of fourth degree Knights of Columbus.

The dancers, with their warrior paint, peacock headdresses and hand-beaded costumes, beautifully melded history and prayer. That their whirring dances always ended in simultaneous supplication also demonstrated a fact of worship that can elude: there are all sorts of ways to pray.

Easily a thousand people crowded the church for this important service, and a colorful array of flowers decorated the Our Lady of Guadalupe statute.

Roses play an important part in the Our Lady of Guadalupe story, in which an Aztec convert named Juan Diego sees a vision of a beautiful lady who tells him she is the Virgin Mary and asks him to build her a church. Juan Diego twice tells the bishop about his encounter, but the bishop needs proof.

The lady appears to Juan Diego a second time and tells him to pick some roses from the side of the hill and bring them to the bishop. Juan Diego carries the roses in his cloak. When he lowers the cloak to deliver the roses, he unknowingly reveals Mary’s image on the cloak.

Diego’s circa 1531 cloak, marked with the image, is still intact and on display at the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico, north of Mexico City and near the hill country where she first appeared to him.

More than 1800 miles from that spot, with snow on the ground, we celebrated with gusto Sunday afternoon, a tribute to hearty soles of the Aztec dancers and the blessed souls of the global Catholic church.

(I really regret that I didn’t have my camera, but I captured a little of what went on yesterday afternoon and I hope you’ll enjoy. Next year, I’m bringing the good camera!)

The shrine
A mass of flowers, symbolizing Juan Diego’s roses, surrounded Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Aztec Dancers
This was our view of the Aztec dancers, who faced the altar for their beautiful series of prayer dances.
Little boy
Midway through the mass, this adorable little boy wandered up to take a closer look.
Aztec Princess
The dancers all wore elaborate headdresses.
Authentically dressed (and impressively buff) warriors blew conch shell horns to open and close the ceremony.
Led by the dancers, the recessional extended out the back of the church and around the large block. Check out the bare feet, despite the snow on the ground. We heard the drums and the conch horn all the way back to our house as we walked home after the ceremony.

Here is the cool processional…

And here’s a taste of the dancing…

One thought on “A lively nod to Our Lady

  1. Wow, the dancers look awesome! Can’t imagine how cold they were when they had to walk barefoot outdoors in winter! How long did they have to parade in the block?

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