Seaview church honors the Virgin of Guadalupe

DAMIAN MULINIX file photo Andy Scholt prepares to carry the cross before a Holy Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church in 2003. The Lady of Guadalupe celebration is one of great importance and St. Mary's will hold a special mass for this occasion this Sunday beginning at 5 a.m.

SEAVIEW - According to a Web site purveying information about Mexico, the devotion to the Lady (or Virgin) of Guadalupe transcends any other religious observance in the nation and has become a symbol of Mexican nationalism and patriotism. She is the Mother of Mexico and the Queen of the Americas.

The Lady of Gaudalupe was an apparition that appeared before an Aztec Indian in 1531, professing herself to be the "Mother of the true God," and instructing him to build a temple in her honor. Her appearance, as the story goes, left her image on his garment, made of cactus cloth, which has miraculously not decayed more than 450 years later, still defying scientific explanation of its origin.

Since that time, the date of Dec. 12 has been set aside to honor the holy woman, a tradition in Mexico and the second biggest holiday next to the Mexican Independence Day.

But while the celebration is deep-rooted in Catholicism, especially amongst Mexicans, Fernando Rodriguez of St. Mary's Church in Seaview said this holiday is for everyone and gave an open invitation to the public to attend their special mass this Sunday morning.

Because the 12th falls on a Monday this year, St. Mary's will hold the special mass on Sunday, Dec. 11. The celebration will begin at 5 a.m. and features music by Mariachi Azteca de Oro, singing special songs to the Lady. He said many kids often dress as Aztec Indians at this event. It will be followed by a mass at 5:30 a.m. and a potluck after that. Despite its early start time, Rodriguez said he expects it to be well attended.

"Yes, I'm positive we will have people," he said.

Rodriguez said this is a particularly important service to attend, especially if you're a Mexican Catholic.

"I can tell you that most of the Hispanics do not attend mass, for many reasons, but they will do their best to go to this," he said.

Another popular celebration this time of year in Mexico is Las Posadas, a party that reenacts the search by Joseph and Mary for shelter prior to the birth of Jesus, which St. Mary's has co-hosted the past several years. However, they will not be holding a Las Posadas party this year, instead concentrating their efforts on the Lady of Guadalupe.

Rodriguez said putting on Las Posadas in the past has taken some of the attention away from Lady of Guadalupe, which Rodriguez described as being much more important. He said there has also been a declining number of Hispanic people involved in the Las Posadas celebration. Rodriguez said he hopes that by having a large Lady of Guadalupe celebration instead, it will bring more local Hispanic people to the church, who could constitute a larger base for a Las Posadas next year.

"Sometimes people think this event is exclusive for Catholics, but I think this event is for everybody who wants to know more about Mexican or Hispanic culture," Rodriguez said. "This tradition has happened for almost five centuries."

Presiding over the mass will be Father Gillette, whom Rodriguez said is now fluent in Spanish since arriving at the church last summer. Gillette is originally from Ghana, Africa.

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