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Discover Fauquier December 2019
~ Nancy Griffi n-Bonnaire
The Roman Catholic Church traditionally
celebrates a number of well-known and
lesser-known Feast Days, each of which
remembers important people and events
through the course of the faith from the time
of Virgin Mary's birth through to modern day.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
celebrated on December 12, may not ring
a bell for Catholics whose native language
is English. But for Latinos, especially those
who originally hail from Mexico, this Feast
Day, known in Spanish as Nuestra Seņora
de Guadalupe, is particularly joyful.
Father Henry Rivera has led Saturday
evening mass in Spanish at St. John the
Evangelist Catholic Church in Warrenton
since 2015. He shares the fascinating
roots of this Feast Day. According to
tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan
Diego, originally an Aztec who converted
to Christianity, on December 9, 1531, at
a place called the Hill of Tepeyac (now a
suburb of Mexico City). She appeared again
three days later on December 12, requesting
that a shrine be built on the spot where she
appeared. In the interim, Juan Diego had
been told by the archbishop to ask for a sign
from the apparition to prove her identity.
At Mary's request, Juan Diego climbed
Tepeyac Hill and found Castilian roses (not
native to Mexico) blooming despite the
cold weather, and gathered them under his
cloak. When he opened the cloak to show
them to the archbishop, the fl owers fell to
the fl oor, but on the fabric was the image of
the Virgin of Guadalupe. What is believed to
be that original cloak is currently suspended
above the high
altar of the
G u a d a l u p e
Basilica in
Mexico City.
Father Rivera
notes that
after these 16th-century apparitions, about
six million Aztec Mexicans converted to
Christianity over a seven-year period, and
the popularity of the Guadalupan name and
image has continued for hundreds of years.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries,
they have been seen as unifying national
symbols. For example, the fi rst President
of Mexico changed his name to Guadalupe
Victoria in 1824, and forces in the Mexican
War of Independence and the Mexican
Revolution were led with Guadalupan fl ags
emblazoned with an image of Our Lady of
Guadalupe. Today, she is still seen as a
powerful symbol of devotion, identity, and
On Thursday, December 12, there will be
two celebrations at St. John the Evangelist.
The fi rst is Las Maņanitas at 5:00 a.m. (yes,
before dawn!) and features traditional music
led by a group of Latino musicians. Father
Rivera notes that about 150 attended this
celebration last year. Later that evening, a
Rosary begins at 6:30, followed by a mass
at 7:00, and then all attendees are invited
to follow a procession, led by four people
carrying a large statue of Our Lady of
Guadalupe surrounded by fl owers, from the
church to the adjacent school. The evening
concludes at the school with a cultural
event, that includes authentic
Mexican food, lovingly made
by parishioners, as well as
children and adults wearing
traditional Mexican
clothing and performing
celebratory dances. To
learn more, contact Father
Rivera at
Discover the Feast of
Our Lady of Guadalupe
on December 12
Between 200 and 300 worshipers (of which
about 85% percent are Mexican) attend the
Spanish mass that Father Rivera leads at
St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church
each Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
A native of El Salvador,
Father Rivera saves this
vestment for special occasions. The hand-
embroidered image is of Oscar Romero, an
El Salvadoran bishop who was a voice for
peace and dedicated to defending the poor.
The bishop was killed by a sniper in 1980, at
the very moment of the consecration during
a mass. He was canonized last year and is
now considered a saint.
Father Henry Rivera
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