By LIBBY CLUETT
Yearly the congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes’ Guadalupe Society parades along West Hubbard Street, honoring Dec. 12, 1531, when the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian on his way to mass.
“Here in Mineral Wells, the Guadalupe Society was founded in December 1960. The first Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Society was officiated by Father Nagel with only six members,” said Society President Dora Calderon.
Today the daughters and granddaughters, as well as friends, of deceased and elderly society members have undertaken their roles in this tradition, according to Calderon. She said the church has approximately 23 active members participating in the Guadalupe Society.
Before Sunday’s church service church members flocked to join the society’s special procession marking Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day. The morning procession included children and adults dancing in colorful costumes of Aztec concheros and matachines and Mi Ranchito mariachis from Fort Worth. Leading the procession was a float with children dressed as angels, Anjelica Jones portraying the Virgin Mary, who appeared to Diego centuries ago, and Evaristo Infunte, as Juan Diego kneeling before her.
The historic event is significant in the Catholic Church. Diego and his family, baptized Christians in 1525, had grown up under Aztec religious practices. When Diego was 13 he might have witnessed an Aztec ceremony dedicating a new temple, in which 80,000 men were said to have been sacrificed over a period of four days and four nights. In 1520, Hernando Cortes outlawed human sacrifice. His actions of cleansing the temples sparked a war with the Aztecs, and by 1521 Cortez had conquered Mexico City.
Shortly after, Franciscan missionaries began evangelizing the Indian people and met success with converts like Diego and his family members.
“Our Blessed Lady appeared to Juan Diego … while on his way to attend mass on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City on Dec. 9, 1531,” Calderon explained. The Virgin Mary told Diego of her wish for a temple to be built on the hill, “to bear witness to her love, her compassion and her protection. She sent him to Bishop Juan de Zumárraga in Mexico City to request her great desire.”
The Virgin reappeared to Diego several times.
“After the fourth apparition the Blessed Lady asked Juan Diego to gather fresh roses, which he would find growing on the frosty summit of the rock and barren hill,” Calderon said. When he did as the Virgin asked, “she arranged the Castilian roses in his tilma (a type of cloak) and hurried him to the Bishop [to give] him an account of their origin.”
Calderon said this occurrence is what is known as “The Miracle of the Roses.”
“To the Bishop’s amazement when Juan opened up his tilma, before him there was painted upon it a miraculous beautiful image of Our Lady, exactly as she had appeared on Tepeyac [Hill],” she added.
This iconic image is seen throughout the Americas. In all of the Americas, Calderon said the Mexico City Basilica “is the most important shrine to our Blessed Mother, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
“We couldn’t do this without the help of our Mineral Wells Police Department,” Calderon said. “Sgt. Caleb Randall escorted the procession through downtown to the Catholic Church.”
Information from the Catholic Education Resource Center, at catholiceducation.org, enhanced this article.