Hers is as iconic an image as there is in local Catholicism: Hands steepled, a modest, downward gaze, clad in a pink robe and blue mantle covered with stars, bathed in light. Occasionally she is crowned.
She is the Virgin Mary as she appeared to a peasant nearly 600 years ago, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her image has been seen and represented countless times over the centuries, in paintings, carvings and textiles. Museum exhibitions have been dedicated to her and her religious, historic and cultural importance. Her image can be seen in everything from priceless works of art to all manner of tchotchke. Millions of parishioners traverse the globe to commune and seek healing and comfort.
To the Diocese of Orange, Our Lady of Guadalupe is about much more than the iconic image. Her message resonates today as much as ever.
“As the patroness of the Americas and of the Diocese of Orange, places of immense cultural, ethnic, religious and economic diversity, she stands as an affirmation of our dignity as human persons and the responsibility we have to in turn, respect and honor one another,” said Father Christopher Smith, episcopal vicar of Christ Cathedral.
In 1895, Pope Leo XIII crowned her with a canonical coronation and Pope Pius II named her “Patroness of the Americas” in 1946, a title that was reiterated by Pope John Paul II in 1999. When the Diocese of Orange was created in 1976, Our Lady of Guadalupe was named its patroness. Her roots run deep throughout the diocese and the region.
“Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe was brought to what is now Orange County by the priests who established Mission San Juan Capistrano in the 18th century,” Fr. Smith said. “Naming Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of the newly established Diocese of Orange provided a powerful link to the beginnings of the Catholic Church in the county.”
Her importance is underscored at Christ Cathedral as it is home to one of the most impressive mosaics of Our Lady of Guadalupe anywhere. The 10-by-7-foot commissioned tile mosaic on the entry wall features more than 55,000 tiles of gold and opaque glass.
The diocese has three Our Lady of Guadalupe-named parishes and a school named in her honor in La Habra that has provided Catholic education for more than 50 years.
Each year, congregants across the Southland celebrate the days surrounding the December 12 feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe with colorful processions and vigils, homemade shrines and religious observances and Masses.