A mother’s love is endless. How a child honors her varies too — especially when that mother is a spiritual one bearing a host of titles.
Faithful across the Diocese of Phoenix managed to focus on two of them Dec. 8. A colorful, artistic and quite musical celebration honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the diocese, sandwiched an outdoor Mass that nodded to Mary’s title born in Mexico nearly 500 years ago and her title mirroring the day’s notable feast, that of the Immaculate Conception.
Diocese honors its patroness while opening family-focused year ahead of 50th
Diocese of Phoenix 50th jubilee
The Diocese of Phoenix will turn 50 Dec. 2, 2019 and celebrate with Mass for 6,000 people at Comerica Theater. Keep an eye out for other celebrations leading up to it beginning with a Dec. 30 release of an apostolic exhortation targeted for families and an invitation to (re)consecrate yourself to Mary.
The Honor Your Mother celebration also opened a jubilee year leading up to Phoenix’s 50th anniversary as a diocese in December 2019. Meanwhile, diocesan leaders encourage local Catholics to “Remember the fidelity of Jesus,” the jubilee theme, with “Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Family” as a sub-theme — one that will be further explored come Dec. 30, the feast of the Holy Family, when Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted releases an apostolic exhortation on the family.
Visually, several hundred Catholics at Honor Your Mother got a glimpse of how large Our Lady of Guadalupe’s family has grown in the Diocese of Phoenix alone. It took well over 90 minutes for 21 floats and 80-some entrants to complete the procession from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish to the Diocesan Pastoral Center. It should be an 11-minute walk.
The procession’s first five floats depicted an apparition of Mary to Juan Diego in 1531 on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico. Plenty of matachines and chinelo dancers followed as did parish groups and a few schools.
The whole experience temporarily left some confetti in the street, but a more permanent feeling in the heart — that of joyful unity among a diocesan family. It also undoubtedly left less memory and low battery on many mobile devices. People along the procession’s sidelines often found something of interest to photograph, record or livestream.
For some, it was a family member. For others, it was inspiration.
Alejandra Varela, a parishioner at St. Augustine, home of Danza Azteca, was among countless Catholics who were in the procession and then joined its sidelines to watch and record new memories. This was Varela’s third Honor Your Mother celebration, and she enjoyed capturing anything new to the procession or fellow Azteca dancers who she found inspirational.
No one held back though as Banda La Llegadora closed out the procession by singing to a giant replica of Juan Diego’s tilma bearing the image of “la virgen.” Dozens of camera phones recorded and photographed the lead singer serenading “La Guadalupana.”
“It kind of feels like a community. We’re doing the same thing. We’re doing the same corporal prayers,” Varela said. She also participated to get a blessing from Phoenix’s bishops. Varela called it an honor to represent Phoenix and her culture.
Keleto Sili from Resurrection Parish in Tempe brought about 20 fellow Tongan dancers and singers form eight parishes to Honor Your Mother.
“They’re different cultures, but our beliefs bring us together,” Sili said of the celebration. “We feel that we are welcome in this country by how the Church embraced us as a community.” The Catholic population in Tonga is very small compared to its state Methodist one.
With 1.1 million Catholics, the Diocese of Phoenix is much larger yet equally susceptible to spiritual and cultural crises. Some face bodily suffering or difficult relationships, Bishop Olmsted said in his bilingual homily.
“On a national and global level, we face unprecedented moral challenges, which threaten our Christian foundations and the very fabric of society,” he said.
Yet, through all the darkness, Mary consented to bringing a Savior, “the Light of the World” to birth. Our Lady of Guadalupe, then, sheds light on Mary’s mission pre- and post-delivery to “behold, your son.”
She modeled that missionary spirit again at the foot of the cross and yet again in Mexico, “the mission of helping the Church to bear witness to Jesus and His kingdom,” the bishop said.
Mary shares the same words with Catholics today that she did to Juan Diego, reminding the faithful of her motherly role, her watchful care and her label as the fountain of her children’s joy.
“Mary assures us that we are not alone in our desire to be faithful disciples and joyful witnesses of Christ here and now in Arizona,” the bishop said.
Christ desires unity with God’s children in spite of their shortcomings and sins to find new life in Him. He comes alive daily in the Eucharist by which “the Lord wishes to take up His dwelling in us, through our body, enter the concrete situations of our daily lives,” the bishop said. “When we welcome Him, He gives birth to His divine presence within the crib of our hearts.”
That’s a message for Catholics to carry at least through the Christmas season and, ultimately, into eternity.