Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
the Inland Register
(From the January 16, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
Archdiocese of Portland
SALEM – On a cool evening Dec. 12, a crowd of 5,000 gathered at the Oregon State Fairgrounds to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The liturgy and fiesta bind cultural traditions, faith, memories of the past and a hoped-for legacy for future generations.
The Salem celebration was one of the largest in Oregon, with faithful from St. Joseph, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Edward parishes. No single church would hold this melded congregation. That’s why the parishes rent a massive pavilion.
St. Joseph parishioner Maria Elena Ruiz says the celebration helps her see the faith of Hispanic Catholics, many of whom are in dire financial straits. “It amazes me how people feel so up when they lack the most basic needs. They always turn to be in the hands of the Virgin of Guadalupe so she can intercede for them with our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Worshipers dress in their finest. Children come in costume as St. Juan Diego, the man who encountered Mary on a hill in Mexico City in 1531. The miraculous image of Mary, captured on St. Juan Diego’s cloak, is fundamental in the life of Hispanics. Many grow wistful this time of year, recalling the celebrations of their childhood and remembering loved ones in Mexico.
Max Diaz of St. Joseph Parish stops everything on Nov. 25 to start working full time planning and organizing the feast. He’s been involved since 1989.
Parishioners create grand altars for Guadalupe devotions. A St. Joseph Parish altar was covered with 1,000 roses, signifying the flowers Mary gave to Juan Diego as a sign of her presence and favor. The image of the Virgin comes from St. Vincent de Paul Parish.
Diaz led 70 organizers. “I cannot explain with words how I feel,” he says. “Her presence in my life is so important that I look to her every single time. In the good times, in the bad times, I ask her support and love, always. I feel it deep in my heart. She saves us all. We can have a salvation and a world of peace if we pray to her.”
MILWAUKIE – In the kitchen, Cuco Herrera is deftly ladling hot chocolate into cups. Other volunteers rush the sweet drink to a room full of worshipers.
It’s a posada, a Mexican Catholic devotion in memory of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. A posada, Spanish for “lodging,” covers nine days leading to Christmas including Scripture reading, prayer and re-enactment. Every session ends in a communal gathering accented by treats.
Faith, community and food – it’s all of a piece in the posada, which sometimes includes the faithful dressed as Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper and angels.
Herrera explains that, as a child in Mexico, he was most interested in the treats. But the story of the holy couple also came through as he and his family marched and sang from house to house. Herrera knows the same dynamic is at work today.
Jack Villa Lopez, 10, and Rosse Villa Lopez, 8, members of St. John, confirm the fact. This brother and sister say their favorite part of posada is candy.
But right in front of them on this day, St. John parishioner Silvino Pacheco explains for the crowd how early Christians enacted parts of the gospels. The posada is heir to that tradition, he Pacheco says. He then reads part of the gospel. In a truncated family-friendly version of the posada on this day, the crowd stands at the door of the parish center and sings a traditional song in which Joseph and Mary ask for a room, only to be turned away. After a few times, the couple finds a door that will let them in. Everyone follows and settles in for a repast that includes tamales as well as sweets.
Leticia Chavez, Hispanic ministry coordinator at St. John the Baptist, says posadas are a major part of Hispanic culture. Dramas were essential when most people could not read the gospels themselves, she says.
Today, she said, the nine days of prayer and celebration serve as a religious counterpoint to the commercial frenzy that precedes Dec. 25. Said Chavez: “Posada plays a role of reminding us about faith at a time when all kinds of people are shopping.”
– Catholic Sentinel (Oregon Catholic Press)
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