Our Lady of Guadalupe is also celebrated in Jerusalem. For many years, the Custody of the Holy Land has honored this tradition with a solemn mass at Saint Savior’s Church. On December 10, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton presided over the celebration in Spanish, accompanied by a special choir of friars and lay people with a guitar, two flutes and a violin. Many friars are from Latin America, for whom celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe is an integral part of their history and culture. The international seminary alone has fourteen Mexican seminarians, three Peruvians and two Brazilians.
The apparition that is celebrated dates back to 1531 to Teyepac, north of Mexico City. The Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Christianity, while he was coming down from Teyepac Hill, and she asked him to build a church in her honor there. According to tradition, the bishop asked Juan Diego for a sign that would confirm the veracity of his story and Juan Diego got it: he picked flowers that had bloomed out of season in a remote area. When he showed them to the bishop, pulling them out of his cloak, the image of the Virgin Mary appeared miraculously on his tilma. This is why even to this day, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the object of devotion and study.
In his homily, the Custos spoke about the figure of Mary as important for our salvation and reminded everyone of the recognition that John Paul II gave to this appearance. “Through Juan Diego’s vocation, God's special love for children and the poor was manifested,” said Fr. Francesco Patton and through the words of the Virgin of Guadalupe, we can experience her maternal love for us.” Br. Donaciano, rector of the international seminary, thanked the choir and the Custos at the conclusion of the mass and announced the traditional procession with the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the courtyard of the Custodial Curia. To the rhythm of the song La Guadalupana, they headed to the lobby of the Curia to celebrate the feast and they enjoyed traditional Mexican dishes.
This was a time of great joy for the friars, but also a bit of nostalgia. “It is a time of remembrance of the earth, of the traditions, and of the love that we have for Our Lady,” said Br. Carlo Lopez, from Northern Mexico. “She was the first evangelizer of America.” Br. Diego, from central Mexico explained: “For us, Our Lady of Guadalupe is our own own mother. It is said that in Mexico, many are more Guadalupanos than they are Christians.” Br. Rodrigo, from Guadalajara, said that every family gathers to go to the shrine of Our Lady and the children wear the costume of Juan Diego. “We Mexicans feel a deep gratitude for the Custody of the Holy Land to be open to this tradition,” continued Br. Diego. Br. Oscar, who is from Mexico and who is the dean of the international seminary, told us how in his city, the night before the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it is customary to go to church to sing las mañanitas, songs that celebrate someone’s birthday. “Even here in Jerusalem there is a strong link with Our Lady of Guadalupe, because marinism is at the core of being a friar,” explained Br. Oscar. Where a friar goes, Our Lady of Guadalupe also goes, because she is in his heart.”
Fr. Francesco Patton said, “The bishop who accepted the request of Our Lady of Guadalupe was a Franciscan. Marian devotion has existed since the time of St. Francis, who wrote some very beautiful prayers to Mary. Mary is she with whom it is easy to converse, because for us she represents a maternal presence.”