Our Lady Of Guadalupe Celebration Draws Hundreds Of Thousands Of Pilgrims Through Heavy Snow To Des Plaines, Illinois

Our Lady of Guadalupe was honored on December 11 and 12 in a 36-hour celebration, which begins every year with a pilgrimage. The two officially sanctioned sites for this celebration are the Basilica in Mexico City and The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Des Plaines, Illinois. The shrine in Des Plaines is located on the campus of Maryville Academy, according to the Daily Herald.

Each year over 120,000 Our Lady of Guadalupe pilgrims make the journey to Des Plaines, last year there were over 300,000 and this year over 200,000 were expected despite the freezing temperatures.

This year, Our Lady of Guadalupe pilgrims in Des Plaines walked many miles in the snow, while others felt the need to walk on their knees. Babies were bundled tightly and children shivered but the procession continued through the frozen landscape.

There are 11 Masses held for Our Lady of Guadalupe during the celebration in Des Plaines. Mass was held on Sunday midnight and was attended by more than 15,000 people. The last Monday Masses were held at Noon, 3 p.m., 5 p.m., and 7 p.m., according to Chicago CBS.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico, but it isn’t necessary to be Catholic to admire her. Nor does one necessarily have to be from Mexico, though most of the attendees of the ceremony are. Nora Gomez told Chicago CBS it was a special day for her family as she held her 6-year-old daughter.

“It’s a special day for us, because we love our Lady of Guadalupe, and every year we come here for blessings.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe fiestas in Mexico are far warmer and more colorful. Their costumes are often quite elaborate, and there are both secular and religious celebrations held for the Virgin of Guadalupe each year in December.

Virgin of Guadalupe festival in Mexico City

Our Lady of Guadalupe also called The Virgin of Guadalupe is best known for her appearance to Juan Diego, a recently converted Aztec in 1531. Our Lady of Guadalupe told Juan to build a church in her honor on the site where she appeared, which happened to be a hill called Tepeyac. Juan returned to the hill twice after the Bishop did not believe him.

Each time the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared but on the third time, she instructed him to gather roses. Miraculously the roses appeared out of season. Juan Diego gathered the rare flowers in his cloak, believing surely that would be proof, but when he approached the Bishop not only were the flowers there but there was an image of the Madonna-like virgin miraculously imprinted on the cloak. The cloak is still on display at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Our Lady of Guadalupe isn’t just for Mexico, despite her being a great source of national pride for that country. According to Andrew Chesnut, an authority on Latin American religion who writes for American Magazine,the Virgin of Guadalupe is for the entirety of both North and South America.

“La Virgen Morena (the Brown Virgin) is not only patroness of Mexico but also Empress of the Americas, from Chile to Canada. While other manifestations of Mary claim at most a region or country, Guadalupe is the only one to reign over two continents. And if that’s not enough, for a brief period in the mid-20th century she was also declared patroness of the Philippines, home to the world’s third-largest Catholic population.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe was the symbol under which Mexico won her independence from Spain, according to Andrew Chesnut.

“Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1810 transformed her into the national patroness. Independence leader Father Miguel Hidalgo launched the campaign for independence with the battle cry ‘Death to the Spaniards and long live the Virgin of Guadalupe!’ The image of the Mexican Virgin emblazoned on flags, banners and peasant sombreros became the insignia of the armed rebellion against Spanish rule.”

Virgin of Guadalupe icon with Archbishop of Mexico

Later, Our Lady of Guadalupe became a symbol of the Mexican Revolution from 1910-1920. Chesnut explains this tradition was carried on into the uprising of 1994.

“Fighting under the slogan ‘land and liberty,’ revolutionary peasant leader Emiliano Zapata and his fighters carried the Mestiza Virgin on banners into battle against Mexican oligarchs. Some Zapatista guerrillas carried on the tradition during their uprising in 1994 in the southern state of Chiapas.”

Thus, Our Lady of Guadalupe became adored in Mexico by Catholics and all others alike. She is a symbol of independence, liberty, and freedom from oppression. She has also been a symbol for revolution and for Mexico’s national sovereignty. Still, her overall spirit is one of peace, love, and unity.

As Our Lady of Guadalupe pilgrims return from their celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, they reflect on her spirit of freedom, and her love.

[Featured Image by Takamex/Shutterstock]