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The Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12, 2023 |

Few countries have experienced such a transformative single event as the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Following her image’s appearance on St. Juan Diego’s tilma, the Mexican people were “almost universally converted to Christianity in a matter of decades,” [1] and war and hatred gave way to peaceful harmony, both changes that endured in the following centuries. It should come as no surprise that the Mexican people today celebrate her feast, December 12, as a holiday of the greatest religious and national importance.

Juan Diego and Bishop Juan de Zumárraga December 12, 1531

On this great day, many devout Mexican Catholics naturally desire to make a pilgrimage to Our Lady’s Basilica in Mexico City, where the miraculous tilma remains for all to venerate. For many, however, especially those living in the United States, this trip may not be feasible. Thus, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse offers to Mexican pilgrims an alternative means of visiting their Mother’s house on her feast day.

At the Shrine!

The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the high point of the year at the La Crosse Shrine, and its celebration is characterized by Mexican tradition. Among the festivities are mañanitas, the customary greeting of Our Lady by serenading her in the early morning, performed by a mariachi band from the Twin Cities. “The group that comes here is very talented,” says Director of Pilgrim Services Steven Doll. “It’s done in the beautiful Spanish tradition of Marian music … It’s just beautiful that that tradition is continued now for hundreds of years, dating back to its origin in Mexico.”

Other elements of Mexican culture in the day include pan dulce, a kind of pastries, and champurrado, similar to hot chocolate, served in the crypt after 8:30 a.m. Mass in Spanish. Confessions and various devotions are also offered in Spanish or bilingually. The day’s full schedule may be viewed here.

Patroness of America

These traditional celebrations bring a little of Mexico, so to speak, to those who warmly remember the Mother who showed their nation such tender love. “Seeing more of my culture on the surface, that’s comforting,” says Pilgrimage Coordinator Ruben Mendoza, whose family is from Mexico. “How I grew up … these customs were very ordinary for us, and when you see that here, there’s a sense of home that’s being embraced by everyone from the area.”

Yet a feast day pilgrimage to La Crosse has even more to offer Mexican Catholics than connecting with their culture. Mendoza summarizes the spiritual treasures that are available: “First, because it’s dedicated and faithful to the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and second, because outside of the Basilica, this is the only place that pilgrims can gain the same spiritual benefits and privileges as if visiting the Basilica in Mexico City [emphasis added].” This affiliation with the Basilica, granted by the Vatican in 2021, was given especially for the benefit of Mexican people living in the United States.

When Our Lady first appeared to St. Juan Diego, she expressed an earnest longing to give God’s love to all the people of the land. Faithful to her message and mission, her Shrine in La Crosse works constantly to help all pilgrims find her Son in her arms. In a special way, the Shrine seeks to welcome, as to their own home, the people of Mexico to whom she came as Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here, she continues to fulfill her promise to “listen to their weeping, their sadness … to cleanse and nurse all their different troubles” and to “give Him to the people … in my compassionate gaze, in my help, in my salvation.”


Roses for the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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[1] Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love (Image: New York, 2009), 72.