MARY, OUR MOTHER

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Marian procession celebrates founding of Los Angeles

Guadalupe Hernandez, 12, came all the way from Downey with her mom and two sisters. She wanted to be part of the third annual Grand Marian Procession, Rosary and Votive Mass honoring Our Lady of the Angels, followed by a fiesta. The multicultural event, which drew more than 400 people, also celebrated the founding of the City of Los Angeles in 1781.

On the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels’ plaza after the liturgy, the eighth-grader admitted she was bushed from walking and being on her knees since that afternoon. But she said it was worth the effort, and even fun.

“I was, like, in the procession and it was really pretty exciting,” she said. “The Aztec dancers in their blue outfits and dancing through the streets was really cool. I liked the loud music, too. It was really nice.”

When Guadalupe was asked if she would come next year, she said, “Yes,” without even thinking about it.

44 founders
The procession from La Placita Church to the cathedral harkens back to the daunting trip of the group of 11 families with 44 men, women and children. They had survived the 1,000-mile trek from Sonora and Sinaloa Mexico to reaffirm Spain’s claim of the “New Spain” territory. In early September of 1781, they wound up by the river called Rio de Los Angeles de Porciuncula after walking about nine miles from the San Gabriel Mission.

The tradition of a yearly procession to honor the Blessed Virgin soon developed and lasted some 100 years, according to the Queen of Angels Foundation.

The foundation, started by lawyer Mark Albert, revived the tradition in 2011, This year’s Sept. 14 Marian devotion also recognized the 232nd anniversary of the founding of El Pueblo de Nuesta Senora de Los Angeles.

At La Placita, the wood-beam church near Olvera Street (established three decades after the 44 weary settlers finally set down roots in the area), an almost life-sized statue of Mary cradling a toddler Jesus in her left arm was surrounded by pink roses. Groups of Mariachis and dancers performed, while some people on the worn pews fanned themselves.

“Our presence today in this annual procession is a sign of our commitment to living the mission of love in our city and our world,” Archbishop José Gomez told a packed church before the procession started.

Claretian Missionary Father Roland Lozano, pastor of the parish near where Los Angeles began, observed, “All of you are here today because you love Mary, Our Lady, Queen of the Angels. She is the protector of our city. She guides us. She loves us. And she accompanies us in everything that we do.”

And Enrique Ruiz Molero, general consul of Spain, said he didn’t want to speak about the Spanish history of California because the day was devoted to celebrating a religious feast. “Spain brought our Catholic religion to this part of the world, to this part of America,” he said. “And it would be very good for all of us to recognize that the settlers were very religious people, and that we should persevere in our faith.”

Six husky men in purple cloaks carried the statue out of the church to a cart. An LAPD black-and-white patrol car and Los Angeles fire engine with lights flashing led the procession down Main and Temple streets through the heart of the civic center. People out on this 90-degree-plus Saturday afternoon stopped on sidewalks to look and listen.

A teenage girl holding up a white banner with the embossed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe bordered by red roses walked with deliberate steps. Behind her came the archbishop, followed by Knights of Columbus in scarlet-trimmed robes and Knights of Peter Claver in similar robes with yellow sashes. An honor guard of three soldiers holding U.S., California and U.S. Army flags paraded along with a dozen others in combat fatigues. Queen of Angels Foundation members wearing long black robes walked proudly.

The always-in-motion Aztec dancers shook gourds to the banging beat of a single drum, while bagpipers from the LAPD Emerald Society of Pipes and Drums played not far away. Modern-day pilgrims trailed singing “Ave Maria” and other hymns of devotion to the Mother of God.

Though bronze doors
At a little past 4 o’clock, people were streaming through the great bronze doors into the cathedral. Among them: an adolescent girl in jean shorts, an African American woman carrying a pocketbook decorated with sparkling beads, an elderly Hispanic woman with her head covered with white lace, plus a dad pushing his infant son in a stroller.

At 4:44 p.m., seven men carried the statue into the Cathedral, then carefully down the center aisle. Men clapped; women blessed themselves. The figure was set down on a raised place at the front of the sanctuary, surrounded now by white blooming flowers. The Aztecs formed a long dancing line facing Mary before quietly sitting behind the altar.

Pipes of the five-story Dobson organ suddenly came to life. A man from the choir sang out, “Holy Mary” and the people responded, “Pray for us.” For the next 10 minutes, he evoked different Marian titles like “Mother of Peace,” “Mother Most Chaste” and “Vessel of Honor.”

After, the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary were said in Spanish, English, Tagalog and other languages. The bilingual Mass began at 5:30, with people standing to sing a rousing “Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above,” with 11 priests and Auxiliary Bishops Edward Clark and Alexander Salazar followed by Archbishop Gomez processing down the center aisle.

Sister Rita Therese had walked the procession with five other Carmelite nuns. She was deeply moved by the open display of Catholicism in the heart of secular Los Angeles. “It was very inspiring, very uplifting,” she told The Tidings. “It’s beautiful to witness the faith of so many Catholics here in the archdiocese with its multi-cultures.

“I loved the Aztec dancers,” she added, smiling. “It’s not just a dance, but it’s a gift that they’re offering of themselves to honor Our Lady. They’re just offering a praise through their music and through their dance.”

L.A.’s Catholic foundation
During his homily, the archbishop noted that the celebration for the Sept. 8 feast day of the Nativity of Our Blessed Mother fell on a Sunday this year. He quipped, “So we are a little late [in celebrating it].”

“But on this great feast, what burns is from the desire of unity under the sign of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he declared in a louder voice. “This feast reminds us of 232 years ago, on Sept. 4, 1781, this city was founded. And our city was named for Our Lady, Queen of Angels. So my brothers and sisters, never forget that Los Angeles has a Christian Catholic foundation. This great, wonderful city was started by humble Catholics for a Catholic purpose.

“We need to remember our city’s missionary history because it tells us who we are. This history tells us what we are supposed to be doing as followers of Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Gomez stressed, however, that Los Angeles was still mission territory. He said what was needed today was a “new evangelization” effort by every Angeleno Catholic to carry God’s love to others.

“We have a beautiful mission — just like those first Franciscan missionaries who came to Los Angeles and founded this beautiful archdiocese,” he pointed out. “So let’s make the angels joyous in heaven tonight. Let’s dedicate ourselves once more to the protection of Our Lady, Queen of Angels.”