Roses for Our Lady

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When the Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian peasant named Juan Diego in 1531, she provided him with roses in the dead of winter to bring to the local bishop. To honor her Dec. 12 feast day, the Hispanic community of Holy Family Church in Dale City brought more than 600 roses to the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in their sanctuary.

The Saturday evening Mass was overflowing with people, some in traditional, colorful Mexican garb, some carrying statues or paintings of the image left on Juan Diego's tilma after the miraculous roses had fallen out. One infant even sported a handmade Our Lady of Guadalupe cape. The space was filled with the powerful scent of roses, and as the Mass began, the smell of incense.

A mariachi band playing guitar and trumpet provided the music for the Mass. Men and women of all ages sang and clapped along enthusiastically. It was the first time social ministry director Matty Lupo had been to the parish celebration. "I was touched when the mariachi started. It reminds of when I was little and when I was back home (in Guatemala)," she said.

After Mass, parishioners gathered in the parish hall for hot chocolate, sweet bread, pupusas and tamales. Another shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe was set up there featuring flags from several Latin American countries with the Vatican flag in the center. Parishioner Felix Flores and several other volunteers set up both shrines so that Holy Family students could have a celebration there during the week.

The preparation for the feast day was a labor of love for the Mother of God, they said. "We were here at midnight singing a song to the Virgin, putting ice cubes in the flowers (to keep them fresh)," said Flores. The love for the Virgin of Guadalupe is a unifying bond for Latin American Catholics. Celebrations like these are a way to honor Our Lady for Hispanic men and women who cannot make the pilgrimage to Mexico. "Everyone believes in Guadalupe," said Lupo.

Di Mauro can be reached at or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015