The apostle Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
That is possible when we begin our morning with prayer and ask the Lord to show us how to act, what to say and how to respond throughout the day.
Then during the day, we are encouraged to take short moments so we can continuously integrate prayer within the activities of our day.
However, sometimes we are invited to spend more time in prayer deepening our relationship with God.
For several parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Parish of Pettis County, they spent time in prayer for nine nights, Dec. 3-11, leading up to the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Each day, a group of people came to the St. Patrick Chapel in Sedalia to reflect on the story of St. Juan Diego and the Blessed Mother’s miraculous apparitions to him in 1531, and to pray the Rosary.
Shari Brown and her daughter Betty attended the novena.
“With the help of the bilingual booklets provided, and the guidance of the daily leader, it was very easy to follow along and fully participate,” said Shari.
She said she enjoyed learning new songs and was truly blessed by being able to participate in this novena.
“I have a special place in my heart for Our Lady of Guadalupe, as my father died on Dec. 12, her feast day,” Shari stated.
She encourages everyone to join this Novena when it is available as they will be richly blessed.
Young parishioners also found value in this rich devotion, as explained by Jessica Tienda:
“Regardless of the previous years of praying the Rosary for the Guadalupe Novena and getting ready for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this year has truly opened the eyes of the youth in our community.
“As we recognize the significance of this special day, many of us acknowledge that this is not only part of our Hispanic culture, but also our Catholic faith.
“Initially, most parents do not explain the importance of this event to their children, but as the youth have grown spiritually, we have become curious about the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and how the novena ties with it.
“Thus, this year, I was fortunate to participate in the feast along with many friends. We participate by singing during the nine days of novena. This was an experience that allowed us to discover the profound meaning of St, Juan Diego and the apparition of Mary.
“In addition, we gained strong connections with each other as we spent consecutive hours preparing for this special celebration.
“Also, this annual feast has become even more important in our parish since we had a goal this year of involving the English-speaking community to participate more completely.”
Then, on Dec. 12, the traditional Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (which landed on the Third Sunday of Advent this year), parishioners gathered for an hour of praise and worship music prior to Mass.
After Mass, a play was performed acting out the story of St. Juan Diego and Mary’s appearance to him. Then, everyone gathered downstairs for a fiesta and traditional dance.
The dance, legend says, was important when the land was attacked by soldiers. The elderly would put on costumes and masks and dance with their canes in such a way that the soldiers would watch them — all the while giving the women and children of the village the ability to hide or flee to safety.
Deacon Nestor Montenegro, who assists the pastors in solidum of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, explained the importance of this Feast day:
“The celebration of the Virgin Mary unites people and prepares for the great party where, many who do not practice the Catholic faith, are present everywhere that day.
“It’s a way of giving thanks to the Virgin for the received favors, bringing flowers and/or meals. The children are dressed as Juan Diego and the women in typical dresses. It definitely unites our people.”
This year, the young man who played Juan Diego in the play was Diego DeLeon, who has this to say about it:
“For me, the play shows great determination and humbleness. St. Juan Diego was very determined to complete the wishes of the Virgin Mary. He was rejected, insulted and beaten but nevertheless, he still got up, he still was strong in his faith.
“San Juan Diego is a role model that demonstrates the struggles, but also what is takes to do that good. That is why the Virgin Mary chose him overall all people at the time.”
On Dec. 15, three Days after Our Lady of Guadalupe, Las Posadas began.
Marlene Rivera explains the significant of this popular Advent ritual:
“The Posadas are a big thing in the Latino community. We know that Christmas is around the corner when we hear about the Posadas starting.
“Posadas means that we are traveling with Mary from house to house, receiving shelter in various places. Whoever hosts the posada is receiving Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
“I participate in this because there are songs and a variety of food given in each household. It also gives me a chance to celebrate with my community that Jesus is almost here.
“It is important to me because not everyone thinks Christmas is about Jesus. When they think of Christmas, they think about Santa Claus, presents and what to give one another and to me the true meaning of Christmas is waiting for Jesus’s coming.”
The last night of the Posadas traditionally happens in church, where Jesus welcomes us to His home where we have a place in His house.
This leads us to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses, where we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
Know that you are always invited to any of these prayer services. At each of the prayer services described here, books in English and Spanish are provided so everyone can participate.
As we enter 2022, let’s pray often and well this year and come together for these celebrations when the month of December rolls around.
Many blessings to you during this year!
Fr. Corel is one of the pastors in solidum of St. Vincent de Paul Parish of Pettis County.