October 12th means Columbus Day to Americans, but to the good citizens of Mexico, October 12th is also the day the "Traveling Lady of Zapopan" comes "home" to spend the Autumn and Winter months in her stately basilica.
South of the border, this crisp Autumn day is actually "The Dia de la Raza", an important national holiday, since it marks for these people the new flood of human blood which rose in New Spain as one of the major effects of Columbus' voyage. As a result of the conquest, Mexico became predominately populated by "mestizos", or Spanish-Indians. To foretell the physical characteristics of the mestizo came the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531, when the portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a Spanish-Indian woman appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego.
Guadalajara, capital and jewel of the state of Jalisco, celebrates "The Day of the Mestizo" by rendering ecstatic homage to "The Little Virgin" as Our Lady of Zapopan. She is Spanish in origin, but completely Mexican in the tradition of more than four hundred years that surround her cult. Brought to Zapopan by Father Antonio de Segovia in 1541, the "Little Virgin", less than fourteen inches high, found herself in the heart of a territory, then called New Galicia, still under the conquest of Nue de Guzman. The precious statue, which the warm heart of the Mexican personifies, was the instrument by which Heaven vouchsafed to turn the fears and animosities of the natives into a confidence and love which enabled the zealous Franciscan to gather them into the fold of the Good Shepherd. The story is told that, as he preached, the little statue of Our Lady that he always carried with him, emitted rays of light. The miraculous radiance seemed to penetrate the souls of the Indians and convert them into vessels ready for the waters of grace.
"The Little Virgin" was at once installed in a place of honor at the Zapopan Church of the Franciscans which was replaced by the present stately basilica. If the "Day of the Mestizo" is one of jubilation in Guadalajara, it is more than that in Zapopan, for on that day their cherished Lady comes home! For four months she has been in Jalisco, where she has traveled from parish to parish, amid memorable scenes of piety and rejoicing. Zapopan's history notes the fact that when its beloved Queen started on her first trip to the neighboring city in 1734, the townsfolk witnessed her departure with consternation, fearing that the proud "Sultana of the West", as the Jaliscan capital has been called, would hold her captive.
But the Franciscans who had a Friary at Zapopan since the sixteenth century, have kept faith with their parishioners, and each year the Great Lady has been brought home in triumph, an instrument of special graces for her faithful Mestizos.
Dearest Lady of Zapopan, we entrust to Thy Immaculate Heart, all of our needs and petitions, as well as those of our Bishop and the Church, that they may be granted as they are in accord with God's Holy Will. O Immaculate Queen of Guadalajara, we fervently entreat Thee to hear our prayer for the conversion of our loved ones, our benefactors, and our enemies; and especially for the conversion of the people of Jalisco and of all Mexico. Grant that these humble souls who have longed revered Thee as Their Queen and Mother, may see through the deceits of the heretical sects of Vatican II, Lefebvre, and Thuc, and return to the ancient True Catholic Faith brought to them by the valiant efforts of the heroic propagators of the Faith, such as Christopher Columbus (whose memory we commemorate this day). Finally, dear Lady of Zapopan, grant us the precious gift of final perseverance and make us to grow more zealous each day in the practice of our Holy Catholic Faith. Amen.
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