Editor's Note: "Many Faces in God's House" is part of the assigned reading for Ministry in a Multicultural Church.
A Theological Reflection
by Michael Khong
In the article "Many Faces in God's House," I find it interesting how the Hispanic communities have contributed to the Church here in America. I also agree with Archbishop Edward McCarthy of Miami who said, "Hispanics are not a problem to be dealt with, but a gift to be appreciated." Virgilio Elizondo, the author of the article, describes how Hispanics can contribute to the Catholic Church in this country, namely with these characteristics: home-centered, festive, devotional, visual and avant-garde.
Just like other ethnic groups in the United States, Hispanic Catholicism celebrates many feasts throughout the liturgical year. Las Posadas, Navidad, Semana Santa, Die de la Virgen, and other feast days give Hispanics a "profound sense of belonging to the communion of saints and connectedness to the divine life."
From my experience, one thing that stands out the most is when I attended the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Friday, December 12, 2008, in my home parish. The capacity of St. Columban Catholic Church, my home parish in Garden Grove, CA, is 1500 and began to fill with thousands and thousands of Mexican Americans who came from the local area.
The celebration started at 5:00 a.m. with a group of dancers who entered the church in traditional dress to offer their art to the Virgin. I was moved when I saw each person in the church holding a rose and gazing at the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A thought came to my mind of how much these people must love Mary. Even though I did not understand what they were doing and singing, one thing I knew was that the Lady of Guadalupe has played an important role in Hispanic communities, especially the Mexican nationals and immigrants.
When the celebration was over, I had an opportunity to talk with some people and ask them some questions about the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I learned a little bit about the history and tradition of the feast and hoped that one day I could visit the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Last summer, Aristotle Quan, Emanuel Sanchez, and I decided that we would go to Mexico City for vacation and visited the Basilica of Guadalupe. The first thing I experienced was seeing many pilgrims arrive at the Basilica of Guadalupe on their knees as a sign of their love, devotion, and gratitude for the Virgin. Next, we went to the back of the Church where the tilma is displayed for the pilgrims to view and pray.
Looking at the tilma, I was speechless. I could not believe that I stood at a place where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Juan five hundred years ago. Most importantly, I felt love and peace which emanated from Our Lady of Guadalupe. After the pilgrimage trip to the Basilica of Guadalupe, I began to understand why the feast of Dia de la Virgen is so important to the Hispanic community.
Virgilio Elizondo also mentions some popular devotions in the Hispanic culture such as the rosary, the Blessed Sacrament, and novenas which help bring Hispanics closer to Christ in order to "keep alive the best of the Catholic tradition of making God present and easily accessible to anyone and everyone." I have learned from the Spanish community at my home parish that they have great love for the Blessed Sacrament. Every Tuesday after the 8:30 a.m. Mass, a presider who is scheduled to celebrate Mass that day exposes the Blessed Sacrament for adoration from 9:00 a.m. to 9 p.m. I noticed that the Hispanic community usually comes to the church for adoration around 7:00 p.m. and they stay until Benediction is finished.
The Church in America contains many different ethnic groups. There is no doubt that each of these groups have greatly contributed to the Catholic Church in its celebration of the liturgy. Among these, Hispanic groups have brought many traditions such as the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The Church should learn every culture and promote all the beautiful traditions which all ethnic groups have contributed to the Church in America. It is so important for the Church to accept and welcome all the cultures because we are the body of Christ.