The following comes from a Dec. 3 story in the Los Angeles Daily news.
At a women’s jail in this largely immigrant Los Angeles suburb, inmate Francisca Cabral had been waiting for a sign to affirm she was on track to turn her life around.
The 26-year-old mother of three, who is serving a four-year sentence for a narcotics conviction, felt she received that sign on Nov. 17 with a visit from Our Lady of Guadalupe, a celebrated Mexican icon of the Virgin Mary for Roman Catholics. Her feast day is Dec. 12.
A digital reproduction of the original image of Our Lady on St. Juan Diego’s famous cloak enshrined in Mexico City was the star of a special Mass that morning organized by the Los Angeles Archdiocese at the Los Angeles County Century Regional Detention Facility. The service, which brought many of the inmates to tears, was punctuated with lively exclamations of “Viva Guadalupe” and hymns sung in her honor.
“I felt like she took care of me today, like she hugged me,” said Cabral, who is from Koreatown and attends daily classes as part of an education and individual transformation program at the jail. “One of my dreams is to go to Mexico to the Basilica (of Our Lady) to see her … It’s always been a dream of mine. Seeing her here, instead of me going to it, made me know that I’m on the right path.”
In the San Fernando Valley, celebrated Mexican-American visual artist Lalo Garcia has dedicated much of his life to painting replicas of the original Our Lady of Guadalupe image as well as his own, more contemporary versions, in an effort to “renew her image for a new generation.” In fact, she is present — though sometimes hidden — in every single painting Garcia creates.
After the loss of a 15-year relationship in the early 1990s, Garcia — who happened to be painting his first image of Guadalupe for a church — was so devastated he wanted to die, he said. He found himself turning to the motherly icon, a symbol of unity, compassion and hope, to ask for strength to carry on.
“She has definitely been my guardian angel,” Garcia, 61, said from his Mission Hills home that resembles a colorful museum of his sacred and cultural art. Mexicans “all have a very intimate and personal relationship with her. We talk to her, we sing to her, we dance to her … and we really do not see her up on a pedestal like we do with the saints or with Jesus on the cross. She is down (here) with us. She is with us.”
Today, Garcia’s work can be found at several religious sites, including an outdoor shrine at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles and a chapel at the Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. Photos of his murals, along with those of artist Carolina Estrada-Del Toro, are also featured in a new exhibit through Jan. 1 at Our Lady of Angels titled “Guadalupe, Presence and Influence in Our City.”
Many thousands of devotees marched Sunday in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ 82nd annual Procession — the oldest religious procession in the city — in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The 1-mile procession in the city’s eastern end, which was started by Mexican Catholics who fled Mexican government persecution in 1931, included colorful floats displaying her history and a mass presided over by Archbishop Jose Gomez.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe calls us to be God’s messengers in bringing his good news to all the world,” Gomez said during his homily Sunday, according to a spokeswoman. “This is still our mission, my brothers and sisters.”
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