A Feast of a Madonna of many colors

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James, Oakland, is becoming more and more a universal feast to celebrate diversity, justice, and peace. The cultural diversity is represented in the variety of languages in use in that community, such as English, Spanish, and Chinese. It is also represented by the different understandings of Marian devotion. 

In Latin America Mary, has many faces, many colors, and speaks many languages. This past Sunday, December 14, in Oakland, members of the Episcopal Church processed on the streets not only with icons of Our Lady of Guadalupe but also with the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Candelaria. The two Latino devotions come from different places but abide in the same person, the person of a poor woman with strong faith, Maria of Nazareth. 

The importance of the two images in the procession in Oakland was explained by one of the church members who said, “The Indigenous Mary and the Black Madonna represent God’s preference for those who suffer in our days because their race or ethnicity. People in our country forget that most of the early saints of the church were black or [had] dark skin.” 

One of the traditions in the event was the presence of a young teenager dressed as Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is considered the ‘Living Icon’ of Mary, the Mother of God. 

The procession, Eucharist and Feast gathered around 110 people from the neighborhood but also representation from other Episcopal churches in the Bay Area.

photos: the Rev. Sam Dessordi