Vatican Updates Guidelines For Educating PriestsPrevious Article
Amid Darkness, Hold Fast To Light Of Hope, Pope SaysNext Article
Breaking News

Pilgrims On Horseback Pay Homage To Mary

Line Spacing+- AFont Size+- Print This Article
Pilgrims On Horseback Pay Homage To Mary

DES PLAINES, Ill. (CNS) — With thick, wet snow falling down and live mariachi
music to greet them, around 400 riders on horseback rode up to the Shrine of
Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines Dec. 4 to pay homage to Mary.

Some wore ponchos bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Other riders carried
their cellphones and were recording the ride. Once in front of the outdoor
shrine, each rider handed over a red rose for Mary and was blessed with holy
water by shrine rector Father Esequiel Sanchez. The priest himself entered the
shrine on horseback and was wearing a traditional Mexican sombrero.

It’s the fifth year for the pilgrimage, which is organized by Club Los Vaqueros
Unidos (United Cowboys Club) in Wadsworth. The horseback pilgrimage is the
unofficial kickoff of celebrations at the shrine that culminate with 24 hours
of Masses and visits to the outdoor shrine Dec. 12 for the feast of Our Lady of

The pilgrimage usually includes a three-hour ride through the forest preserve in
Lincolnshire and ends at the shrine, but this year that portion was canceled
because the forest preserve was conducting a “deer management” program, said club
member Maria Anguiano.

Despite the wet and heavy snow that soaked the riders and horses, there were many
smiles as the riders made their way past the shrine.

“What everyone really wants to do is thank the Virgin for the blessings throughout
the year and acknowledge her presence in their lives,” Anguiano told the Catholic New World,
newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Having the riders and horses visit the shrine is fitting to the history of the church in
the United States.

“All the evangelization in America happened on horseback so as we bless the horses
today we remember that tradition,” Father Sanchez said. “The key element in the life of a lot
of people was a sturdy horse, to be able to make a living and get around. Now
it’s become a symbol of a way of life that is very much still treasured and

In the evening of Dec. 4, a group of tractor-trailer drivers went to the Des
Plaines shrine for their own pilgrimage. The two pilgrimages are held before the
Dec. 12 feast day since more than 120,000 pilgrims usually visit the shrine
over Dec. 11 and 12 and accommodating the horses and trailers would be

In Mexico City, it’s a tradition for groups or clubs to make a pilgrimage to the
Guadalupe shrine there on the feast day, which commemorates Mary’s appearance
to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill near modern-day Mexico City.

Mary appeared to Diego for the first time at dawn Dec. 9, 1531, and said she wanted
a church built in her honor on that hill. Diego went to the bishop to share
this news, but was put off by the prelate. She appeared again, and Diego — who
was called by name by the lady in the apparition — again approached the
bishop. The bishop asked for a sign from this lady of Diego’s and Mary produced
enough roses in December to fill Diego’s cloak, or “tilma.”

When he emptied them in front of the bishop, he found that she had left her image on
the tilma, which remains today in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in
Mexico City.

The local shrine in Des Plaines began in the mid-1980s. The shrine is officially
connected to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is the only
place in the United States where pilgrims can receive the same special
indulgence that is offered to pilgrims visiting the basilica.

– –

is editor of Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.


Vatican Live Video Feed

Pope Francis on Twitter