Sunday, December 04, 2011

The "Super Bowl" Begins: In LA, A Morenita Mass (and) Procession

We might still be a week out from the late-night mañanitas and the annual climax of the Stateside church's ever-booming Guadalupe festival, but the coast-to-coast celebrations of what's become American Catholicism's "Super Bowl" kick into full gear at this hour, in the city founded under the name of Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles -- that is, LA.

Following a lengthy parade through the streets of the city's east end, Los Angeles' 80th annual homage to the Morenita de Tepeyac will culminate with the usual mega-Mass in an outdoor football stadium for a crowd traditionally in the range of 30,000 people.

Bolstered by continuing waves of an overwhelmingly-Mexican Hispanic migration said to comprise some 70 percent of the LA church, the SoCal fold has more than doubled in size since 1985 to some 5 million Catholics today, a population roughly equivalent to that of the entire Irish church. Not only is it the nation's largest ecclesial outpost of our time, but -- by a margin of some two million souls -- it is the largest diocese in Catholicism's five-century history on these shores.

(On a related note, over recent years, Latinos are likewise considered to have reached de facto majorities in the ranks of the second and third largest American dioceses, respectively New York and Chicago, and also number half or more of the Catholic populations of many of the emerging hotspots of the "new" US church, among them Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, Houston, Dallas and Phoenix, where estimates of the community's dominance in the local church run as high as 80 percent.)

While the dramatic Latin ascent to the threshold of half the nation's 70 million Catholics has Western and Southern roots going back five centuries, this year's celebration of the Empress of the Americas is especially historic, not to mention poignant: for the first time, a guadalupano nativo -- LA's Mexican-born Archbishop José Gomez -- presides over the North's largest diocese, the sixth most populous in the Catholic world.

Set to turn 60 later this month -- and, in time, break the 126-year Anglo monopoly on the country's seats in the College of Cardinals -- the pioneer prelado (shown above center at last year's procession) led today's festivities, following in the footsteps of his predecessors.

Significant as the East LA turnout is, though, it's not the largest of the American church's Guadalupe observances.

Over recent years, throngs as large as 50,000 have converged on Dallas' Catedral Santuario de Guadalupe to mark December 12th, and in just a matter of years, the estimated feast-night crowd of as many as 250,000 at Chicagoland's Maryville shrine in suburban Des Plaines, many of whom bike or even walk from the city, has become Stateside Catholicism's most massive gathering of all. What's more, having maxed-out the capacity of the satellite churches primarily immersed in Hispanic ministry in prior years, the mañanitas vigils of the 11th will be held in the cathedrals of locales ranging from LA, San Francisco, San Antonio and Salt Lake to Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the the US church's most iconic temple: St Patrick's in New York.

Here, some video from an earlier edition of the East LA Mass Introit... well, part of it:

To be sure, gang, the days of this thread's annual high-point are again upon us. Yet by no means is this a one-cycle or once-a-year event -- indeed, this week is merely the most palpable manifestation of The Great American Catholic Story of Our Time, one whose echoes are sure to loom large across the broad sweep of history.

As no less than the Pope himself once memorably preached, more than any other, this week to come makes it "wonderfully evident to us that the church is alive, and the church is young" in our midst.

Thing is, the driving force behind that vitality and youth just isn't Anglo anymore... pero en esta familia de Dios, nadie es un extranjero para Él, y nadie puede ser un extranjero entre los demás de nosotros.

Que viva la Virgen de Guadalupe, Estrella de la Nuestra Esperanza, Madre de la Vida y el Futuro de esta Iglesia en este País.