L.A.'s Popular Basilicas

This week the L.A. Times ran a story about the makeshift shrines to Our Lady of Guadalupe that populate Los Angeles. The article is a moving testament to popular devotion and to the attempt to make everyday places into sites of contact with God. These mini-grottoes have often served as focal points of whole communities that transcend religious and even ethnic boundaries. For example, consider a rare instance in which a statue of la Virgencita was stolen. Roderick Smith, a non-Catholic who placed the statue in honor of his mother-in-law, was thinking of replacing the statue when two men appeared at his doorstep:

Jose Alfredo Sanchez and Jose Ortiz Sanchez, brothers who washed cars down the road, took Smith to the niche to see their gift: a shiny, new virgin fixed in a mound of wet concrete.

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Now, at least once a week, the brothers sit on the steps, sip beers and commune with their virgin.

"We call them the ushers of the basilica," Smith says.

Audio slide show of the shrines is available here.

Timothy O'Brien, SJ

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Katherine Lawrence
7 years 1 month ago
I grew up in san antonio, where as a kid we were told the story of juan diego and la virgen. in fact, when juan diego was canonized, I hadn't ever thought it through that juan diego WASN't a saint, yet. La virgen de guadalupe was a part of the fabric of my Catholic upbringing in a natural beautiful way. for a while in the 1990s non catholics thought it was cool to have virgen de guadalupe candles, sculptures etc., in their homes. I didn't understand it because la virgen is very real to me: artwork honoring her isn't a fashion statement. Must be how real Buddists feel when Anglo americans decorate their homes in Buddist Zen decor. ha ha! However, am thrilled that people notice the artwork in the shrines. love that non-catholics feel something, respect, share. all a part of the mystery.
Jim McCrea
7 years 1 month ago
I'm not a mariolotrist by any stretch of the imagination, and find most of it to be rampantly superstitious, but this story and slide show was fascinating.

If it works for these people -

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