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.Advertisement
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