Every year, around December 12, about 120,000 people descend on the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines.
The shrine is officially connected to the shrine in Mexico, and is the only other shrine to our Lady of Guadalupe where pilgrims can receive the same favors and indulgences.
But this is the cool part (if you like snow, horses, etc.). This year, as they have for the last five, about 400 pilgrims on horseback made their way through a heavy snowfall to the shrine, where they were blessed by the rector of the shrine, Fr. Esequiel Sanchez.
Fr. Sanchez himself, wearing a sombrero, entered the shrine on horseback and had this pretty cool thing to say:
“All the evangelization in America happened on horseback so as we bless the horses today we remember that tradition. 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 valued.”
All the evangelization in America happened on horseback. Never thought of it that way, but of course it’s true. Isaac Jogues, Jacques Marquette, Junipero Serra…all the great missionaries that brought the Catholic Faith to America were not only priests and evangelists, but experienced horsemen who put in countless hours in the saddle as they traveled across the continent bringing light to the darkness.
This is a picture of Fr. Sanchez blessing the cowboy pilgrims: