OLSJ 2024 Page 2b Basilica de San Juan NOVENA OUR LADY OF SAN JUAN DEL VALLE, JANUARY 25 - FEBRUARY 2, 2024

By your unparalleled purity, cover us with your mantle, O most holy Virgin of San Juan!

With this invocation, we would conclude praying the Rosary as a family when I was growing up. The devotion to Our Lady of San Juan is almost as old as the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I grew up very close to the Shrine of Our Lady of San de los Lagos where the Image of Our Lady of San Juan is venerated. I remember with a sense of nostalgia the days past when my dad would take us to see the Virgin in her Basilica. It was a custom in my family that each time my mom would give birth to a new sibling, we would joyfully anticipate the passing of the ­days so they could take all of us to give thanks to Our Lady for the newest member of our family.

Since I am the oldest of 12, I was able to experience these visits 11 times. I remember how my mom would carry the new baby in her arms, walking next to my dad, who would be walking on his knees from the entrance of the Basilica, with the baby who, until forty days ago, had been the youngest.

Next to my parents would be the rest of us siblings. My last two brothers were born when I was already in the Seminary, therefore, my parents would wait until I had a few days off so that we would all be able to go together and fulfill our vow to Our Lady of San Juan.

When I came to the Valley as a seminarian, I was very moved to see the great devotion of the people of the Rio Grande Valley to the Virgin of San Juan. I felt at home when I came to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle and I experienced the maternal warmth of the Virgin in this Basilica. Since then, I placed myself under the protective gaze of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle. In this sacred place,

I also received my priestly ordination for service to the people of this diocese. A few years later, I was appointed Rector of the Basilica, and, after six years, I am honored to still be serving here. With great joy, I welcome all the pilgrims that come to this Sacred Place and it continues to move me to see young couples who come with their children in their arms, to give thanks to the Virgin for the baby they have just welcomed.

I see moms still wearing their hospital bracelets on their wrists, and their children, so small, having been born just a few days prior, being entrusted to the protection of La Virgencita. I have said it before and every day I am more convinced of this, that the faith of the people evangelizes me. I also see the elderly, with wrinkled hands, tired eyes and hair covered in white, who come to visit Our LadyŽ but they come with a joyful heart and full of love for the Mother of God. What a blessing to be able to witness this every day!

Every year we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle on February 2. This is the only day when we bring down the miraculous Image of Our Lady of San Juan and take her in procession through the streets.

Hundreds of people participate in this procession, joining us as we sing to Our Lady and pray the Holy Rosary. With the singing of the Mariachi, the dancing of the Matachines and the faithful clapping in unison, it all makes of this procession a very joyful event.

I invite all of you to join us this year, on Friday, February 2, 2€2­. I also invite you to participate in the Novena of Masses which we will celebrate here at the Basilica for nine days prior to the Feast. Please send us the names of your loved ones, living or deceased, which you would like for us to include in the Novena of Masses.

I am very grateful for your financial contributions, which help us cover the expenses associated, not just with this celebration, but also with all the many other events, projects and ministries which we have here in this Sacred Place that we all call home.

May the Lord bless you all and may the Virgin Most Pure, Our Lady of San Juan del Valle, cover you with her mantle.

Rev. Jorge G6mez, Rector