Three silver roses, carefully crafted in Mexico to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, are traveling through North America, with one moving through Iowa.
Parishes in the Dubuque archdiocese are part of this unique international devotion led by the Knights of Columbus.
“In 21 days, it’s hitting 21 parishes (in Iowa),” said Levi Schmidt, the Knights of Columbus District 33 Deputy. His council, 8269, covers Maquoketa and Key West.
On July 25, the rose stopped at St. Joseph’s in Key West. That parish held a prayer service to mark the rose’s first stop in Iowa.
“We thought it was a great honor,” said Schmidt.
Deacon Tom Lang officiated the prayer service, which featured music, a procession, prayers to end abortion, and recitation of the rosary. During the service, Deacon Lang discussed the connection between Mary’s appearance and the conversion to Christianity by the native population of Mexico, many of them former Aztecs.
Our Lady appeared pregnant with Jesus, dressed as an Aztec princess with dark hair and skin. Many local people could relate to this form.
“You can force a person to do something, but you can’t change a person’s heart,” said Deacon Lang. “Mary spoke volumes to those people who couldn’t read or write.”
The Silver Rose Program was founded in 1960 by the Columbian Squires of North America, the Knights’ youth group. The intent was to honor Mary as “Patroness of the Americas.” Antonio Banuelos, Cultural Outreach Director for the Iowa Knights of Columbus, said respect for life is a key element of the program.
“The message of the silver rose is ‘One Rose, One Life,’ said Banuelos. “All prayer and liturgical services are offered for the respect for life and an end to abortion. I strongly believe in the silver rose, since it used the most powerful tool we have against abortion: prayer.”
This year’s effort began May 13 in Ontario, Canada and will end December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in the cathedral of Monterey, Mexico. One rose will travel down the eastern part of
the United States, one down the West, and one down the center.
Iowa is a major destination along the central route. Parishes in Maquoketa, Muscatine, Burlington, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Tama, Ames, Ankeny, Des Moines, Panora, Webster City, Algona,
Spencer, LeMars, Sioux City, Onawa, and Council Bluffs hosted the rose.
The Dubuque archdiocese had six of the 21 Iowa stops.
The roses themselves are a symbol of the Guadalupe miracle. Originally, real roses were used, but later jewelers crafted silvers ones. A silver bouquet is on display at the final destination. Each year, more
roses are added to it.
“That silver is from Mexico,” said Grand Knight Roman Lampe, who attended the service at St. Joseph’s. “It was handcrafted.”
In 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego and told him to tell the local bishop to construct a church near what is now Mexico City. The bishop, originally from Spain, was skeptical of Diego, a poor native American. He asked for proof. Our Lady then led Diego to Spanish roses growing in frozen soil. Diego, a devout convert to Catholicism, carried them to the bishop bundled in his “tilma,” a cloak made from local materials. When he unfurled the garment, the roses fell to the floor and on the cloth was an image of the Virgin Mary. The cloak is on display in a Mexico City cathedral to this day. This miracle, recognized officially by the church, brought many to the Catholic faith.
Printed with permission from The Witness, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa.