Los Angeles was founded 234 years ago, on Sept. 4, 1781, with a Mass and a procession, calling out to the Blessed Mother for her protection of the infant pueblo in the name of Nuestra Se√±ora de los Angeles, according to Mark Albert, founder of the Queen of Angels Foundation.
That tradition continued annually for a century before fading away. When the Archdiocese of Los Angeles celebrates the Fifth Annual Grand Marian Procession on Aug. 29, it continues the revival of that tradition, honoring the namesake and patroness of the city, county, the archdiocese and cathedral.
“As a native Angeleno, it occurred to me that the vast majority of Angelenos don’t know the true name of their city. They think it is the City of the Angels. No. It is the City of the Blessed Mother Queen of the Angels,” Albert said.
On a trip to Lourdes, France, Albert, a member of several lay Catholic organizations, was profoundly touched by the beautiful processional there. “It occurred to me that this is something which should occur in Los Angeles,” Albert said.
He and other lay Catholic leaders in various religious orders formed the Queen of Angels Foundation to revive devotion to the Blessed Mother and honor her on the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Angels.
“We are the official archdiocesan sponsor of the feast, but it is also a civic celebration for the birthday of the city, so we try to bring the civic community together as well. We usually have about 40 or 50 groups that come together every year,” Albert said.
This year, a special votive Mass written for the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels discovered in archives dating back to the earliest days of the archdiocese will be celebrated by Archbishop José H. Gomez at 3 p.m. in the cathedral. After the Mass, which will also include a special celebration of the canonization of Blessed Junípero Serra, the Grand Procession will proceed to La Placita, the first Church in the area, where they will re-install the statue of the Blessed Virgin. There will be a benediction at La Placita with mariachi bands playing in the plaza.
Albert recalled the Spanish and Mexican missionaries (including Blessed Junípero Serra in 1769) who first came up from Mexico under the banner of the Blessed Mother.
“We are harkening back to our deepest roots, and we can never forget that we have a Catholic heritage that we should honor and celebrate,” he said.
The event seeks to bring the whole multicultural community together, and to bring lapsed Catholics back into the Church. “We’re a microcosm of the universal Church. Los Angeles is so diverse, and you can see it in the Catholic people that participate in our procession,” said Albert.
“No other event brings all the constituents of our diverse archdiocese together in this way,” said Albert. “You have rich and poor, every race and ethnicity, and all the different religious orders come together for this. It shows the unifying power of the Blessed Mother. She can surmount every obstacle, heal every wound and bridge every difference. She is a unifying figure. She’s bringing the community together to reconcile our differences, heal our wounds and bring us together in joyful union to lead us ever closer to her son.”