A Centuries-old Peruvian tradition has also become an annual celebration in the Diocese of Orange in recent years.
EL SEÑOR DE LOS MILAGROS WAS CELEBRATED ON OCT. 30, 2021, AT CHRIST CATHEDRAL CAMPUS. PHOTO BY CHUCK BENNETT/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Every year in October, hundreds of thousands fill the streets of Lima, Peru, including pilgrims from all over the world, to witness the procession of El Señor de los Milagros, a mural of Jesus Christ dating back to the 17th century. According to tradition, the image was painted by an Angolan slave on an adobe wall of a small monastery in Lima. In 1655, an earthquake decimated the city, including most of the monastery, but the wall remained standing. Subsequent earthquakes and other threats also failed to destroy the wall.
The name “El Señor de los Milagros,” meaning “The Lord of Miracles,” refers both to the mural’s own survival as we well as countless miracles attributed to its veneration over the years. The image is also known as “Cristo Moreno” or “Brown Christ.”
BISHOP KEVIN VANN LOOKS ON DURING EL SEÑOR DE LOS MILAGROS’ PROCESSION OF THE ALTAR ON OCT. 30, 2021, AT CHRIST CATHEDRAL CAMPUS. PHOTO BY CHUCK BENNETT/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Today, the mural resides in the Sanctuary and Monastery of Las Nazarenas in Lima. Every year, a replica of the original image is processed through the city on an altar weighing roughly 2 tons, carried by 32 men known as La Hermandad del Señor de los Milagros, or the Brotherhood of the Lord of the Miracles.
The longest of several processions of the altar that occur throughout the month traditionally takes place on Oct. 18, commemorating the second major earthquake, which the wall survived in 1687. The 24-hour procession begins at the monastery and finishes at the church of Our Lady Virgin of Carmen, passing through the Plaza Mayor de Lima, by the cathedral and the Church of San Pedro.
So engrained in Peruvian tradition is the procession that October is widely known as “Mes Morado,” or “Purple Month,” an homage to the purple robes donned by the brotherhood as they carry the altar and the purple attire worn by many attendees.
Peruvian immigrants have established chapters of La Hermandad in the United States, holding processions locally in conjunction with the original in Lima. Baldo Paseta serves as president of a chapter that moved from Pico Rivera to the Diocese of Orange in 2014. The chapter has led a procession within the Diocese every year since, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the procession will be preceded by a Mass inside Christ Cathedral for the first time. Following the Mass, the brotherhood will process with its own altar weighing approximately 1.3 tons around Christ Cathedral campus. Singers and musicians will accompany the procession, and festivities including Peruvian cuisine will follow.
The procession is expected to last about two hours and draw approximately 2,000 people. A small fraction of the attendance of the Lima procession, the smaller numbers make the icon more accessible to attendees, Paseta said.
“In Peru, you might not get to see it, because of the crowds,” he explained.
Attendees need not be members of the brotherhood to help carry the altar part of the way if they desire. Paseta recalled one year when a Peruvian father happened to pass by the altar with his blind son as it was being prepared for the reception.
“We let the boy touch the image – they spent an hour and a half with it,” Paseta said. “The next day (the father) brought his son to the procession, and we had a purple tunic for him as he helped carry the altar.”
The brotherhood has built a special altar that children may help carry, as well as a more portable altar for processions conducted at parishes throughout the year.
The event is especially personal to Paseta, whose father was a member of la Hermandad in Lima. Through his engagement with attendees, Paseta has heard many testimonies of people’s prayers being answered upon venerating the image, but one that touched him most was that of a couple that had been struggling to conceive a child.
Previously unfamiliar with El Señor de los Milagros, the couple happened to see the procession in progress as they left their parish priest’s office and joined in venerating the image. A year later, they saw Paseta at another procession, informing him that a baby was on the way.
Bishop Kevin Vann is highly supportive of la Hermandad and the annual procession, Paseta noted.
“The bishop loves it,” he said. “The bishop loves anything with music or that is artistic. He always finds time to come in eat and listen to the music and watch the dancing.”
The Mass will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22, at Christ Cathedral, followed by the procession from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Festivities will follow from 1:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. All events are free to attendees.
La Hermandad will also perform a play in Spanish titled “Moreno Peregrino: La Historia del Señor de los Milagros” at 4 p.m. on Oct. 23 at Downey Theater. Tickets are available at DowneyTheater.org.