These days in the month of December, for personal and pastoral reasons, are days that are very important to me and to the thousands and thousands of people I meet every year around the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Years ago, around the time I was in the seminary, I remember rather “dire” projections and prophecies about the shrinking and a supposed “future” of the Church. Many of the writings had an air of “infallibility” about them. In my years now of celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe (in Illinois, Texas, and now California), I cannot help but reflect on the sentiments of those times. We are ministering in a future that is upon us, and is certainly not the one which was projected! I reflect on the new life and vigor that the Hispanic presence with its devotion to the Mother of God, known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, has brought to the sometimes ‘anemic’ life of the Church in the United States (as mentioned by Fr. Willard Jabusch of the Archdiocese of Chicago in an article in Commonweal some years ago).
Not long ago, Carl Anderson in his book Our Lady of Guadalupe wrote that “historically in our continent, Mexico was not the only country to be changed by this Marian evangelization. As later missionaries left Mexico for the neighboring countries in the hemisphere, including the lands of the future Untied States, their evangelization was defined by their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe;
To venerate Our Lady of Guadalupe as Patroness of the Americas and Star of the first and new evangelization is to venerate her precisely as a Eucharistic woman, a woman through whom Christ came to humanity, a woman who experienced a unique closeness with the Holy Trinity. By leading millions more to her Son, and especially to her Son’s real presence in the Eucharist, she will guide the people of the Western Hemisphere to a greater unity whose source is the Trinitarian communion. For her love surpasses herself, and leads us to love our neighbor without reservation, without hesitation, without borders.”
This year, I experienced this first hand once again at the parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Santa Ana, a parish with over 6000 families under the leadership of Fr. Ed Poettgen. The evening Mass on December 11 was overflowing, and that was just the beginning. The same was true at 4:00 AM the next morning at the little Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Delhi (Santa Ana). Although the Church is small, it was overflowing to the outside to greet the sunrise and to sing “Mananitas” to the Blessed Mother. Even the “no-show” of the Mariachis did not stop the celebration. The music was quickly provided by two young women who had gone to World Youth Day! The celebration afterward was led by a band, and then Fr. Alonso, the retired pastor, and I sang “Cielito Lindo” with the crowd.
In one of the courtyards of the Franciscan Retreat Center in Paradise Valley, Arizona (affectionately known as the “Casa”), there is an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that “glows” at sunset, as the setting sun seemingly sets the rays around Our Lady on fire. The words around the image (in Latin) are “God has not done anything like this for any other nation.” According to tradition, these are the words of Psalm 147 which Pope Benedict XIV said when he approved the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe over New Spain in 1754. Carl Anderson says further “We may never understand the full uniqueness of this apparition. But through the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, we can expect to see the beauty and power of this event in the transformation of our lives and blossoming of our communities and ultimately our continent.”
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, RUEGA POR NOSOTROS!