Thursday, February 17, 2011

Empress of the Americas (that means all of us)

There is much discussion about the social problems that plague our country today. Good Catholics that I know tend to agree on social issues where the moral point is clear, such as abortion and pornography. But I find many diverse opinions on more debatable issues such as how to deal with economic problems, what to do about health care, foreign policy, etc. One particularly thorny problem is that of immigration reform, and our relationship with our neighbors to the south. I don't know how to solve this problem, and I respect the diverse and difficult concerns that my Catholic friends raise on various sides of the issue. As I develop my own thoughts on this matter, however, I do find myself compelled to place it within a broader context which I believe has been indicated to us Catholics in the United States by the Universal Church.

I believe that we Anglo-American Catholics are called to a special solidarity with our southern neighbors, especially Hispanic Catholics. This conviction arises not only from historical and geographical circumstances, but also and in particular from the plea of the Pope and the bishops of this hemisphere at the Synod on America, which resulted in the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America (1999)--I was privileged to be present in Mexico City when this document was promulgated, and my attendance at related papal events has permanently imprinted upon me the deep significance of the need for solidarity among the peoples of "the American continent." And this solidarity is rooted in a particular way in our being placed--in common--under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I have made three times a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe; her presence on our soil is a special blessing that has never ceased to astonish me and fill me with hope; she is indeed the Mother of all who dwell in what she called "this land" back before there were any borders. For Americans, in my opinion, this is not just another Marian devotion (for us especially, but not only for us, because the reality at the shrine is a living miracle; as an image of Mary, nothing like it exists--it is as scientifically inexplicable as the Shroud, and the only way to describe it is to say that it is the "presence" of Mary, as she told St. Juan Diego, "build me a house," and "I will dwell there"). We Americans must come to know Our Lady of Guadalupe, we should have her image in our homes and in our hearts, we should pray to her for healing of the ills that beset our country and our continent.

What I have just said is supremely relevant to the actual social issues in our country today, and to how we approach them. To be sure, we deal hands on with specific problems. We are human beings. But God became man. He wants to live the details of our lives with us, and bring forth with us the fruits of community, solidarity, healing, and peace. He wants to build up among us the social goal we seek: a culture of life. Even more, He Himself--present, acknowledged, celebrated, and loved--is the culture of life, because "He is life" and even those who don't know Him seek Him insofar as they seek the truth about life.

If we want a culture of life, we must first of all ask Him for life. We must pray. We all think that we already know this, but I don't think we really understand what this means for how we live and think and make decisions. I don't understand it. I will forget about God within five minutes after I finish writing this. But I think it has something to do with prayer being at the center of our decisions and actions, rather than floating around the periphery. In prayer is the awareness that we depend totally on God and that He is present, now, with us in Jesus Christ. This is at the center, at the core, at the depths of every moment and every thing. This is what it is all about. How easy this is to forget.

God gives us signs to help us remember. For America, one of the great signs is Our Lady of Guadalupe. Let's face it, in the United States we know very little of her, pray very little to her, and care very little about her. This is a SHAME. She is our Mother, and she is HERE (if you go you will understand what I mean). Even if we can't visit her, we can honor her, we can recognize this extraordinary presence among us, who is closer to where we live than many of our own relatives.

Let me close with a bold statement. I do not believe that we Catholics will succeed in any of our hopes for the future of the United States unless we place Our Lady of Guadalupe at the center. She didn't come here for nothing. She has a plan. The Virgin is very concrete--she is, after all, a woman dealing with little children. Let us embrace her plan for America.

Oh, and P.S.--The first copy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe ever to reach Europe was displayed on board the flagship of the Christian fleet that defeated the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. If you know your history, you know that the loss of that battle would have resulted in the destruction of Christian Europe. The Ottoman Empire would have ruled from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. There would have been no one to found the United States.

So who knows what kind of plans she has....

START NOW: Download and print your own color reproduction of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Go to this website--

And if you want to know more about Our Lady of Guadalupe, please ask me.