Monday, January 25, 2021

Our Lady of Guadalupe and Her Children "in America"

Chapel in Los Angeles Cathedral (art by Lalo Garcia)
It has been 22 years since my first "encounter" with Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe in Mexico on January 25, 1999. Many things have changed since that time, but my basic convictions from those days have only grown stronger.

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 22 years ago 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 with Saint John Paul II and pilgrims from numerous countries 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 in Mexico City; 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 here, in what she called "this land" back before there were any borders. For the "American hemisphere," in my opinion, Guadalupe is not just "another Marian devotion." It has a particular relevance. La Guadalupana is a unique sign 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 Saint Juan Diego, "build me a house," and "I will dwell there"). We in the United States of America 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. It is relevant to how we understand ourselves and our responsibilities toward one another. To be sure, Catholics who are citizens of the different nations of the American hemisphere have to deal "hands on" with many specific problems. It is only human that we find different viewpoints, different perspectives, and different concerns about the specific steps that we should take to move forward. Government officials, civil society, public opinion, and our various roles within society touch upon these problems in different ways. We each have particular responsibilities in life, and it is within our own fidelity to our personal vocations that we make our most constructive contribution to building up the common good. 


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, Anglophone Catholics in the United States know very little about the concrete significance of this sign. This needs to change. She is our Mother, and she is there (if you go on pilgrimage there 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.

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. 


As we live our lives, and formulate, reconsider, and reformulate our opinions and engage in constructive dialogue with one another, let us first of all embrace La Guadalupana's "plan" for America: North, Central, and South — for all of us who live on "the land" which she has specially blessed with her maternal solicitude since the beginning of the modern epoch.


This "plan" is not a detailed program. Various conversations, ideas, and proposals for accomplishing the good in solidarity with one another will no doubt emerge from our commitment to take up the love of God and the love of our neighbor with a particular tenderness and awareness. For all of us, however, it begins with prayer, attentiveness, and openness to God's will.


It is fundamentally a matter of the heart. It is a matter of living as brothers and sisters of Jesus and one another in "the land," under the care of our Mother, formed by the guidance she gives us from her mother's heart.