FEAST OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
I’ve been retired a couple years now and living on my own. So that means I’m my own housekeeper and cook. I’m relearning what a joy housekeeping can be! I clean up the kitchen counter and then notice that the floor needs sweeping. Dusting is an ongoing task. I track in dirt from the outside and the carpet has to be vacuumed again. I look in the refrigerator and have this odd assortment of food that I need to do something with before it goes bad. And to be honest, sometimes I just leave things go until I’m having company.
Letting things go is not confined to housework.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared at a time in the church when things had been let go in Western Europe. The Protestant Revolt happened when there was anarchy in the church, something that we are experiencing once again and corruption just as there is today. The famous case of selling of indulgences was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit provided the church then with a holy Pope, Pius V, who was a reformer. He called for the Council of Trent. It opposed not only the heretical teachings of Luther but also corruption, confusion, anarchy, and sadly the same thing we are dealing with today in the clergy. God also raised up saints who gave themselves entirely to the reform of the church. St. Charles Borromeo is a particular, but not the only, example.
In the New World there was anarchy and corruption too. The Spanish came to colonize and Christianize. Missionaries, unfortunately at that time were not well trained and the colonizers mistreated the natives. In Mexico there was the problem of the clash of three different cultures at the time, one of which practice human sacrifice.
Within fifteen years of Our Lady’s appearance in 1531 to St. Juan Diego which we celebrate tonight, her message and her appearance as a mestizo woman, a woman of the mixed cultures, united the factions and ended the human sacrifice. While unbelievable numbers were lost to the church in the Old World for letting things go, the largest mass conversion to Catholicism in the history of Christianity occurred in the New World. The numbers given vary between 4 and 15 million. Whatever the number, as our president would say, it was “huge.”
It is no wonder then that within our own life time when human sacrifice was sanctioned by nine men, the pro-life movement chose Our Lady of Guadalupe as their patroness. This was not only because she left us her miraculous image on the tilma of Juan Diego showing her with child. Although that was more than enough reason! It was also because she, the Greatest Woman that ever lived, the greatest Mother that ever lived, our mother, the one who cooperated with the Holy Spirit in bringing Jesus into the world, brought Jesus into the hearts of so many millions of converts through laymen like St. Juan Diego. She made sure the next wave of missionaries from Europe came trained and prepared. She united the three cultures that in the past had clashed and there was peace.
Embedded in the European culture at that time was the stance: whatever religion the king professed, that’s the religion you professed. With the appearance of Our Lady in the New World that was reversed. Evangelization was from the bottom up not the top down. It was a game changer.
As a result, in the spirit of Our Lady of Guadalupe many people in the last hundred years have offered themselves as Our Lady’s instruments to stop today’s human sacrifices by conversion of hearts. Human sacrifice has certainly not stopped but the number of reported abortions, at least in the U.S. is back down to the level it was in 1973. At least the reported ones. So we’re not where it needs to be, at zero, yet there has been noticeable progress. Also there are more crisis pregnancy centers now than abortion mills across the country. Pro-life legislation is gaining traction in the states. And whatever else we say about our President, we must be thankful for the pro-life and religious liberty measures he has promoted. The tremendous grassroots witness of the laity, especially, aided by the grace of Christ given through Our Lady’s intercession has accomplished this. You have not kicked the can down the road. But we all wish we could do more.
Our Lady asked St. Juan Diego to go to the bishop and ask that a church be built in her honor. When Juan Diego said to Our Lady “I am not worthy to carry out your mission,” Our Lady said to St. Juan, “It is you I want.” Today she says that to all of us. We all have a role to play in protecting the sacredness of life. “It is you I want.” And so we continue to answer her call.
“When Archbishop Chaput saw the ambiguities in the Pope’s encyclical on the family, / the headlines, quoting the Archbishop, read: “The devil is the source of confusion.” Confusion in the minds of the faithful means more unborn lives lost. Confusion means souls are lost. Confusion means the degrading of marriage and sexuality. The more we kick the can down the road by our silence from the pulpit, the more confusion.
The role of the clergy in this renewal of the church is of utmost importance. St. Gregory the Great, pope at the turn of the sixth century, pointed out then what is happening today. He writes “…an imprudent silence may leave in error those who could have been taught….Pastors who lack foresight hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men….when a pastor has been afraid to assert what is right, has he not turned his back and fled (like the hired shepherd) by remaining silent? Whereas if he intervenes on behalf of the flock, he sets up a wall against the enemy… [Preachers] are afraid to reproach men for their faults and thereby lull the evildoer with an empty promise of safety…reproach reveals a fault of which the evildoer is himself often unaware.”
I personally believe that until we preach and teach truths about the sacredness of life, the meaning of marriage, sexuality and family from the pulpit, we don’t fully believe them. So Our Lady’s reply to St. Juan Diego is meant for us clergy too: “It is you I want.” She who was chosen to crush the head of the serpent, Satan, the source of confusion, wants to use us as her priest sons to bring clarity to the minds and hearts of today’s faithful through our preaching. Confusion is from the devil. The can has been kicked down the road for too long.
So in closing, I ask that we pray together to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us pray that all—laity and clergy– may respond to Our Lady’s call, “it is you I want.” O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (3x)
Rev. H. James Hutchins is a retired but active Catholic Priest and Pastor from The Archdiocese of Philadelphia who now resides near Pomona, NJ. He is also chaplain for The Kings Men Samson Healing Retreat for Men and chaplain for Emmaus Retreats.