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Homily on the 15th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Shrine Church

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Homily on the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2022

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Zech 2, 14-17

Jdt 13, 18bcde. 19

Rv 11, 19a; 12, 1-6a.10ab

Lk 1, 26-38


Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen!

The official account of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as told to the Native American scholar, Antonio Valeriano, by Our Lady’s messenger and his good friend Saint Juan Diego, is remarkably rich with expressions of the wonder at the earthly encounter with the heavenly Virgin Mother of God. Nature itself was transformed by the presence of the glorious Virgin Mary, filling the mind and heart of Juan Diego with holy wonder. It is the wonder of which the Prophet Zechariah writes: “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”[1]

At the moment of the first apparition near Tepeyac Hill, Juan Diego “heard singing on the little hill, like the song of many precious birds.”[2] The beauty of the songs of the birds was far greater than that of “other precious songbirds.”[3] Juan Diego asked himself:

"By any chance am I worthy, have I deserved what I hear? Perhaps I am only dreaming it? Perhaps I’m only dozing? Where am I? Where do I find myself? Is it possible that I am in the place our ancient ancestors, our grandparents, told us about: in the land of the flowers, in the land of corn, of our flesh, of our sustenance, perhaps in the land of heaven?"[4]

Juan Diego’s wonder is not idle or foolish, for Heaven had indeed come to earth through the apparition of the Mother of God.

When Juan Diego ascended the hill at Our Lady’s beckoning, “he was filled with admiration for the way her perfect grandeur exceeded all imagination: her clothing was shining like the sun, as if it were sending out waves of light.”[5] The rough terrain of Tepeyac Hill on a cold wintery day was likewise transformed. Juan Diego declared:

And the stones, the crag on which she stood, seemed to be giving out rays like precious jades, like jewels they [the stones] gleamed. The earth seemed to shine with the brilliance of a rainbow in the mist. And the mesquites, prickly pear, and the other little plants that are generally up there seemed like quetzal feathers. Their foliage looked like turquoise. And their trunks, their thorns, their prickles, were shining like gold.[6]

The reality of Juan Diego’s encounter with the glorious Virgin Mother of God had transformed nature itself, so that it, too, reflected the divine truth which Holy Mary had come to teach man and the divine love she had come to share with man. Her apparition anticipated the apocalyptic vision of Saint John the Apostle, in which he saw “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth.”[7]

No less, on the following December 12th, when Our Lady provided for Juan Diego the sign which Bishop Juan de Zumarraga had requested, nature itself was transformed to reflect the hand of God at work. Our Lady told Juan Diego to ascend to the top of the hill where she would provide flowers to take to the Bishop as a sign. Antonio Valeriano recounts the extraordinary experience of Juan Diego:

"And then Juan Diego climbed the little hill, and when he reached the top, he marveled at how many flowers were spread out there, their blossoms were open, flowers of every kind, lovely and beautiful, like those of Castille, when it was not their season because it was when the frost was worst. The flowers were giving off an extremely soft fragrance, like precious pearls, as if filled with the night’s dew. Right away he began to cut them, gathered them all and put them in the hollow of his tilma. The top of the little hill was certainly not a place in which any flowers grew, because it was rocky, there were burs, thorny plants, prickly pear, and an abundance of mesquite bushes. And though some small grasses might grow, it was then the month of December, in which the ice eats everything up and destroys it."[8]

Finally, when Juan Diego arrived at the Bishop’s house to present to him the wonderful sign of abundant beautiful flowers in the bitter cold of winter, an even greater transformation of nature took place, signifying down the years the truth and love that our Heavenly Mother brings to us on earth.

Brought into the presence of the Bishop, Juan Diego first recounted to him how Our Lady had provided the sign:

"When I reached the top of the little hill, I saw that it was now the Flowered Land [paradise]. There had sprung forth various flowers, like Castillian roses, the finest that there are, full of dew, splendid; so I went to cut them. And She told me that I should give them to you from Her, and that in this way I would prove it; so that you would see the sign you requested in order to carry out Her venerable will, and so that it would be clear that my word, my message is the truth. Here they are; please receive them."[9]

At the moment when he opened his tilma to present the beautiful flowers to the Bishop, an even more wonderful transformation took place.

God imprinted in a miraculous, in an indeed humanly unexplainable way, the image of the Mother of God on Juan Diego’s poor cactus-cloth tilma, so that Our Lady would be present for all who, along the years and decades and centuries, would accept her invitation to come to her on pilgrimage, so that she could lead them to her Divine Son. The account reads:

"And then he opened his white tilma, in the hollow of which were the flowers. And all the different flowers, like those from Castille, fell to the floor. Then and there his tilma became the sign, there suddenly appeared the Beloved Image of the Perfect Virgin Saint Mary, Mother of God, in the form and figure in which it is now, where it is preserved in her beloved little house, in her sacred little house in Tepeyac, which is called Guadalupe."[10]

As we contemplate here the most beautiful mosaic representation of the even more beautiful, indeed heavenly, image of Our Lady on the tilma of Saint Juan Diego, may we be filled with wonder at how the Mother of God continues the heavenly work of her apparitions at Tepeyac Hill here, in this place sacred to her, to her message of God’s merciful love, to her Son, God the Son Incarnate for our eternal salvation.

Such wonder must be ours today, no less than in 1531, for Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to invite us to come to her, so that she may teach us the truth of the Redemptive Incarnation of God the Son, conceived in her womb by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, so that she may lead us to the Divine Love first incarnate in her womb. The Shrine here is humbled to continue Our Lady’s mission at Tepeyac Hill. It strives to be as beautiful as is humanly possible so that it may be a worthy instrument of wonder in the mind and heart of pilgrims, so that it may foster and, in no way, hinder pilgrims in meeting Our Lady and, through her, meeting Our Lord, giving their hearts completely to Him, resting their hearts in His glorious-pierced Heart always.

We live in incredibly troubled times. Our society seems bent upon destroying itself by attacking its very foundation: the love of man and woman in marriage, cooperating with God in the generation of new human life with faithful and enduring love. There is so much darkness, the advance of Atheistic Communism in so many countries of the world, of a culture of lies, violence and death. The darkness has even entered into the Church, our holy Mother who is assaulted not only from without but also from within, by her own with their agenda of confusion, division, and destruction.

We understandably experience strong temptations to discouragement. Some even abandon the Church, no longer trusting Our Lord and His promise to remain with us always in His holy Church.[11] But we are called to remain faithful to Our Lord, to trust Him, and to be His tireless “fellow workers in the truth.”[12] In our horror at so much darkness in the world and in the Church, let us not cease to wonder at the many signs of God’s faithful and enduring love, even as pilgrimage to Our Lady’s Shrine leads us to do: Christ present for us in the Sacraments, in the perennial and unchanging doctrine regarding faith and the moral life, in His grace at work in our daily lives, and in the manifold other spiritual riches which are ours in the Church. Let us strive always to imitate Our Lady’s trust in God’s promise of salvation: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”[13]

Taught and guided by the Virgin of Guadalupe, let us now give our hearts completely to the glorious-pierced Heart of Jesus. From His Most Sacred Heart, we will receive the grace to live in Him at all times and in all things, as Our Lady teaches us and shows us here.

Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother, have mercy on us.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, Protector of holy Church, pray for us.

Saint Juan Diego, pray for us.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

[1] Zec 2, 13.

[2] “… escuchó cantar sobre el Cerrito, era como el canto de variadas aves preciosas.” “Apéndice A, El Nican Mopohua,” in Carl Anderson y Monseñor Eduardo Chávez, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Madre de la civilización del amor (México: Grijalbo, 2010), p. 212, n. 8. [NMEsp]. English translation: “Appendix A, The Nican Mopohua,” in Carl A. Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chávez, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love (New York: Doubleday, 2009), p. 172, no. 8. [NMEng].

[3] “… otras aves preciosas.” NMEsp, p. 213, n. 8. English translation: NMEng, p. 172, no. 8.

[4] “¿Por ventura soy digno, soy merecedor de lo que escucho? ¿Tal vez estoy sólo soñando? ¿Quizá solamente lo veo como entre sueños? ¿Dónde estoy? ¿Dónde me veo? ¿Acaso allá, donde dejaron dicho los ancianos, nuestros antepasados, nuestros abuelos: en la tierra de las flores, en la tierra del maíz, de nuestra carne, de nuestro sustento, acaso en la tierra celestial?” NMEsp, p. 213, nn. 9-10. English translation: NMEng, p. 172, nos. 9-10.

[5] “… mucho le maravilló como sobrepasaba toda admirable perfección y grandeza: su vestido como el sol resplandecía, así brillaba.” NMEsp, p. 213, nn. 16-17. English translation: NMEng, p. 173, nos. 16-17.

[6] “Y las piedras y rocas sobre las que estaba, como que lanzaban rayos como de jades preciosos, como joyas relucían. Como resplandores del arco iris en la niebla reverberaba la tierra. Y los mezquites y los nopales y las demás variadas yerbitas que allí se suelen dar, parecían como plumajes de quetzal, como turquesas aparecía su follaje, y su tronco, sus espinas, sus espinitas, relucían como oro.” NMEsp, p. 213, nn. 18-21. English translation: NMEng, p. 173, nos. 18-21.

[7] Rv 12, 1-2.

[8] “Y luego Juan Diego subió al cerrito, y cuando llegó a la cumbre, mucho se maravilló de cuantas flores allí se extendían, tenían abiertas sus corolas, flores las más variadas, bellas y hermosas, como las de Castilla, no siendo aún su tiempo de darse porque era cuando arreciaba el hielo. Las flores estaban difundiendo un olor suavísimo, eran como perlas preciosas, como llenas de rocío de la noche. En seguida comenzó a cortarlas, todas las juntó, las puso en el hueco de su tilma. Por cierto que en la cumbre del cerrito no se daban ningunas flores, porque es pedregoso, hay abrojos, plantas con espinas, nopaleras, abundancia de mezquites. Y si acaso algunas hierbas pequeñas se solían dar, entonces era el mes de diciembre, todo lo come, lo echa a perder el hielo.” NMEsp, p. 221, nn. 127-133. English translation: NMEng, pp. 179-180, nos. 127-133.

[9] “Fui a acercarme a la cumbre del Cerrito, miré que ya era la Tierra florida. Allí habían brotado variadas flores, como las rosas de Castilla, de lo más fino que hay, llenas de rocío, esplendorosas; así luego las fui a cortar. Y Ella me dijo que de su parte te las diera, y que así yo probaría; para que tú vieras la señal que le pedías para realizar su venerable voluntad, y para que aparezca que es verdad mi palabra, mi mensaje. Aquí las tienes; hazme favor de recibirlas.” NMEsp, p. 223, nn. 176-180. English translation: NMEng, p. 182, nos. 176-180.

[10] “Y luego extendió su blanca tilma, en cuyo hueco estaban las flores. Y al caer al suelo todas las variadas flores como las de Castilla, luego allí en su tilma se convirtió en señal, se apareció de repente la Amada Imagen de la Perfecta Virgen Santa María, Madre de Dios, en la forma y figura en que ahora está, en donde ahora es conservada en su amada casita, en su sagrada casita en el Tepeyácac, que se llama Guadalupe.” NMEsp, pp. 223-24, nn. 181-184. English translation: NMEng, p. 182, nos. 181-184.

[11] Cf. Mt 28, 20.

[12] 3 Jn 8.

[13] Lk 1, 38.