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Homily on the Patronal Feast at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

La Crosse, Wisconsin

December 12, 2023

Zech 2, 14-17

Jdt 13, 18bcde. 19

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

Lk 1, 26-38


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

The cause of our joy today is the truth which the Virgin Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe, announced to Saint Juan Diego at the very beginning of her apparitions to him from December 9th to 12th of 1531:

Know, know for sure my dearest and youngest son, that I am truly the ever perfect Holy Virgin Mary, who has the honor to be the Mother of the one true God for whom we live, the Creator of people, the Lord of all around us and of what is close to us, the Lord of Heaven, the Lord of Earth.[1]

From the symbols imprinted upon her most beautiful garment, Saint Juan Diego knew that she was with child and from her words he understood that the Child was God the Son Incarnate in her womb.

Carl Anderson, the then-Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Monsignor Eduardo Chávez, renowned scholar of Virgin of Guadalupe, in their book, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love, help us to understand the power of the symbols and of Our Lady’s words. Commenting on how Our Lady used titles for the Supreme Being from the ancient pagan culture – for whom God was inaccessible and therefore unknown – to refer to her Divine Son, they explain for us how the wonderful mystery of her Divine Maternity is symbolized in her most beautiful garment:

In the apparition account, Our Lady of Guadalupe speaks of her Son using these titles (Him for whom one lives, Creator of people, Owner of the near and close, Lord of heaven and earth). And yet, it is absolutely clear that she is speaking of Christ. In the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this takes shape as a magnificent inculturated evangelization through the positioning of the jasmine flower on the womb of the image, just below her pregnancy belt, thus identifying her Child as divine. In this, the symbol of the four-petal jasmine shows the Indians that the omnipotent God is reachable by any human being; and not only is he interested in them but he delivers himself to them: it is wondrous that this omnipotent God, the deeply rooted God, now comes to find and deliver himself to mankind through his mother.[2]

The cause of our joy today, the cause of our abiding joy, the cause of our eternal joy, is Christ, God-the-Son Incarnate, Whom His Virgin Mother brought into the world and to Whom she is ever drawing us, showing us that He, seated at the right hand of God-the-Father in glory, is also with us in His holy Church which, together with the Virgin Mary, we rightly call Mother.

Christ is the fulfillment of man’s deepest desire: to know God and to love and serve Him. Our Lady uses the ancient pagan language to show that Christ alone fulfills man’s deepest longing. She does not reduce her Divine Maternity to the understanding of the pagans but manifests the truth that the Redemptive Incarnation corrects, elevates, and perfects that understanding. Christ’s Coming into the World is, as His Public Ministry shows, always the invitation to conversion of life. The first words of Our Lord’s preaching are: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”[3] In fact, we know that, subsequent to her apparitions, in a relatively short space of time, millions of pagans received the grace of Faith and Baptism.[4]

The Virgin of Guadalupe, the Virgin Mother of God, is the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars,”[5] in the vision of Saint John Apostle and Evangelist. She has given birth to the “male child, one who is to rule all the nations,”[6] the one who conquers Satan, “the father of lies,”[7] with his program of violence and death for man. He is ever prowling about to see what souls he may destroy,[8] but God-the-Son, born of the Virgin Mary has defeated Him forever. The Archangel Gabriel declared to the Virgin Mary the great truth about her Divine Son at the moment of His conception:

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.[9]

At the Annunciation, at the Virginal Conception of God the Son, the promise of God spoken through the Prophet Zechariah was fulfilled: “… for behold, I come and will dwell in the midst of you, ….”[10] We, through Baptism are living members of the Mystical Body of Christ. God the Holy Spirit dwells within our souls, calling us daily to convert our lives to Christ. The Mother of Christ, whom He gave to us as our Mother when He was dying on the cross,[11] is, in her maternal love, ever taking us to Him with the words which she spoke to the wine stewards at the Wedding Feast of Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.”[12]

At the time of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the missionary Church in what is today Mexico was suffering seemingly impossible challenges: the violent conflict between the Native Americans and the Spanish explorers and settlers, and the diabolical practice of massive human sacrifice on the part of the pagans. Our Lord sent Our Lady to show the way to order and peace in our personal lives and in society, namely, Christ. Through her apparitions and her abiding presence on the miraculous tilma of Saint Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe showed the Bishop and the whole Church that the way to overcome evil and to spread goodness is teaching the truth, praying at all times and offering all our love to God in Sacred Worship, and practicing the truth in love.

The Church in our time faces similar seemingly impossible challenges. Human life itself, marriage and the family, and the practice of the faith are all under constant attack from a culture which refuses to recognize God and to submit in obedience to His commandments. Many today violently rebel against God Who reveals Himself to us through reason and, most fully and perfectly, through the Catholic faith. The rebellion has beguiled even members of Christ’s Mystical Body, leading them to abandon Christ and His Way, leading them to apostasy. What are we to do? What is the Church to do?

Some, even among Bishops, would tell us that the Church has to change her doctrine, her Sacred Worship, and her discipline, in order to accommodate the culture. They talk about a necessary paradigm shift or an ill-defined synodal way which declares that all are welcome in the Church without making clear the conversion to Christ which is necessary to be a member of His Mystical Body. They forget that the king in the Parable of the Wedding Feast, who had welcomed all, “the good and the bad,”[13] to the marriage feast for his son, when he saw “a man who had no wedding garment,”[14] had the man cast out from the banquet. Our Lord concludes the Parable of the Wedding Feast with the admonition: “Many are called, but few are chosen.”[15] Yes, Our Lord wants all of us to share in the banquet of divine grace, but we cannot do so unless our hearts, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, rest in His Most Sacred Heart, unless we allow ourselves to be clothed with Him in our daily life.[16]

The way of the Church in today’s crisis is the same as it has always been. The teaching of the Deposit of Faith and of all the riches of the Catholic Faith, daily prayer and worship of God “in spirit and in truth,” and a good and holy daily life. Before the great challenge of our time, Pope Saint John Paul II cautioned us that we will not save ourselves and our world by discovering “some magic formula” or by “inventing a new programme.”[17] In unmistakable terms, he declared:

No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you.[18]

He reminded us that the program by which we are to address effectively the great spiritual challenges of our time is, in the end, Jesus Christ alive for us in the Church. He explained:

The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a program which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication.[19]

In short, the program leading to freedom and happiness is, for each of us, holiness of life, in accord with our state in life and the particular gifts with which God has endowed us.

Pope Saint John Paul II, in fact, saw the entire pastoral plan for the Church in the holiness of life in Christ. He explained himself thus:

In fact, to place pastoral planning under the heading of holiness is a choice filled with consequences. It implies the conviction that, since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethics and a shallow religiosity. To ask catechumens: “Do you wish to receive Baptism?” means at the same time to ask them: “Do you wish to become holy?” It means to set before them the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).[20]

It is to holiness of life in Christ that Our Lady of Guadalupe draws us. Leaving the ordinariness of our daily living to come on pilgrimage to her holy place, she manifests to us the extraordinariness of our daily living in Christ.

At Holy Communion today, Georgiana Maria Faustina Triplett will make her First Holy Communion. Consecrated to Our Lady of Guadalupe shortly after her birth, the Shrine here has been a true spiritual home for her. Our Lady has been guiding her to live in Christ, and today her life in Christ will reach its fullness when she receives Our Lord – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – in Holy Communion.

Before the Final Blessing, we will have the Induction of Pages in Our Lady’s Knights of the Altar, the boys and young men who serve Our Lord during the Sacred Liturgy here. Let us pray, invoking the intercession of Our Lady and of Saint Juan Diego, that John Kabat, Louis Martin, Leonardo Martin, and Emmanuel Martin who today will become Pages, will persevere in the way to Knighthood in Our Lady’s Knights of the Altar. May the holiness of their service of Our Lord at the altar, under the guidance and protection of Our Lady, be reflected in every aspect of their daily lives.

Let us now, under the maternal care of Our Lady of Guadalupe, give our hearts completely to Our Lord in His Eucharistic Sacrifice. May the holiness of our union of heart with His Most Sacred Heart through the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar shine forth in our every thought and word and action.

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

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

[1] “Sábelo, ten por cierto, hijo mío, el más pequeño, que yo soy en verdad la perfecta siempre Virgen Santa María, que tengo el honor de ser Madre del verdaderísimo Dios por quien se vive, el Creador de las personas, el Dueño de la cercanía y de la inmediación, el Dueño del cielo, el Dueño de la tierra.” “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. 214, n. 26. [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. 173, no. 26. [NMEng].

[2] “En el relato de la aparición, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe habla de su Hijo usando estos mismos títulos (Aquel por quien se vive, Creador de la gente, Dueño de lo cercano y lo lejano, Señor del Cielo y la tierra) y, sin embargo, resulta perfectamente claro que habla del verdaderísimo Dios, su Hijo Jesucristo. En el mensaje y en la imagen de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, esto cobra la forma de una magnífica evangelización inculturada a través de la posición del jazmín sobre su vientre, justo debajo de su cinta de embarazo, con lo cual se identifica al Niño Dios, la Encarnación del Verbo. Aquí, el símbolo del jazmín de cuatro pétalos muesta a los indígenas que es el verdaderísimo Dios omnipotente quien viene a su encuentro, ye que no solo se interesa por ellos sino que se les entrega: es maravilloso que este Dios omnipotente, el Dios de profundas raíces, venga ahora a entregarse a la humanidad por medio de su madre.” Carl Anderson y Monseñor Eduardo Chávez, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Madre de la civilización del amor (México: Grijalbo, 2010), pp. 75-76. English translation: Carl A. Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chávez, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love (New York: Doubleday, 2009), pp. 47-48.

[3] Mk 1, 15. Cf. Mk 4, 17.

[4] cf. A Handbook on Guadalupe (New Bedford, MA: Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, 1997, 2001), p. 218.

[5] Rev. 12, 1.

[6] Rev 12, 5.

[7] Jn 8, 44.

[8] cf. 1 Pet 5, 8.

[9] Lk 1, 31-33.

[10] Zech 2, 10.

[11] cf. Jn 19, 27.

[12] Jn 2, 5.

[13] Mt 22, 10.

[14] Mt 22, 11.

[15] Mt 22, 14.

[16] cf. Rom 13, 14; Gal 3, 27.

[17] “… formulam veluti «magicam» … excogitando «novo consilio».” Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Epistula Apostolica Novo Millennio Ineunte, “Magni Iubilaei anni MM sub exitum,” 6 Ianuarii 2001, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 93 (2001), p. 285, no. 29. [Hereafter, NMI]. English translation: Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, “At the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000,” 6 January 2001, Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2001, p. 39, no. 29. [Hereafter, NMIE].

[18] “Nullo modo: servabit nos nulla formula, verum Persona una atque certitudo illa quam nobis Ipsa infundit: Ego vobiscum sum!” NMI, p. 285, no. 29. English translation: NMIE, p. 39, no. 29.

[19] “Iam enim praesto est consilium seu «programma»: illud nempe quod de Evangelio derivatur semper vivaque Traditione. Tandem in Christo ipso deprehenditur istud, qui sane cognoscendus est, diligendus atque imitandus, ut vita in eo trinitaria ducatur et cum eo historia ipsa transfiguretur ad suam usque in Hierosolymis caelestibus consummationem. Institutum enim hoc, variantibus quidem temporibus ipsis atque culturae formis non mutatur quamvis rationem quidem habeat temporis et culturae, ut verum instituat diverbium efficacemque communicationem.” NMI, pp. 285-286, no. 29. English translation: NMIE, pp. 39-40, no. 29.

[20] “Re quidem vera, si pastoralis ordinatio sub signo sanctitatis statuitur, aliquid compluribus cum consectariis decernitur. Inde enim in primis firma aperitur sententia: si vera est Baptismus ingressio in Dei sanctitatem per insertionem in Christum ipsum necnon Spiritus eius per inhabitationem, quaedam repugnantia est contentum esse mediocri vita, quae ad normam transigitur ethnicae doctrinae minimum solum poscentis ac religionis superficiem tantum tangentis. Ex catechumeno quaerere: «Vis baptizari?» eodem tempore est petere: «Vis sanctificari?». Idem valet ac deponere eius in via extremum Sermonis Montani principium: «Estote ergo vos perfecti, sicut Pater vester caelestis perfectus est» (Mt 5, 48).” NMI, p. 288, no. 31. English translation: NMIE, 43, no. 31.