The following is adapted from an address Archbishop Gomez delivered to the annual Prayer Breakfast sponsored by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston on July 26.

I have three basic points that I want to talk with you about. The first is this: America was founded by saints, missionaries and mystics.

We need to remember that our history didn’t begin in politics or war. In the beginning, America was a spiritual project. In the 16th century, America was the most important mission of the Church. The Church believed that this land — from the top of what’s now Canada to the tip of what’s now Argentina — was the Mundus Novus. The “New World” that Jesus Christ promised.

We forget now, but in the beginning there was so much utopian expectation about America! Shakespeare called it “the brave new world.” From mystics and Popes to ordinary Catholics — people were reading about the missionaries and praying for more! Even “famous” names like St. Teresa of Ávila were praying for missionaries.

There’s another great Spanish nun I want to mention: Venerable María de Ágreda. Sor María has a really amazing story that very few Americans seem to know. Though she never left her little village in Spain, she has a deep spiritual connection with the first evangelization of Texas.

She reported being transported in the spirit more than 500 times to New Mexico, Arizona and West Texas. Natives in those regions later testified to missionaries that they’d been visited by a “lady in blue” who taught them about Jesus. They said she spoke in Spanish but they understood in their native tongue.

Sor María’s story and her writings inspired a generation of missionaries.

The great Apostle of Texas, Venerable Antonío Margíl de Jes√∫s, said he became a missionary because of Sor María. Blessed Junípero Serra, the Apostle of California, said the same thing. In fact, Padre Serra carried only two books when he came to America — the Bible and Venerable Maria’s book, The Mystical City of God.

We have to remember — even in this secular, scientific time — that God has a plan for history just as he has a plan for every one of our lives. Blessed Pope John Paul II, soon to be Saint John Paul, wrote in his last book: “The history of all nations is called to take its place in the history of salvation.”

In the history of nations, America has a spiritual beginning. And the saints and missionaries and mystics are the true founders of America.

People like Antonío Margíl and Junípero Serra. People like Padre Damian Manzanet, who founded San Antonio, and Jesuit Father Eusebio Kino, who evangelized Arizona.

These were the first giants of the American spirit. They introduced agriculture, industry, education and government. They changed the culture, teaching the Christian faith through the arts — music, dance, drama, painting. They defended human rights based on the teachings of the Gospel. And they did all this long before the American Revolution.

American history, at every moment, can be told through the lives of the American saints. Our saints have been missionary, immigrant saints — saints who came from somewhere else to spread the Gospel in this country. Our newest American saint, St. Marianne Cope came from Germany. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini came from Italy. St. Théodore Guérin came from France. So did St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.

Of course, there are exceptions — St. Kateri Tekakwitha, our first Native American saint and St. Katharine Drexel and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who were born here. But that’s my point. America has always been a land of missionaries and saints.

My second point is this: America as it was founded to be — America as we know it — is changing. And it’s changing fast.

I think we all realize that with last month’s Supreme Court rulings on marriage, we are entering into a kind of uncharted territory.

America is becoming a different country in many ways. It has been for a long time. These recent court decisions are part of a long, cultural pattern of secularization and spiritual decline. We are losing our American “story,” losing our roots in the Gospel.

The men who wrote our Declaration of Independence and Constitution weren’t saints, missionaries or mystics. They weren’t even orthodox Christians, most of them. They were men of the Enlightenment, proud to rely more on reason than on faith.

But they carried inside themselves a basic Christian worldview. The same basic vision as the missionaries before them. Our nation’s founding documents reflect that worldview.

American institutions assume that God is our Creator and Judge and that there is a “natural law.” They assume that all men and women are created equal and that God gives us all “unalienable” rights. Our Constitution recognizes that organized religion is important to society — so important that government has no business telling people what to believe or interfering with how they live out their beliefs.

This idea that America is “one nation under God” is what we are losing. We’re living now in a highly secularized society. We’re living in an America where millions of people — including many of our political, economic and cultural leaders — don’t see any need for God, don’t see any need for the Church or religious values.

We don’t know what this country will look like without belief in God. It’s never been tried before. And this is the challenge we face — as individual believers and as a Church. Already it’s getting harder for the Church to carry out her mission. Already we see the government making demands and pressuring us to compromise our beliefs.

So we have a big job to change this culture. It’s going to take grace and courage and real formation and commitment from the Catholic laity. But the American story isn’t over. God is still involved in our lives. And we have to believe that God is still engaged in the history of our nation. But what happens in the next chapters depends a lot on us.

That brings me to my third and last point: The soul of America will only be renewed by a new generation of saints, missionaries and mystics.

America is once again a mission territory. A place that needs to hear the good news of God, the good news of Jesus Christ. We need new missionaries, new saints, new mystics to make this a Mundus Novus. A new world of faith.

We are called to be those new missionaries. That’s what the new evangelization is all about.

We know America needs conversion. We know America needs renewal. That doesn’t happen by winning court cases or elections. First we need to change the culture in this country — heart by heart. Soul by soul. Starting with us.

Our country is only going to come back to God — by way of witnesses. The new evangelization is not about “instruction” or “indoctrination.” It’s about witness.

We all know the best teachers are those who practice what they preach. We’ve all heard that line about St. Francis of Assisi — “He preached the Gospel, sometimes using words.” That’s the way we need to live. And we do that by living our faith in Jesus with optimism and happiness.

Sometimes when we talk about the need for saints, people think that it’s not for them. But that’s not true! Every Christian is called to be a saint! That’s the basic teaching of the New Testament. We are all called to holiness, to be saints. That’s why God made us.

So, at the very beginning of our country there were saints. And throughout the centuries, God has continued to send saints to us and to raise them up from American soil. Now, in the 20th century, we need a new generation of saints and missionaries. And we need saints who are “mystics.” By that I don’t mean people who experience raptures or are transported in the spirit like Venerable María de Ágreda.

Mystics are those who are aware that at all times we are in the Presence of God. That at every moment we have the chance to serve him.

That’s your mission in the Church. To be saints and mystics. That’s what God is expecting of you. A unity of life. The faith you profess in church on Sundays has to be lived out in the world during the rest of the week. You have to “sanctify” your work. That means you have to see everything you do as a service of love — to God and to your neighbors.

We need to remember: most of the saints who founded America are unknown to us. Their names are long forgotten. But God will not forget them.

It will be the same with the new evangelization. All of us should be trying to be “unknown saints” of the new evangelization. Saints and missionaries who change America one person at a time, one day at a time. Saints and missionaries whose names may be known only to God and to the people around us. The people in our families. At work. In our neighborhoods and communities. All the people who will find love and compassion and God through our witness to the Gospel.

The great Apostle of Texas, Venerable Antonío Margíl de Jes√∫s, used to sign every letter he wrote: La misma nada. That means, “Nothingness itself.” That’s a beautiful sign of his humility. It should be an inspiration and example to us.

The challenges we face are great. But God is greater. We are called to be faithful, to follow Jesus and to love as he loved. Success and increase are in God’s hands. So let us persevere in our calling to be holy. To be saints and missionaries and mystics of the new evangelization.

Let me leave you with a few words from the great Apostle of Texas. This is a prayer he wrote in August 1723. I think it still has meaning for our mission today:

May Jesus and his most sorrowful Mother live in our hearts.
And may they preserve us, Father,
for our consolation, light and example.
So that we may be active as true apostles,
Apostles of this day
in bringing Jesus Christ to this New World. ]Amen.


Archbishop Gomez’s new book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available for preorder at the Cathedral Gift Shop ( Follow him at {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0802/gomez/{/gallery}