As I write, we have just concluded the first of our celebrations for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a blessing to see so many of you — several thousand — at our festivities and midnight Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
This year marks the 485th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Juan Diego at the Hill of Tepeyac outside Mexico City in 1531.
We all know the story of her appearance and many of us, I think, know the “after-story.” In many ways, what happened in the years after — the fruits of the apparition — may be even more amazing.
The sacred image of the Virgin imprinted on St. Juan Diego’s tilma inspired countless conversions. Within a few decades, Mexico became the source of missionaries who brought the faith throughout the Americas and across the seas to nations in Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean.
I have long believed that the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe was the true spiritual foundation of all the nations of the Americas, including the spiritual and moral foundations of the United States.
As we know, the great founding father of the United States, St. Junípero Serra, consecrated his mission to the Virgin, making a pilgrimage of more than 300 miles on foot to the Virgin’s shrine upon arriving in the Americas.
St. John Paul II was right when he said, “The fruits of holiness have flourished from the first days of the evangelization of America.” This is true here in Los Angeles. I am always aware that our city has been the home to a long procession of holy men and women who have worked here and founded ministries, some of which continue to this day.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the soul of the peoples of the Americas and the Church’s mission continues under her maternal eyes and intercession. And she continues to be a source of hope for families everywhere throughout the Americas.
That is what struck me this year as I have been reflecting and praying. There are so many little shrines and signs of devotion to Our Lady in our homes, our parishes and neighborhoods. Her image is with us in our homes and we turn to her often to pray for our families and loved ones, entrusting her with all our hopes and joys and sufferings.
I feel her guiding me and protecting me on the path of my life and in my ministry. And I know it is not only me. I sense her maternal love and mercy, almost like it is woven into the lives of every member of the family of God here in Los Angeles.
We all live in the tender eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Virgin’s words to St. Juan Diego are a source of comfort and courage as we make our way in the world: “Am I not your mother? Are you not under my shadow and my gaze? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not sheltered underneath my mantle, under the embrace of my arms?”
This year it struck me also — that is why Our Lady gave us the tilma. Why? So we would have a picture, an image of her face. So we could see the tenderness in her maternal eyes. It is amazing to think about it. Our Lady gave us a picture of her face. She wanted us to see for ourselves — just how much she loves us.
As we know, we are blessed to have a tiny piece of the tilma in our chapel in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. This is the only place in the world outside of Mexico City where you see a part of the tilma that St. Juan Diego wore and that was touched by our Blessed Mother!
For me, this relic is a national treasure, one of the great symbolic artifacts of the history of the Americas. And I pray that devotion to the Virgin will increase and strengthen in our country, among all peoples. I pray that we might all come together as one family and rejoice that we are all children of the Virgin of Tepeyac and that the Christian identity of the Americas — of all the peoples of the Americas — finds its heart in her.
And do you know how this piece of the tilma came to us? It was a gift, a gift of gratitude. It was given to us by the Archbishop of Mexico in thanksgiving, to honor my predecessor, Archbishop John Joseph Cantwell, for his courage and help in sheltering refugees fleeing persecution in Mexico during the time of the Cristeros. This legacy is important in this time of uncertainty for immigrant and refugee families.
Pray for me this week and I will pray for you.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother, the Virgin of Guadalupe, to pray for us and to stay close to us as the protector of our families and the great sign of God’s love for us.
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