Summary of today’s show: The celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a holiday that brings all of Mexico to its collective knees in prayer and devotion, but as Fr. Paco Anzoategui tells Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor, this apparition of Our Lady is not just for Mexicans, but for all of the Americas. Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patroness of all the Americas, North, Central and South; of the unborn; and of the New Evangelization as her appearance in Mexico in 1531 initiated an explosion of the faith, unprecedented for its speed and breadth. Fr. Paco calls all Catholics, wherever they’re from, to get to know and love Our Lady under this title in a special way and understand her message for us today.
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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
Today’s guest(s): Fr. Paco Anzoategui
Links from today’s show:
- Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City
- Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin
Today’s topics: Our Lady of Guadalupe
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show. He said today’s topic is one of the biggest gatherings in the life of the Catholic Church in the Americas, the gatherings connected to the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In Chicago, more than 200,000 people gather to celebrate. Fr. Chris said he knows the basic story, but he’s excited to get into the details and why she’s patroness of the unborn and the New Evangelization. Fr. Chris noted that in Rome they’ve been having a Congress on the Church in the Americas. He noted that it includes North, Central, and South America and half of the Church are in the Americas.
Scot noted that this past weekend at St. John’s Seminary was the Festival of Lessons and Carols. Fr. Chris said it was a beautiful celebration of music from the Americas, in which all the hymns and carols were chosen from those that originated in the Americas.
2nd segment: Scot said God has often called unlikely people to great missions. It was true with St. Peter, many of the saints, and for St. Juan Diego. This is a great lesson for all of us as we are all called to do our part in the New Evangelization.
When the Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill, he was a simple, humble, 57-year-old widower known for walking with his head down and shuffling his feet. He was an Aztec Indian who had been baptized only seven years before by the Franciscan missionaries. Every Saturday and Sunday he would walk 15 miles each way to Mass. As he was journeying one cold Saturday morning, he heard a voice calling from the top of a hill, “Juanito,” “Dieguito,” “Come here!” He scaled the rocky slope, where at the top he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary arrayed in splendor.
Our Lady announced she was on a mission of mercy and wanted him to be her messenger to the bishop of Mexico City to ask him to build a church on Tepeyac Hill. Obeying simply and immediately, Juan Diego headed in his simple peasant’s outfit to the bishop’s residence, where he was forced to wait for hours in an outdoor courtyard. Eventually the bishop received him, treated him with kindness, but was skeptical regarding the message. Juan Diego left feeling like a complete failure.
Returning to Our Lady on Tepeyac Hill, he said that he had struck out. “I beg you, Noble Lady,” he implored, “to entrust this message to someone of importance, someone well-known and respected, so that your wish will be accomplished. For I am only a lowly peasant and you, my Lady, have sent me to a place where I have no standing. Forgive me if I have disappointed you for having failed in my mission.”
The Virgin smiled tenderly on him and said, “Listen to me, my dearest son, and understand that I have many servants and messengers whom I could charge with the delivery of my message. But it is altogether necessary that you should be the one to undertake this mission and that it be through your mediation and assistance that my wish should be accomplished. I urge you to go to the Bishop again tomorrow. Tell him in my name and make him fully understand my disposition, that he should undertake the erection of the teocalli (temple) for which I ask. And repeat to him that it is I in person, the ever Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, who send you.”
With trepidation, Juan Diego went again. The bishop’s overprotective staff greeted him with exasperation. He was told the bishop was busy with more important matters. He told them he was willing to wait — and did, for several hours in the frigid outdoor courtyard. When he finally met the bishop again, he repeated, with fervor and tears, the message of Our Lady entrusted to him. The bishop asked some questions. Though moved by Juan Diego’s sincerity, he wasn’t going to build a church in a desolate spot on the basis of one native’s unsubstantiated word. To test the message, the bishop asked him for a special secret sign from Our Lady. Juan Diego left at once to ask for the sign.
Arriving back at Tepeyac, the Virgin told him to return the following day to receive the sign to bring the bishop. That sign turned out to be Castillian roses, which had not yet been introduced to Mexico, growing on the top of a stony hill in frigid December temperatures. Juan Diego was instructed to bring them back to the bishop in his tilma (a tilma is a cloak or apron). When he returned to the bishop, as he opened up his tilma, the bishop saw the roses from his native Castille, the sign he was seeking. He and everyone else also saw something even more miraculous: some of the roses had melted into the tilma and produced the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe: our Lady, dressed like a pregnant Aztec princess, was giving witness that she was ready to give birth to Christ among the Mexican people and on our continent.
The bishop immediately fell to his knees, and came to believe in Juan Diego’s message. A church was built on the spot of the apparition, as Mary had requested.
Until that moment, there had been relatively few conversions among the Mexican people, who associated Christianity more with the conquistadors than the Franciscans. But in the decade after the appearance of the Blessed Mother as one of them, over ten million Mexicans were baptized.
Juan Diego’s tilma has been the subject of much research. The tilma, woven out of coarse cactus and vegetable fibers, should have disintegrated after 20 years, but although nearly 500 years have passed the tilma is still in great condition. The pupils of Mary in the picture reflect the Indians and clergy present at the time of the first revelation of the image. No paint was used, and chemical analysis has not been able to identify the color imprint. Additionally, studies have revealed that the stars on Mary’s mantle match exactly what a Mexican would have seen in the sky in December of 1531.
Juan Diego thought there were others who would have been more fitting ambassadors to bring such an important message from so important a person, but the Blessed Mother chose him and she helped him fulfill the mission. She will also help each of us fulfill our part in her Son’s plan of salvation.
Scot now welcomed Fr. Paco back to the show. He said he loves to talk about this topic, Our Lady of Guadalupe and her work in the New Evangelization. He said he wouldn’t be here without her. Scot noted that Fr. Paco grew up with a devotion to Guadalupe, while Scot grew up with a more general devotion to Our Lady. Fr. Paco said in Mexico this apparition marks the beginning of Mexico and the feast is a general holiday. In his own life, at eight years old, Fr. Paco suffered medical problems in his legs, unable to walk without falling and feeling excruciating pain. His parents took him to hospitals in Mexico and while there they went to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe where he prayed for healing. Little by little the pain went away until eventually he had no pain. He attributes this as a miracle of Our Lady. Later in high school, in his gratitude he responded to the call to the priesthood, kneeling before the image of Our Lady in his parish and consecrating himself to her care.
Fr. Paco said at the time of the appearance in 1531, there was no Mexico, no United States, or any other countries. And Tepeyac Hill where she appeared outside Mexico City is the exact center of the Americas. Thus she came not just for Mexico, but for all of the Americas. She said she wanted to be mother of everyone in the New World. Fr. Paco noted the difficulty of conversions to Christianity before she came because of the native peoples’ experience of the conquistadores as foreign invaders, but Our Lady came to them in their own clothes, wearing their clothes, and speaking their language and they could relate to her and accept her message. Jesus came as one of us so we could relate to Him and so Our Lady came to us like her Son did. Fr. Paco said the conversion of 10 million Mexicans in one year was due to this understanding of her message. Scot noted that 10 million people at the time would be virtually the entire population of Mexico. Scot said she literally gave birth to the evangelization effort in the Americas. In her apparition she appeared pregnant. Fr. Paco said she brought Christ to this New World. He noted that in the image she appears to be bowing her head, as if she were bowing to Christ in her womb. The black sash around her waist shows she is pregnant and she appears not for herself but to bring Christ to the New World.
Fr. Paco said Pope John Paul II’s first apostolic trip was to Mexico and upon landing he went right to the Basilica. He said the work of evangelization in the Americas began on that spot. He also noted the role of Juan Diego who dedicated himself to telling the story again and again and becoming a role model for all the catechists who taught the people. Fr. Chris noted John Paul’s devotion to Our Lady, and how he turned to her at the time he was shot in St. Peter’s Square. Scot said John Paul went to Mexico five times and Mexicans call him the first Mexican Pope. He loved the Mexican people and that was reciprocated.
Fr. Paco recalled the Holy Father’s first visit and how he was glued to the TV with his whole family and the whole country was electrified by it. There was a connection between the Pope and the people who revered him. Pope John Paul canonized Juan Diego and the Mexican martyrs because he valued the faithfulness and devotion of the many Mexicans who had never been acknowledged in the calendar of saints.
Speaking of the story of Juan Diego, Fr. Paco noted that roses do not grow in December. He said of the tilma that it was made of cactus fiber that would have disintegrated after a couple decades at most. It was clothing for poor people. This one has last for 600 years. There have also been studies of the image she left on the tilma. Many scientists have concluded that the image is not printed or painted, but is almost floating over the tilma. When they look at the tilma from behind, the colors do not go through. And they haven’t been able to match the colors even after trying all kinds of materials to duplicate them. Our Lady of Guadalupe is like the eucharist, a gift from heaven. She isn’t painted on there, but will remain for us until the end of time.
Fr. Paco said at the time of apparition, Juan Diego was torn because his last remaining relative was dying and had asked for a priest. So he didn’t want to have the Lady ask him to do something else so he tried to go another way to avoid the apparition. She appeared to him of course and so she told him not to worry, that she would take care of his relative. He believed Mary and all his worries disappeared. The uncle was restored to health and he became a messenger too.
Fr. Chris asked Scot about his visits to the Shrine. Scot said the area has become very built up over the centuries. his first impression was how many people were praying in forms of self-mortification, praying the rosary while walking on their knees. He also noted the many signs of thanksgiving for miracles received, like thousands of crutches or notes of thanks. He also remembers the comparison in size between the old and new basilicas. The old basilica was smaller than he thought and looks like many older churches. The new basilica is huge like a 40-year-old Catholic version of a sports stadium, trying to seat as many people who want to come to the basilica. Fr. Paco said the beautiful thing about the basilica is that no matter what door you enter through, you see the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe right in the center. It’s the most visited basilica in the world after St. Peter’s. Fr. Paco said the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe now goes well beyond Mexico throughout the Americas.
Fr. Chris asked about cultural elements of the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Fr. Paco said it is a holiday and that’s significant because many years ago the Mexican government was very anti-Catholic, yet on this feast they couldn’t stop people from celebrating this day. He said the tradition is to dress the children as Juan Diego and Our Lady then go to a local church. He recommends that anyone who wants to go to Mexico for the feast not to go to the basilica, but to go a local parish. Instead go to the basilica after the feast. In the new basilica you can get very close to the tilma and see the front and back. Scot said at other times, the crowds are so much smaller you can spend time there.
Scot said you can’t help wonder at God leaving us this sign and wonderful image in which Our Lady looked like one of us. She took on the culture of the people at that time. God descends and His Blessed Mother descended to be like one of us to demonstrate she understands our problems and will take them to Her Son.
Fr. Paco said when Our Lady appears she also teaches the native people that their old ways of worshipping their old gods through human sacrifice should end. She is seen as standing on the moon and in front of the sun, which were their gods. This is why the bishops have declared her as the Patroness of the Unborn, because she ended the human sacrifice, in which people were not treated in their full human dignity. She’s also standing on the snake, which was also one of the Aztec gods. The natives began to understand you don’t have to sacrifice people to appease God because God sacrificed himself for us. the Bishops in the United States went to Mexico City and received an authentic replica of the tilma and that image travels throughout the US promoting respect for life.
Fr. Chris asked for a preview of Fr. Paco’s homily tomorrow. Fr. Paco said he notes the wave of violence in Mexico and how the Mexican bishops are going to ask the people to embrace Our Lady’s message for the end of violence. He noted that musicians gather the night before the feast in various places for what’s called mañanitas, songs and prayers. This will occur in the archdiocese at Holy Cross Cathedral tonight.
He said during the Advent season we have two significant Marian celebrations, including Immaculate Conception. God is telling us that Mary is a true role model for us as a true disciple of Jesus. Mary helps us to prepare for Christ by listening more attentively to the Word of God and reflect on it, not being distracted by the commercialism.
Fr. Paco said all the apparitions of Our Lady are important, but for us who live in the Americas, we should understand that Guadalupe came to us at the beginnings of our country and knowing her we will come to know how we are called to be united in this land and become a continent of hope for the entire Church.
Scot said Pope John Paul had a greatdevotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and if a Pole could have that devotion, then he as someone from this continent should have greater devotion to her.