In January1999, Pope John Paul II promulgated December 12 as a Feast Day for the Church in the entire American Continent. The Holy Father also called Our Lady of Guadalupe the Star of the First and the New Evangelization, and entrusted to her loving care the future of the Continent, as the Synod for America concluded with a Solemn Eucharistic celebration at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico City.
As a Mexican present at that memorable occasion, I was very moved by the words of the Holy Father. I was also intrigued by the Pope’s prayer entrusting the future of the Continent to the care of the Morenita (dark-skin young woman) of Tepeyac. I remember thinking to myself: What is the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe for us today?
The First Evangelization took place almost five hundred years ago in the midst of a cultural and racial encounter. It was then that María de Guadalupe appeared in the New World to affirm the dignity of all races and cultures that would form a new people: born out of the blood of Native Americans, Europeans and, later on, Black Africans. This remarkable encounter is described in a poem written in 1978 during the Second National Encuentro for Hispanic Ministry:
“It is in this way that we were then who we are now. Children of Indians, Blacks and Spaniards [Europeans], all united in the same great love; a diverse people gathered by the Lord. It is in this way that we were then who we are now.”
At the beginning of the Twenty-first Century we live in a globalized world in which a new encounter of cultures is taking place. Constant human mobility, cultural interaction and even interracial marriages are slowly giving birth to a new American people, particularly here in the United States. The words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego resound in our hearts today, as they did long ago. They define with amazing clarity the unifying message of God, the intended receivers, and the mission that is to be carried out, so that everyone may feel at home in the Church.
“…I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; I will listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows…”
It is in this context that we can understand why the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is becoming a liturgical celebration that brings together the faithful from different cultural backgrounds and races as one community of faith, as one parish, tenderly gathered by the Mother of the True God. The unborn is also under the loving care of Our Lady of Our Guadalupe: the Pregnant Madonna and the Patroness of the Unborn.
“… Let your face and your heart not be troubled, don’t be afraid… Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold…?”
This is without a doubt a message of Advent that announces, with a sense of urgency, the coming of our Savior; the fulfillment of God’s promises that bring consolation and joy. It is also a message that describes the heart of the New Evangelization, and our longing to feel very much at home in the presence of God.
Alejandro Aguilera-Titus is Assistant Director for the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs at the USCCB’s Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.