By Father Juan Molina
of the most moving days for me during Pope John Paul II’s time was during his
apostolic visit to Mexico in 2002 to proclaim Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin a saint.
This wasn’t the first time a pope was proclaiming a Mexican person a saint, but
this was the first time this pope was proclaiming an indigenous Mexican a
saint. And that was a big deal.
could see this was a big deal, especially when the leaders of Mexican
indigenous tribes came to the altar during the mass of canonization at the
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, on July 31, 2002. I was especially moved when the indigenous
leaders came up at the offertory time and offered some of their dances and
customs in praise of God. Here in the United States we can see the “matachines” doing something similar during
the celebrations honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe in some of our parishes.
me, the offertory procession at Mass has great significance as people,
indigenous or not, “bring their gifts to the Altar to offer their first fruits
and all their being to God.” The tribal leaders at Mass were that day affirming
that, through Saint Mary of Guadalupe, God is with them and still cares for
“Juanito,” little Juan as Mary called
him, was at this time still proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to his
people. And the pope could not look more at home at this celebration. The pope
who loved Mexico so much and was so loved in return was still showing God’s
love to the people of Mexico and to all those who have embraced the devotion to
Our Lady of Guadalupe.
is a lot to learn from that canonization and from John Paul II’s relationship
with the Mexican people. One of the lessons I can think of is that those who
sometimes are marginalized or powerless can, in spite of everything, recognize
and know that God is with them and that God cares for them.
won’t go into the details of the story of how the Virgin
Mary’s apparition to Juan Diego and her request to go
talk to the local bishop changed the way evangelization developed in Mexico and
in the rest of Latin America. But the striking
fact from the way evangelization took place is that those who converted felt
the presence of God in their own lives and in the story of their people. Many Hispanic immigrants in the United States
also share the devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the
Mother of God. Perhaps we can invoke the
intercession of San Juan Diego for the many
immigrants that suffer and are marginalized today.
this time of Advent as we wait for the celebration of the coming of the Son of
God, we do well in taking the example of San Juan Diego and the indigenous
peoples of the Americas in waiting for the time when God will once again show
His love for us.
we also take up their challenge to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of love
and life when his Mother calls us to proclaim it.
Juan Molina is USCCB’s Director of the Collection for the Church in Latin