I hope you are having a refreshing summertime.
I am just coming back from Mexico. I had the blessing last month to lead our first pilgrimage from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
As many of you know, I have a strong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I learned it from my parents, beginning when I was a young boy growing up in Monterrey, Mexico.
Every summer my mom and dad would take me and my four sisters on a 600-mile journey to visit our grandparents in Mexico City. And every time we went, our whole family would make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
My experience was not unique. This is what Catholic families do in Mexico — everyone tries to make a pilgrimage at least once a year to the basilica.
So I wanted to start that tradition for the whole family of God in Los Angeles — for all of us to show our love and gratitude to Our Lady and for all of us to deepen our faith in Jesus and our commitment to the mission of his Church.
I think most of us know the Guadalupe story. It takes us back to the “spiritual dawn” of the Church’s mission in the Americas.
It was in December of 1531 when the Blessed Virgin appeared to a poor Indian convert named Juan Diego on a hilltop outside Mexico City.
The Virgin entrusted Juan Diego with a mission — to go and ask the bishop to “build a shrine” in her name.
In order to convince the bishop, Our Lady gave him a sign. She made roses bloom even though it was the dead of winter. Then she used those roses to “imprint” her own image on the cloak — called a tilma — that Juan Diego was wearing.
And as we know, that tilma is still hanging today — almost 500 years later — in the basilica, which was built not far from the site where she first appeared.
My dream is that all Catholics in the United States come to a new awareness of how important Our Lady of Guadalupe is to our religious identity and the Church’s mission.
How beautiful it would be for every Catholic home to have an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe!
Our Lady did not appear only for the Mexican people. At Guadalupe, the Mother of God came to be the Mother of the Americas.
The great St. Pope John Paul II called the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe “the Marian heart of America.”
St. John Paul understood that, in God’s plan, the nations of the Americas are meant to be one continent — a new civilization, a new world of faith.
When St. Junípero Serra came to the New World, he set sail aboard a ship called Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. He arrived at Veracruz and he immediately started walking — 300 miles to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
He spent the night in prayer and in the morning he offered the Eucharist, consecrating his American mission to the Virgin.
We need to follow this example.
We are all children of Guadalupe. We all share in the great mission to America that began with the visitation of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Every one of us has the responsibility to continue the task that the Virgin gave to St. Juan Diego. God is calling us, too, to “build a shrine” with our lives, to build a society that glorifies God and is worthy of the dignity of the human person.
After all those years of visiting her shrine as a child, it is deeply moving for me now as a priest to be able to celebrate the holy Mass at the main altar in the basilica.
The altar sits directly underneath the miraculous image of the Virgin.
And when you are there, you can feel the warmth of her tender eyes gazing down upon you. It is a powerful feeling, hard to describe. There is a beautiful sense of feeling protected, of feeling like a child who is loved by the Mother of God.
And when you are in her presence, you can almost hear her speaking the same tender words she spoke to St. Juan Diego:
“Do not let your heart be disturbed. Do not fear. ... Am I, your Mother, not here? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Are you not in the folds of my arms? What more do you need?”
Pray for me this week and I will pray for you.
And let us ask for the grace this week to lay our fears and hopes at the feet of the Virgin, to contemplate these times we are living in under the gaze of her loving eyes.
And may Our Lady of Guadalupe help us to go always forward with confidence. May she help us to live our lives always knowing that we are under the mantle of her care and protection.