Our Lady of Guadalupe

Author: Archbishop Raymond Burke

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Archbishop Raymond Burke
Prefect, Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

Mary as our model in fostering the new springtime of faith

The following are excerpts of the address given by Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, Archbishop emeritus of St Louis, U.S.A., and Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, at the Springtime of Faith Summit. The event was held at the University of Dallas Campus in Rome on 14 November [2009] on the theme: "Mary as our Model in Fostering the New Springtime of Faith".

The apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Tepeyac Hill and at the home of Juan Bernardino, uncle of St Juan Diego, from December 9th through 12th in 1531, are most remarkable among the approved apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The maternal tenderness and directness of the conversations of Our Lady with St Juan Diego are truly striking. The five apparitions over four days are marked by a certain urgency and insistent message, and have their culmination in the altogether remarkable divine writing of the image of Our Lady on the tilma of St Juan Diego. By means of the tilma — miraculous both for the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and for the uncharacteristic durability of its cactus-cloth material — Our Lady of Guadalupe has never ceased to appear to pilgrims who look upon the tilma which is truly alive with her image.

The apparitions and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe underline both the infinite transcendence of God and his unceasing mercy toward all men without boundary. At the very beginning of the first apparition, Our Lady of Guadalupe immediately identifies herself to St Juan Diego with these words: "I am the perfect and ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the God of truth through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near us, the Lord of heaven and earth".1 The Blessed Virgin Mary [then] declares the intention of her apparition: "I want very much to have a little house built here for me, in which I will show him [God], I will exalt him and make him manifest".2

The Mother of God continues: "I will give him to the people in all my personal love, in my compassion, in my help, in my protection: because I am truly your merciful Mother, yours and all the people who live united in this land and of all other people of different ancestries, my lovers, who love me, those who seek me, those who trust in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their complaints and heal all their sorrows, hardships and sufferings".3

Coming to Our Lady of Guadalupe on pilgrimage, the pilgrim experiences her divine maternity in an ever greater closeness to her Divine Son, our Savior. It is by drawing pilgrims to her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ — above all, in the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist — that the Mother of God hears the cries of God's children.

Rightly, Our Lady of Guadalupe is called the Star of the New Evangelization because she announces and presents the mystery of God's love and mercy in all of its newness, as if for the first time, so that once again men may come to know and have faith in her Divine Son, place their hope in him alone, and live in his love. In the same way, Our Lady of Guadalupe is our model in fostering the New Springtime of Faith, the new encounter with Christ, which leads each of us to the conversion of our life and transforms our society ever more into a civilization of love.

Historical Context

Certainly, the apparitions and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe respond to the condition of man in every period of Christian history, for, even though souls have been purified of the stain of original sin through the life-giving waters of Baptism, the effects of original sin have continued to cause men the greatest suffering and sorrow. The Christian vocation received at Baptism is the call to carry the Cross with Christ, in order that the Christian may reach the destiny of his earthly pilgrimage in the Kingdom of Heaven.4 Our Lady's apparitions and message at Tepeyac Hill and at the home of Juan Bernardino in December of 1531 responded, however, to a most dolorous manifestation of
man's sinfulness.

Our Lady appeared on the American continent at a time when many men were drifting far from God. The situation in what is today Mexico City was marked then by the violence and darkness which are always the fruit of man's rebellion against God. On the one hand, under a long and macabre leadership, the religion of the native Americans was increasingly marked by a diabolical worship which demanded constant and mass human sacrifice. Warren H. Carroll, historian and founder of Christendom College in Fort Royal, Virginia, has described the horror of the situation in his book, OurLady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness.5

On the other hand, the arrival and activity of European explorers in the same territory had developed into a conflict between the Spanish and Native Americans, which threatened an increasingly massive destruction of human life and goods. The story of the conflict is quite complicated. It was marked both by the sincere desire to evangelize a pagan people, including the elimination of the practice of human sacrifice, and by the lack of respect for the human dignity of the Native Americans, manifested in cruel executions and other violations of human life.6

With her apparitions and her message, the work of the Franciscan Friars who had been laboring diligently to evangelize the Native Americans and to bring their fellow Spaniards to an ever greater conversion of heart, under the spiritual leadership of their confrere, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, First Bishop of Mexico, bore fruit which was truly miraculous. While it is estimated that until the time of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe some 200,000 Native Americans had received the gift of faith and Baptism, among them St Juan Diego and his wife, from the time of her apparitions until the deaths of Bishop Juan de Zumárraga and St Juan Diego, who died within days of each other in the Spring of 1548, some 9 million Native Americans were baptized.7

Our Lady of Guadalupe chose as her messenger one of the Native Americans who had been evangelized and baptized by the Franciscan Friars. When Our Lady first appeared to St Juan Diego, he was, in fact, on his way to receive post-baptismal instruction in the faith, on 9 December 1531, then observed as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Spanish Empire.

St Juan Diego advanced the First Evangelization by following the Star, the Mother of God. He told pilgrims about her apparitions and message over the remaining 17 years of his life. The place of his catechesis was Our Lady's chapel, constructed by both the Spanish and the Native Americans, the chapel in which her miraculous image was enthroned by Bishop Juan de Zumárraga on 26 December 1531, just fourteen days after her final apparition.8 St Juan Diego shows us how to follow the model of the Mother of God in advancing the New Springtime of Faith.

Through the gift of faith and Baptism, the Spanish and the Native Americans became one people, a new race, the mestiza people whose distinctive features are seen most perfectly in the face of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Since the time of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the unity of the people in the Catholic faith has been severely tested, especially during times of persecution of the Church in Mexico, but the Mexican people has remained united, invoking the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

A sterling example of the fruit of the unceasing spiritual maternity of Our Lady of Guadalupe is seen in the martyrdom of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro on 23 November 1927, during a cruel persecution of the Church. On one of the walls of the cell in which he awaited execution, Blessed Miguel Pro inscribed the prayer: "¡Viva Cristo Rey! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!",9"Long live Christ the King! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe!".

The Present Context of Western Culture

Contemporary western culture manifests a growing rebellion against God and his Law written upon every human heart and revealed in his Church. The most innocent and defenseless of our brothers and sisters, the unborn, are daily murdered in the womb, and their murder is sanctioned by the laws and decisions of courts of law. More and more, those whose lives are burdened by advanced years, serious illness or special needs are under threat of so-called "mercy killing" or euthanasia by governments in which those in power decide for whom the right to life will be respected or for whom it will not, without regard for the law of God which demands the ultimate respect for every innocent human life, from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death, without boundary or exception.

What is more, the integrity of the cradle of human life, the family formed by the indissoluble bond of marriage between a man and a woman is more and more violated by governments which assume the pretense of redefining marriage to include disordered relationships between persons of the same sex, and which permit the adoption of children and the artificial generation of children to the partners of relationships which, unlike the God-given marriage of man and woman, are not procreative and do not constitute the fitting home in which a child can grow and develop as a man or woman.

Before the situation in which we find ourselves, it is all too easy to give way to discouragement, to lose hope. How must the faithful in 16th century Mexico have been tempted to hopelessness before the widespread practice of human sacrifice and the violations of human life in the conflicts between the Native Americans and the Spanish explorers and settlers! But we who have been called to life in Christ and who, in fact, live in Christ, can never give way to discouragement.

To our prayer and fasting for the protection of human life and the safeguarding of the integrity of the family in our nation must be joined our daily obedience to the moral law, in the family and in the many places of our human activity and endeavor. Wemust not only be obedient to the moral law, but we must also give an account of our obedience, be ready to defend the truth of the divine moral law in the many contexts in which it is daily under attack and actually violated.

St Juan Diego devoted the remaining years of his life, after the wondrous days of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to recounting her message and inviting his brothers and sisters to her all-loving embrace. He gave daily witness to the truth of God's mercy and love, shown to him by Our Lady of Guadalupe, for the sake of all, without boundary or exception. Let us, invoking the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of Life, and following the example of St Juan Diego, be faithful witnesses and teachers of the Gospel of Life.

Finally, we must engage ourselves in civic life for the sake of innocent and defenseless human life and for the sake of the family. Too often, we give way to the temptation to abandon the work of transforming public life. There are those, too, who would tell us that what the faith teaches has no place in the political order. Fundamental to our Catholic faith is the natural moral law which can also be known by reason alone. It is not possible for any man to live a responsible civic life, if he does not acknowledge and obey the law which God has written upon his heart.

Our Catholic faith gives us inspiration and strength to witness to the truth of the moral law, also in civic and political matters. It demands that we never cease to work for laws which safeguard and promote human life and respect the integrity of marriage and the family. In our civic action on behalf of our most defenseless brothers and sisters and of marriage as the first and irreplaceable cell of the society of our nation, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of Life, is the Star who leads us to live in Christ, to live as he loves, purely and selflessly.


1 "[Y]osoy la Perfecta siempre Virgen Santa María, Madre del Verdaderísimo Dios por quien se vive, el creador de las personas, el dueño de la cercanía y de la inmediación, el dueño del cielo, el dueño de la tierra". Nican Mopohua, tr. Fr Mario Rojas Sánchez, México, D.F.: Design & Digital Print S.A. de C.V., 2001, n. 26. English translation from AHandbook on Guadalupe.New Bedford, Massachusetts: Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, 1997, p. 194.

2"Mucho quiero, mucho deseo que aquí me levanten mi casita sagrada. En donde lo mostraré, lo ensalzaré al ponerlode manifiesto". Nican Mopohua,nn. 26-27. A Handbook on Guadalupe,p. 194.

3"Lo daré a las gentes en todo mi amor personal, en mi mirada compasiva, en mi auxilio, en mi salvación: Porque yo en verdad soy vuestra madre compasiva, tuya y de todos los hombres que en esta tierra estáis en uno, y de las demás variadas estirpes de hombres, mis amadores, los que a mí clamen, los que me busquen, los que confíen en mí, porque ahí les escucharé su llanto, su tristeza, para remediar, para curar todas sus diferentes penas, sus miserias, sus dolores". Nican Mopohua,nn. 28-32. A Handbook on Guadalupe,p. 194.

4 Mt 10:38 and 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23 and 14:27; 1 Cor 1:17-18; Gal 6:14; Eph 2:14-16; Phil 3:18; and Col 1:19-20.

5 Warren H. Carroll, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness,Front Royal, Virginia: Christendom Press, 1983, pp. 12-14.

6 Cf. Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness,pp. 64-86.

7 Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness,pp. 104-105.

8 A Handbook on Guadalupe,p. 46.

9 Antonio Dragon, SJ, Vida íntima del Padre Pio, 6a ed., tr. Rafael Martínez del Campo, SJ, Mexico, D.F.: Obra Nacional de Buena Prensa, A.C., 1993, P. 234.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
25 November 2009, page 13

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