VISIT TO MEXICO 90: Five Beatifications
Pope John Paul II
Homily at Guadalupe Basilica - Five declared Blessed including Juan Diego
Immediately after his arrival In Mexico (6 May) Pope John Paul went to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe where he celebrated the Mass of the Fourth Sunday of Easter, during which he beatified three child martyrs of the earliest days of Mexico's evangelization (Cristobal [1514-1527], Juan [1516-1529] and Antonio [1516-1529]) and Fr Jose Maria de Yermo y Parres (1851-1904). The Pope also solemnly recognized the cult which has been paid to Juan Diego, setting 9 December as his liturgical feast.
During the Mass the Pope preached the homily in Spanish.
"Christ... bore our sins and suffered on the wood of the Cross... by his wounds you were healed" (1 Pt 2:21, 24-25).
1. Dearest sons and daughters of Mexico!
I have come again to your land to profess before you and with all of you our common faith in Christ, the one Redeemer of the world. I want to proclaim it everywhere during my pilgrimage throughout your land; but I want to do it here first of all, in this place which is especially sacred to you: Tepeyac.
Christ, the world's Redeemer, is present in history, generation after generation through his Most Holy Mother, the one who bore him in Bethlehem, the one who stood under the Cross on Golgotha.
Through the Virgin Mary, Christ then, entered into the very happenings of all human generations, into the history of Mexico, and that of the whole of America. The place where we are, the revered Basilica of Guadalupe, confers upon this salvific fact a witness of unsurpassable eloquence.
I feel especially happy that I am able to begin my second pastoral visit to Mexico in this sacred spot, towards which all the sons and daughters of the Mexican homeland, wherever they may be, direct their gaze and their hearts. Thus from this shrine where the maternal heart which gives life and hope to all of Mexico beats, I wish to direct my most loving greetings to all the inhabitants of this great nation, from Tijuana to Rio Bravo, and down to the Yucatan Peninsula. I want the Pope's loving greeting to reach all corners and enter the hearts of all Mexicans to give them love, joy, and encouragement in order to overcome their difficulties and go on building a new society where justice, truth and fellowship reign; that will shape this dear people into a great family.
I warmly give thanks for the kind words of welcome which Cardinal Ernesto Corripio Ahumada, Archbishop of Mexico, addressed to me, in the name of all our brothers in the Hierarchy and the entire Mexican Church.
2. My joy is even greater because, as I now begin this second pastoral visit to your land as Successor of St Peter the Apostle and Shepherd of the Universal Church, the Lord granted me the grace of beatifying, that is, of elevating to the glory of the altars, certain beloved sons of your nation.
I have done it in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord and by the authority received from him who has redeemed us with the blood of his most holy wounds and thus became the Shepherd of our souls.
Juan Diego, the confidant of the sweet Lady of Tepeyac; the three child martyrs of Tlaxcala: Cristobal, Antonio and Juan; the priest and founder Jose Maria de Yermo y Parres. Their names, inscribed already in heaven, are written from today on in the book of the blessed and in the history of the faith of Christ's Church which lives and is on pilgrimage in Mexico.
These five blesseds are written in an indelible way in the great epic of Mexican evangelization: the first four inasmuch as they are among the first fruits of the harvest of the word in these lands; the fifth, through the history of his fidelity to Christ amid the events of the last century. With the Virgin Mary's help, all lived and bore witness to this faith. She, in fact, was and continues to be the "Star of evangelization" who by her presence and protection continues to nourish the faith and strengthen the Church community.
3. Now that we are preparing to celebrate the Fifth Centenary of the Evangelization of America, the beatification of Juan Diego and of the child martyrs of Tlaxcala makes us recall the first fruits of the preaching of the faith in these lands.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ penetrated Mexico through the apostolic zeal of the first evangelizers. They announced Jesus Christ crucified and risen and established as Lord and Saviour; they attracted multitudes to the faith with the strength of the Holy Spirit which set their missionary words and their evangelizing hearts on fire.
That ardent evangelizing activity was an answer to the missionary mandate of Jesus to his apostles and to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. We read about it in the first reading of this Eucharistic celebration, when Peter, in the name of the other apostles, proclaimed the kerygma of the Crucified and Risen Christ.
Those words reached the heart of their hearers who later asked Peter and the other disciples: "What must we do, brothers?" (Acts 2:37). The answer which the Prince of the Apostles gave explains clearly the dynamism of the whole authentic process of conversion and membership in the Church. Acceptance of the faith by catechumens by virtue of the words which move their hearts follows the proclamation of the Gospel. Following the profession of faith comes conversion and Baptism in the name of Jesus, for the remission of sins and in order to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism believers are made part of the Church community in order to live in communion, of faith, hope and love.
In fact "those who accepted their words"-the sacred text tells us-"were baptized, and on that day about 3,000 were added" (Acts 2:41). That was the beginning of the preaching of the Gospel and the spread of the Church throughout the entire world.
These words cannot be proclaimed without spontaneously thinking of the continuity of this evangelization and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit here in Mexico. In effect, our newly beatified, as the first fruits of evangelization and as outstanding Witnesses of the faith at its beginnings, were the beneficiaries of that evangelization and collaborators in it. Here the prophetic words of St Peter on the day of Pentecost were fulfilled: "For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:39).
4. These lands and the men and women who lived here were distant in time and space; but by virtue of the apostolic mandate a group of 12 missionaries finally reached here; tradition, with obvious allusion to the beginnings of apostolic preaching, calls them "the 12 apostles."
With cross in hand they proclaimed Christ as Redeemer and Lord; they preached conversion, and the crowds received the life-giving waters of holy Baptism and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Thus these peoples were incorporated into the Church as on the day of Pentecost, and the Church was enriched with the values of their culture. These very missionaries found in the indigenous peoples their finest collaborators in mission; they served as intermediaries in catechesis, and as interpreters and friends in approaching native peoples and in facilitating their grasp of Jesus' message.
We have an example of them in Juan Diego, who, some say, was in charge of catechesis in Tlaltelolco. Other examples are the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, who at a tender age enthusiastically followed the Franciscan and Dominican missionaries, ready to cooperate with them in preaching the Good News of the Gospel.
5. At the dawn of Mexican evangelization Blessed Juan Diego holds a place all by himself; according to tradition, his indigenous name was Cuauhtlatohuac, "The eagle who speaks".
His lovable figure is inseparable from the Guadalupe event, the miraculous maternal manifestation of the Virgin, Mother of God, both in iconographic and literary memorials as well as in the centuries-old devotion which the Mexican Church has shown for this Indian so loved by Mary.
Similar to ancient Biblical personages who were collective representations of all the people, we could say that Juan Diego represents all the indigenous peoples who accepted the Gospel of Jesus, thanks to the maternal aid of Mary, who is always inseparable from the manifestation of her Son and the spread of the Church, as was her presence among the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.
The information about him that has reached us praises his Christian virtues: his simple faith, nourished by catechesis and open to the mysteries; his hope and trust in God and in the Virgin; his love, his moral coherence, his unselfishness and evangelical poverty.
Living the life of a hermit here near Tepeyac, he was a model of humility. The Virgin chose him from among the most humble as the one to receive that loving and gracious manifestation of hers which is the Guadalupe apparition. Her maternal face and her blessed image which she left us as a priceless gift is a permanent remembrance of this. In this manner she wanted to remain among you as a sign of the communion and unity of all those who were to live together in this land.
The recognition of the cult which for centuries has been paid to the layman Juan Diego takes on a special importance. It is a strong call to all the lay faithful of this nation to assume all their responsibilities, for passing on the Gospel message and witnessing to one faith active and working in the sphere of Mexican society. From this privileged spot of Guadalupe, ever-faithful heart of Mexico, I wish to call on all the Mexican laity, to commit themselves more actively to the re-evangelization of society.
The lay faithful share in the prophetic, priestly and royal role of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, 31), but they carry out this vocation in the ordinary situations of daily life. Their natural and immediate field of action extends to all the areas of human coexistence and to everything that constitutes culture in the widest and fullest sense of the term. As I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici: "In order to achieve their task directed to the Christian animation of the temporal order, in the sense of serving persons and society, the lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in public life, that is, in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good" (n. 42).
Catholic men and women of Mexico, your Christian vocation is, by its very nature, a vocation to the apostolate (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem, 3). Therefore, you cannot remain indifferent before the suffering of your brothers and sisters: before the poverty, corruption and outrages committed against the truth and human rights. You must be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt 5:13-14). Thus the Lord says once more to us today: "Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5:16).
Juan Diego too shines before you, raised by the Church to the honours of the altar; we can invoke him as the protector and the advocate of the indigenous peoples.
6. With great joy I have also proclaimed as Blessed the three child martyrs of Tlaxcala: Cristobal, Antonio and Juan. At a tender age they were drawn to the words and witness of the missionaries and they became helpers, as catechists for other indigenous people. They are sublime and instructive examples of how evangelization is a task of all God's People, excluding no one, not even children.
With the Church in Tlaxcala and in Mexico, I am pleased to be able to offer all of Latin America and the universal Church this example of child-like piety, of apostolic and missionary generosity, crowned by the grace of martyrdom.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici I wanted to place particular emphasis on the fact that the innocence of children "reminds us that the missionary fruitfulness of the Church has its life-giving basis not in human means and merits, but in the totally gratuitous gift of God" (n. 47). I hope that the example of these beatified children may raise up an immense multitude of little apostles of Christ among the boys and girls of Latin America and the whole world, who may spiritually enrich our society which is so in need. of love.
7. The Holy Spirit's grace also shines today in another figure who bears the features of the Good Shepherd: Father Jose Maria de Yermo y Parres. In him the marks of the true priesthood of Christ are clearly delineated, -because the priesthood was the centre of his life and priestly holiness his goal. His intense devotion to prayer and to the pastoral service of souls, as well as his special dedication to the apostolate among priests through spiritual retreats increase interest in his figure, especially now that the next Synod of Bishops will also deal with priestly formation in the future.
Father Jose Maria-the Apostle of charity, as his contemporaries called him-combined love of God with love of neighbour, the synthesis of evangelical perfection, with a great devotion to the Heart of Jesus and with special love for the poor. His burning zeal for God's glory led him also to desire that all be truly missionaries.
All missionaries. All apostles of the Heart of Christ. Especially his daughters, the Congregation he founded, the Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Poor, to whom he left two loves as a charismatic inheritance: Christ and the poor. These two loves were a fire in his heart and were always to be his daughters' purest glory.
8. Dear brothers and sisters, on this Fourth Sunday of Easter, all the Church celebrates Christ, the Good Shepherd who, having suffered for our sins, gave his life for us, his sheep, and left us at the same time an example for following in his footsteps (cf. 1 Pt 2:21). The Good Shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep know him (cf. Jn 10:14).
Juan Diego, the child martyrs of Tlaxcala-Cristobal, Antonio and Juan-Jose Maria de Yermo y Parres, followed the footsteps Of Christ the Good Shepherd with perseverance. Their beatification this Sunday on which the Church also celebrates World Day of Prayer for Vocations is an urgent call to all to go out to work in the Lord's vineyard, according to their own vocation.
In the five new Blesseds the plurality of vocations is reflected, and in them we have an example of how all the Church must be mobilized to evangelize and bear witness to Christ-the lay faithful, children and teenagers as well as adults, priests and religious. All must heed and follow the call of the Lord Jesus: "You too go into my vineyard" (Mt 20:4).
9. During our Eucharistic celebration today Christ says once again to us: "I assure you, I am the gate for the sheep" (Jn 10:7). The door is a way to enter the house. The door which is Christ leads us into the "Father's house where there are many dwelling places" (cf. Jn 14:2).
With severe and strict words, the Good Shepherd also warns that one must be on guard against all those who are not "the gate for the sheep." He calls them robbers and thieves. They are those who do not seek the flock's good but seek rather their own profit by tricks and lies. Therefore the Lord teaches us what the definite proof of selflessness and service is: being ready to give one's life for others (cf. Jn 10:11).
This is also the great lesson of these sons of Mexican soil whom we have raised today to the honours of the altar: they followed Christ and, like him, they. made their lives a witness of love. Death did not defeat. them. It opened wide for them the gates of the other life, eternal life.
From this shrine of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe we want to give thanks to her who is the Mother of God, the Patroness of Mexico and of all Latin America, because through these five newly beatified persons the Good Shepherd's words have been fulfilled:
"I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly" (Jn 10: 10).
Weekly Edition in English
14 May 1990, page 5
L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by:
The Cathedral Foundation
L'Osservatore Romano English Edition
320 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Subscriptions: (410) 547-5315
Fax: (410) 332-1069