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CURRENT ISSUE:  November 21, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
 
Advent, a time of
waiting for the light

 
Crèche Festival set
for December 9-11

 
Reviewing changes in
the new Roman Missal
Guadalupe pilgrimage, Mass Dec. 3
 
Our Lady of Guadalupe is depicted in a modern painting by Stephen B Whatley, an expressionist artist based in London.
CNS photo/courtesy
of Stephen B Whatley

The Sixth Annual Our Lady of Guadalupe Diocesan Pilgrimage will begin at 9 a.m. Dec. 3 at St. Louis Bertrand Church, 1410 100th Ave, Oakland, and proceed down East 14th Street, around Lake Merritt and end at the Cathedral of Christ the Light. Mass will be celebrated at 1:30 p.m. by Bishop Cordileone.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

www.virgendeguadalupe.
org.mx
(Spanish)

www.sancta.org
 
 
Before and after Mass, various parishes will be onsite selling traditional Latino food
For more information, contact Hector Medina at 510-496-7224 or hmedina@oakdiocese.org or visit www.oakdiocese.org and see “Upcoming events.”

The appearance of Mary that became the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe began Dec. 9, 1531, when a peasant, St. Juan Diego (see story below), had a vision of a young woman on a hill outside Mexico City. The woman asked him to build a church at that location. He reported this to the bishop, who asked for proof. Juan Diego returned, saw the woman again, who had him gather flowers into his cloak and go back to the bishop. It was winter, so flowers would have been nonexistent. When Juan Diego opened his cloak, not only the flowers, but the image of the woman was on it, the classic icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (See graphic below for a description of the image.)

St. Juan Diego: Icon of Mary’s evangelizing mission

By Brother John M. Samaha SM

The Church celebrates the feast of St. Juan Diego on Dec. 9. The canonization of Saint Juan Diego by Pope John Paul II in 2002 elicited worldwide enthusiasm for the recognition of another Christlike lay person.

Boys dressed as St. Juan Diego process from Mass at Holy Name of Jesus Church in New York on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe last year.
CNS photo/Octavio Duran
This latest saint of Mexico was the Virgin Mother Mary’s chosen messenger of evangelization in the nascent Church of the l6th century New World. He is an example of a Christian in action.

The honor bestowed on St. Juan Diego calls all Christians to respond actively to their baptismal vocation and consecration to collaborate with Mary in bringing Christ to all peoples.

God’s plan for salvation needs the cooperation of us all. In the Guadalupe event, God chose to give the miraculous image of Mary, his Mother and ours, to a humble, lonely widower.

Today we find stirrings of new interest in the unchurched, the alienated and the disenchanted.

To all Christians is given the commission to make Christ and his teaching known, loved and lived. “The Spirit breathes where he wills” (Jn 3:8), and the people of God have always had the charisms to help spread God’s kingdom on earth.

It is incorporated in the Diocese of Oakland’s mission: “to know Christ better and make Him better known.”

Recognizing the ancient truth and the new need, Vatican II issued an official decree on the apostolate of the laity. For the first time the Church expounded the concept that the lay person is indispensable to the mission of the Church, that to be a real Christian is to be an apostle.

The Vatican II Decree on the Laity advances, as the perfect example of the spiritual and apostolic life, the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles. “While leading on earth a life common to all, one filled with family concerns and labors, she was always intimately united with her Son and cooperated in the work of the Savior in a manner altogether special. Now that she has been taken up into heaven, with her maternal charity she cares for the brothers and sisters of her Son.” (n. 4)

Consequently, it is appropriate that the model for the laity and the patron of the lay apostolate be one who will lead others to Mary, who in turn will lead them to Christ.

Juan Diego’s life story exemplifies the meaning of the lay apostolate.

Juan Diego was called by Mary. She sent him to the bishop: “Go to the bishop of Mexico and tell him that I sent you.” The Spirit breathed on Juan, but judgment and command were reserved to the bishop, as it still is today.

Juan Diego’s humble compliance with an unwelcome and embarrassing mission paved the way for an abundant bestowal of God’s blessings. In addition, the event clearly indicates that a layman pushed his point with a hierarch. The bishop needed convincing, and Mary told Juan to go back and try again.

The importance of the most humble person carrying out the divine plan can hardly be more sharply exemplified. Mary did not go directly to Bishop-elect Juan Zumarraga and inspire him. Nor did she choose the messenger most suited according to the judgment of human standards. Mary chose one particular, unknown, middle-aged widower who would have preferred to be left alone. She told him that he was to be the instrument of Divine Providence for these poor people.

When children and adults hear about Juan Diego they are fascinated, and love to hear the story retold. His conversations with Mary have a rare quality of tenderness, immediacy, genuineness and uniqueness. Translated into any language they possess a special appeal. In the Aztec Indian idiom, Mary called Juan her xocoyte, her favorite son, the least of her sons. He addressed her as xocoyata, his littlest daughter, his lady, and his child.

Peoples of the emerging nations are able to identify very easily with Juan Diego. He was humble and poor, not enmeshed in political or cultural history.

Juan Diego remained faithful until death. His simple and human qualities touch us all.

The actual result of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s message, in which Saint Juan Diego played the key role, brought belief in Jesus Christ and the grace of baptism to countless native Indians of Aztec heritage. In the seven years following Mary’s appearance at Tepeyac (1532-1538), 8 million Indians were baptized into Christ.

During that period Saint Juan Diego lived near the marvelous picture, quietly caring for it as Saint Joseph cared for Mary herself. As with Saint Joseph, we do not know all the details. But we do know the quality of this layman’s charity was magnetic. He was, according to his Aztec name, Mary’s “singing eagle,” telling her story over and over to his fellow countrymen.

The sterling example of Saint Juan Diego inspires us to activate the continuing action of baptismal grace to be the “salt of the earth,” “the light on the lampstand,” the “leaven in the mass,” and to “proclaim the Good News by word and deed.”

(Marianist Brother John Samaha is a retired religious educator who worked for many years in the catechetical department of the Oakland Diocese. He now resides in Cupertino.)

View this graphic as a PDF.

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