Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, noticed an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe over a shop door in St. Helena.
MOST REV. MICHAEL C. BARBER, SJ/SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Mary and Jesus love us. Come let us adore him.
Michael C. Barber, SJ
Over Thanksgiving weekend I took a priest-friend from out of town who was visiting me up to the Napa Valley for the day. We took a walk through the town of St. Helena.
I was startled to see, over the door of a shop, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe engraved in the glass. It was so beautiful. I got out my camera and took a picture. I said to my priest friend, we HAVE to go in that shop!
It happened to be a wine-tasting shop. I said to the bartender: "You have MARY over your door!" He said to me "That's Our Lady of Guadalupe. And we have named one of our wines after her. And we donate 100 percent of the sales of that wine to a charity that helps farmworkers and their families. Do you want to try some of the wine?"
Even though it was only 10 in the morning, I said "ABSOLUTELY!"
It tasted good, and although it wasn't cheap, I bought a bottle — to help those farmworkers. The winery was "Orin Swift" and the wine they dedicated to Mary is called "La Veladora" — which means "The Votive Candle." They created a very mystical and beautiful label for the bottle with Our Lady's image.
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I was thinking, How many people may purchase this wine, and see Our Lady's picture on the wine label, and may be moved by her loving gaze, and come to know that she is their mother?
Obviously the owner of this winery knows and loves Mary, and knows she is his mother, and so he made this wine, and gives the profits to some of Mary's other children.
To me, this is the essence of the meaning of Our Lady, as seen on this wine label, in our statues and church paintings, and on so many of our Christmas cards: She shows herself to be our mother.
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I remember the history of the church in Mexico. How the Franciscans came from Spain in the early 1500s, and tried to convert the Aztecs. The Fathers worked very hard, but after 20 years, they had made practically no converts.
Then Our Lady appeared at Tepeyac, just outside Mexico City, under the title of "Our Lady of Guadalupe." Within 10 years, all of Mexico had converted to the Catholic Faith; 9 million people.
Those converts had found their Heavenly Mother — who then brought them to the knowledge and love of Jesus, her infant Son — and Jesus brought them to know God the Father.
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Pope St. John Paul II called Our Lady of Guadalupe "The Star of the New Evangelization."
She is shown standing on the Moon. And she is shown "Clothed with the sun." It is no coincidence, for the Aztecs believed the sun and the moon were "gods."
Yet Mary said to Juan Diego "I am the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God."
Through these symbols on the tilma, or mantle, Mary was showing her superiority to the cosmic elements worshiped by the Aztecs. These "gods" were blood-thirsty gods who demanded human sacrifice.
Mary is the Mother of a God who demands no violence, but only LOVE.
St. Teresa of Avila says "Where there is no love, PUT love, and you will find love."
Where there is no love, put the image of Our Lady, and you will ALWAYS find love. You will find the tender love of a Mother for her Child.
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Some time ago I was having dinner at an Italian restaurant in North Beach in San Francisco. Since I was alone, I sat at the bar (you are probably thinking I spend all my free-time in bars). The bartender was very friendly, saw my collar, and asked me if I was a Catholic priest? I said, Yes. He said, "Could you do me a favor? There's a guy in the back, one of our workers, who washes the dishes. His mother died a few days ago, and he is having a hard time. Could you go back to the kitchen and talk to him?"
"Sure" I said. He led me back into the kitchen and to the dishwashing room. The Latino man was happy to see a priest and greeted me warmly. He told me his mom had died and he needed to have a Mass said for her, and he didn't know where to go, as he was not a member of a parish. I took down his mother's name, and promised to offer my next Mass for his mother's soul.
And then I saw it! There — on the kitchen wall — above the dish washing machine — he had placed a cut-out image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She was his mother. He was her son.
And so it is: from wine shops, to restaurant dishwashing rooms, to all of our homes and cars and classrooms and stores and churches — here and all throughout the world. We witness on Christmas: Mary is our mother. Christ is her son, and the Son of God. Mary loves us. Christ loves us. Come let us adore Him. Merry Christmas to all of you, my brothers and sisters, in the Diocese of Oakland.
(Bishop Barber adapted this column from his homily at the Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 1.)
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