Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Many in our Mexican community and extended Hispanic communities gathered early in the morning hours to pay tribute. Masses and devotional prayers will be offered at various area shrines dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. As an auxiliary bishop in Chicago, I was privileged to celebrate a Mass at 4 a.m. at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois. There were 4,000 people participating in the Mass, many who walked miles as a testimony to their devotion to Mary. They expected that over 50,000 people would visit that shrine. Here in Wisconsin, we have a beautiful shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse. Make a visit – you will not be disappointed.
Although Our Lady of Guadalupe is well-known as the patroness of Mexico, she belongs to all of us. The story of Our Lady is one that is similar to all of her apparitions. Juan Diego, a poor man and part of the Indian population, was taking care of his sick and dying uncle. He encountered this beautiful lady who revealed to him that she is the Mother of the true God. She established a task for him – to go to the bishop and request that he build a chapel in her honor.
Bishops are not easy sells. I know it might seem shocking, but some are even stubborn. They usually want some sort of sign. The sign in this instance was fresh roses in the winter. Appearing to be a good sign, the bishop certainly would take notice. Taking the roses as a sign from Our Lady, she enclosed them in his cloak to be offered to the bishop. He returned to the bishop with the sign, and as he opened his cloak (in Spanish tilma), the image of Our Lady was formed on the cloak. For the skeptic, there is no way that the image could have been constructed by this native Indian. The technology to create that image did not exist. Within two weeks, a chapel was constructed by volunteers. Mary will not be denied.
I had the privilege of celebrating Mass at the altar under the watchful gaze of the tilma at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The apparition of Mary achieved not only the building of her chapel, but it unified the people of Mexico, the native Indian population and the Spanish population, which was severely divided.
Mary was mother of all. She made a statement to Juan Diego when he tried to avoid the encounter with her, because Juan was worried about his dying uncle. Mary appeared to his uncle and cured him of his illness. Standing before him, Mary said, “Am I not here? I, who am your mother.” This statement should give all of us great consolation when praying a Hail Mary or the rosary.
One of the amazing features of the image on the tilma is that it has been determined that Mary is pregnant. Mary, who is Mother of life, is mother of the unborn. There is a statue at the shrine in La Crosse of Mary, who, in her mantel, is holding images of the children in the womb.
Mary has also been declared by the Church as the patroness of all the Americas. As mother, we are all her children. I believe that Mary holds the key to the unity we seek in our country, as well as the unity of all the peoples of the continents of North and South America.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is also the Mother of the New Evangelization. As her children, she would definitely want us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the December 12, 2017 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.