“Through her [Our Lady of Guadalupe’s] powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their cultures, transforming them from within.” (Pope John Paul II, The Church in America, No. 70 ).
Our Lady of Guadalupe’s powerful intercession in 16th century Mexico transformed a Culture of Death into a Culture of Life. She can do the same for America today and permeate our Culture of Death, transforming it from within to a Culture of Life.
The Spanish Conquistadors led by Hernan Cortes installed statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the altars of human sacrifice in Mexico as they marched towards the Aztecs in Tenochtitlan, present-day Mexico City.
There they saw the great temple of human sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec’s false war god, whom they called the “Lover of Hearts and Drinker of Blood.” They had dedicated this temple in 1487 over a period of four days when they sacrificed more than 80,000 men to their false god.
In 1521, Cortes demanded that the Aztecs stop their practice of human sacrifice, but they responded that they would not, but would make war upon the Spaniards. The Spaniards destroyed the temple and conquered the city in a 93-day siege. This was the beginning of the end of human sacrifice in Mexico that was fully realized with the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego 10 years later in 1531.
As a result of her apparitions and her miraculous image that she left on Saint Juan Diego’s cloak, nine million Indians were converted to Catholicism over the next nine years in the greatest mass evangelization in the history of the world, human sacrifice ended forever in Mexico and the conquered Aztecs intermarried with the Spanish forming the mestiza Mexican race.
Let us pray that she will repeat her historic role in our American Culture of Death as the Star of the New Evangelization by melting hearts, bringing millions of conversions and ending the human sacrifice of abortion through inculturation.
Pope John Paul II wrote that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared as the first mestiza, “a symbol of the inculturation of the Gospel, of which she has been the lodestar and the guide.” (Pope John Paul II, The Church in America, No. 70 ).
He also named Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Star of the New Evangelization. Evangelization is the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and it is closely linked to what the Church calls inculturation. Pope John Paul II said that inculturation “means the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures. The process is thus a profound and all-embracing one, which involves the Christian message and also the Church’s reflection and practice. But at the same time it is a difficult process, for it must in no way compromise the distinctiveness and integrity of the Christian faith.”
“Through inculturation,”he continued, “the Church makes the Gospel incarnate in different cultures and at the same time introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community. She transmits to them her own values, at the same time taking the good elements that already exist in them and renewing them from within. Through inculturation the Church, for her part, becomes a more intelligible sign of what she is, and a more effective instrument of mission.” (Pope John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, No.52). Let us pray in hope that Our Lady of Guadalupe will intercede so that the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate the American culture, transforming it from within.
Our American Culture is the exhibition, through our behavior, of our beliefs, traditions and values. It includes our understanding of the meaning of man and God; the rights of God and those of men; and the role of the state and its powers. Our culture is influenced and passed on to others and new generations primarily by parents, church, education, laws, communications media and social interaction with others.
Unlike most cultures, America has foundational documents. The American Declaration of Independence and Constitution enable unity from many under God in whom we trust. Our traditional national motto is E Pluribus Unum (“Out of many, one”) that appears on our Great Seal along with Annuit cœptis (“He [God] approves the undertaking”). In 1956, Congress adopted “In God We Trust” as our official motto. Through reason alone, even without faith, God has enabled us to know that he has created us equal in dignity and has endowed humanity with natural rights and the freedom to exercise them without restraint by the state. We should exercise these rights by the practice of virtue, doing good and avoiding evil, and without vice, so that our culture is supported by moral values.
The core of our culture is formed by values. These include judgments of good or evil that people make about certain human behaviors or state action. Our culture’s values are upside down. What was once judged as unquestionably evil, is now judged as socially good, to the extent that some of our politicians can say, “Abortion is not just a legal right, it is a social good.” The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20). The Book of Sirach tells us, “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him” (Sirach 15:16).
Our culture has protected the extension of some of our liberties to the point of unrestrained license with the freedom to do as we choose and to call evil as good. Examples of these are the so-called “rights” invented by our courts of a mother to choose the abortion of her unborn child; and of people to choose prescribed suicide; to choose a same-sex person in an invented legal relationship and to choose a sex different from what God created them.
When there is no shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and human community, there is no moral consensus of the people regarding the good or evil of certain fundamental human behaviors or actions by the state and there is a division in the culture.
This was exemplified by the division of American culture on the issue of human slavery that led to the Civil War. The American culture of 2017 is divided by many moral issues and, because of a lack of moral consensus on these issues, families and friends are divided.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Can we, as a nation, continue together permanently – forever half slave and half free?” 140 years later, Pope John Paul II said that Lincoln’s question is still a question for us today. Can we continue together permanently – forever half pro-abortion and half pro-life? “President Lincoln’s question is no less a question for the present generation of Americans. Democracy cannot be sustained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and human community.” (Pope John Paul II, October 1995). He also said, “The condition for the survival of America is to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn.” (Pope John Paul II, September 19, 1987).
Our culture is not respecting every human person, especially the unborn. So it is not fulfilling what Saint John Paul II called, “the condition for the survival of America”. Instead, he called our culture a “Culture of Death”. Unrestrained courts and legislatures have enabled the death of the unborn by legalized contraception with its abortifacient drugs and by legalized abortion. They have destroyed true marriage and the family through no fault divorce and legalized same-sex relationships. They have enabled death by physician prescribed suicide. They have destroyed the meaning of being created male or female by honoring self-proclaimed choice of sexual identity.
Sins committed by individual men and women are at the heart of this Culture of Death.
The normalization of these immoral choices results in the erection of sinful structures that impose the will of the powerful on the weak in both domestic and international affairs. For example, the imposition of the will of President Obama’s administration to coerce Catholic charities, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, against their consciences to insure their employees for coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients that cause abortions.
Pope John Paul II wrote, “In this way, democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. The state is no longer the ‘common home’ where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant state.” (Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, No.20).
However, our culture can be transformed through the practices of popular piety. “Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc” (CCC 1674).
The United States Bishops’ Conference asserted that an increase of popular piety is evidence of the Church’s influence on society. They issued a document on November 12, 2003 entitled, Popular Devotional Practices: Basic Questions and Answers. The bishops wrote, “First of all, by introducing the Catholic faith, the Church transforms the culture, leaving the imprint of the faith on the culture.”
The practices of popular piety in Poland led by Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) while under the oppression of Nazism and Communism preserved the Polish culture and transformed it in solidarity so that eventually a new free state was created that recognized the natural rights of human beings.
Pope John Paul II pointed us to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the transformation of our Culture of Death to a Culture of Life. He named Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Queen and Mother of America. He entrusted to her the “future path of the Church on the great continent of America.” In January of 1999, at her Basilica in Mexico City, he said, “The Church must proclaim the Gospel of Life and speak out with prophetic force against the Culture of Death. This is our cry: life with dignity for all . . . . The time has come to banish once and for all from the Continent every attack against life.”
In contrast to the Culture of Death with its loss of hope, Pope John Paul II called Our Lady of Guadalupe the Mother of Hope and the Mother and Evangelizer of America. He announced a new mission in America under her patronage “to undertake the New Evangelization of the American continent”. He saw America as one continent “from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, from the Pacific to the Atlantic…, a continent called in its various sectors to integration and solidarity.” He did this at the historical First Synod of all of the Bishops of America in Rome in December 1998.
At the Synod, the Pope mentioned the challenges of the New Evangelization such as the authentic teaching of the Church’s doctrine and the need for society’s laws to harmonize with it; the defense of human life; the role of the family and the value of human work. He said that the solution to these challenges is to spread the civilization of love through apostolic action rooted in the Gospel and “courageously proclaiming Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the whole man and of every man.”
Pope John Paul II taught that evangelization means connecting the Gospel with the Culture of Death with its aggressive secularism. He said that the effort to proclaim anew who Jesus Christ is to this culture requires, “a commitment not to a re-evangelization but to a ‘new’ evangelization: new in ardor, methods, and expression.”
Later, the Pope was invited to come to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to deliver the Summary of the Bishops’ Synod. Providentially, he arrived in Mexico on January 22, 1999, the anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the United States. He signed the Summary, his Apostolic Exhortation, The Church in America, and laid it at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Exhortation states that the solution of the problems of America lies not with the ideas of politicians or academics but with a personal encounter with the Living, Risen Jesus Christ. He wrote that Jesus is “the definitive answer to the question of the meaning of life, and to those fundamental questions which still trouble so many men and women on the American continent” and that he is “the path to conversion, communion and solidarity.”
The Pope placed the New Evangelization under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He wrote, “It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples, will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church so that the New Evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life.”
The Holy Father’s Exhortation concludes with a prophecy. “Through Our Lady of Guadalupe’s powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their cultures, transforming them from within. I therefore invite all the Catholics of America to take an active part in the evangelizing initiatives which the Holy Spirit is stirring in every part of this immense continent, so full of resources and hopes for the future.”
To help to fulfill this prophecy, we should:
- Recognize the Eucharist as the source and summit of our lives;
- Do our daily duty;
- Practice regular spiritual lives;
- Practice devotion to Saint John Paul II and to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen and Mother of America;
- Pray the daily rosary;
- Practice love and fidelity in our marriages and be open to new life in our families, with the education of our children in the faith and morals of the
- Practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy;
- Be a witness to our families, social gatherings and in the workplace and Public Square to our faith and to our practice of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.
- In short, we should be a light in the darkness of our Culture of Death and let our light shine before others so that they may be attracted to God who is its source.
- Pray Holy Hours for Life, Peace and Protection to Our Lady of Guadalupe
- Host a Visitation of the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe