Monday, December 11, 2006

Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12

We celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. Our Blessed Mother appeared to a Native Indian, Juan Deigo on December 9, 1531.

Juan who had become a Catholic, was going to Mass early one morning when Our Lady stopped him as he was making his way down Tepyac Hill. Mary asked him to go to the bishop and tell him that she wanted a great church built on the very spot where she was standing.

The Indian was very troubled. He wanted with all his heart to do what the Lady commanded. But how could he approach the bishop? How could anyone believe such an unusual request?
Juan Diego went to the bishop. The bishop of course, did not believe his story. He did not want to offend Juan and told him to ask the Lady for a sign the next time he met her.

Juan was caught in the middle. The Lady knew what she wanted and the bishop had the power to make her wish come true, but he wanted proof.

On December 12, early in the morning, Juan Diego was hurrying along the path. His uncle was dying and he was going to get the priest. Juan had no time to waste and did not want to meet the lady so he took another route.

But Mary appeared again to Juan and told him that his uncle was better. In fact, Juan found out a little later that Our Lady had for a moment appeared to his uncle and he was immediately cured.

The Lady asked Juan to go back to the bishop. She wanted him to build a church. Juan remembered the bishop's request and asked Mary for a sign. Mary sent Juan into the rocky area nearby and told him to gather the roses that were there.

Juan was confused. He knew there were no roses. It was winter, there was snow on the ground and the bushes were bare. But Juan did as he was told and there really were roses, beautiful roses. Excited, Juan picked them all and went to the bishop.

He carried them carefully in his tilma or cloak. Juan clutched his cloak and made his way into the room where the bishop was. Slowly he let down his cloak and the beautiful roses, fresh and wet with dew, fell to the floor.

Juan smiled but was shocked when the bishop and his attendants knelt down in front of him. He followed the bishop's eyes that were staring at his cloak. And then he saw her, the picture of his beautiful lady, glowing on his tilma.

Her image was life-size, exactly as she had appeared. The bishop had received his sign and Mary would have her church.

Today a great church, called a basilica, stands on the spot where Our Lady of Guadalupe came to her people. Our Lady of Guadalupe was named patroness of Mexico and is also patroness of Latin America and the Philippines.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Immaculate Conception of Mary

On December 8, we honor the Immaculate Conception of Mary our Mother.

Our first parents offended God by sinning seriously. Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, every baby is born into the world with original sin.

We are all children of our first parents so we all inherit their sin. This sin in us is called original sin.

But the Blessed Virgin Mary was given a marvelous gift. She was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, without this original sin.

Our Lady was to be the mother of Jesus, God's only Son. The evil one, the devil, should have no power over Mary. There was never the slightest sin in our all-beautiful mother.

That is why one of the Church's favorite hymns to Mary is: "You are all-beautiful, O Mary, and there is no sin in you."

This great favor that God blessed Our Lady with is called her Immaculate Conception.

One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed to the whole world that there was no doubt at all that Mary was conceived without sin.

Four years later, she appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes. When St. Bernadette asked the lovely lady who she was, Mary joined her hands and raised her eyes toward heaven. She said, "I am the Immaculate Conception."