By Benjamin Mann
The Virgin Mary will accompany the Church in the New Evangelization, just as she did during the first preaching of the Gospel in the Americas, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez told around 100,000 devotees at the Aug. 5 Guadalupe Celebration.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe is calling us today, my brothers and sisters,” the archbishop said in his keynote address to one of the largest Catholic gatherings in U.S. history at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. “She is calling us to greater faith, to greater love, to greater hope.”
“She is calling us to dedicate our lives to the loving plan of God. To everything for his glory,” he said, stressing the Virgin Mary’s message to honor God “in our homes, in our families, in our neighborhoods and communities, in our political life.”
“Let’s ask Our Lady of Guadalupe – the bright star of the first evangelization and the Mother of the New Evangelization – to help us all to be better instruments of the love of God, so that everyone in our world may come to love him,” the archbishop told the coliseum crowd.
Sunday’s event, co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was one of the city’s largest Catholic celebrations in recent memory. It is the Knights’ second such gathering, following the 2009 Guadalupe Festival in Arizona.
From 3 p.m. onward, the Los Angeles stadium was filled with prayer, music, and talks in honor of Jesus Christ and his mother, who appeared to Saint Juan Diego in 1531 to herald the evangelization of the world’s Western Hemisphere.
Speakers at the Guadalupe Celebration included Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus, and Monsignor Eduardo Chavez, who oversaw the canonization cause of St. Juan Diego.
On display at the celebration, for veneration by the faithful, was the only U.S.-based relic of the Tilma of Guadalupe – the saint’s garment that was imprinted with a miraculous image of the Virgin.
Though that image has become an unmistakable part of Hispanic culture, its meaning transcends ethnic and geographical boundaries, as Archbishop Gomez stressed in his keynote address.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe is not only the Mother of the people of Mexico,” the Los Angeles Church leader observed. “She is the Mother of all the peoples of the Americas! She is the New Eve. She is the Mother of all the living!”
He pointed out that Mary’s message to St. Juan Diego, given at the now-famous Tepeyac Hill, is the same Gospel message that the Church proclaims to all nations and peoples.
“My brothers and sisters, we are all children of Our Lady’s mission at Tepeyac! All of us! We are all Guadalupanos!”
As she appeared to St. Juan Diego, Mary announced herself as both “the mother of the true God” and “your compassionate Mother, yours and that of all the people that live together in this land, and also of all the other various lineages of men.”
St. Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant and Catholic convert, “heard her voice and carried out the will of God,” Archbishop Gomez recalled. Nine million Mexicans are said to have become Catholic in the seven years that followed the apparition.
Present-day believers, in Mexico and elsewhere, “received the gift of faith because our ancestors kept our faith alive and passed it on to us – through generations and generations, even in the darkest times,” Archbishop Gomez observed.
To illustrate this devotion to the faith, and the international nature of the Guadalupe message, he told the story of Blessed Maria Ines Teresa Arias.
Beatified last April in Mexico City, the 20th century blessed fled Mexico during the time of the Cristero War – “when it was a crime to believe in Jesus Christ and to want to worship him,” Archbishop Gomez noted.
Having joined the Poor Clare sisters in Mexico City, Maria Ines came to the U.S. in 1929, receiving her habit as a novice in Los Angeles. On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1930, she had a mystical experience in which she heard the Virgin Mary promise to accompany her in doing God’s work.
Though she returned to Mexico in 1931, “she heard her missionary calling here,” the L.A. archbishop recalled.
Bl. Maria Ines founded the Poor Clare Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, sending women to proclaim the Gospel through consecrated life in 14 countries.
She charged her sisters “to carry the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, so that she – through her maternal tenderness – would bring her Divine Son to live in the hearts of those who hunger for God without knowing it.”
Archbishop Gomez addressed that same advice to the crowd at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, encouraging Guadalupe Celebration participants to deepen their faith and pass it on to others.
“Jesus Christ wants to make use of us. Just as he made use of St. Juan Diego. Just as he made use of Blessed María Ines,” he reflected. “He wants us to be apostles and missionaries. And Our Lady of Guadalupe will accompany us in all our endeavors.”
“My brothers and sisters, now it is our turn. The mission of Tepeyac continues today. It continues in you and me! Our Lady of Guadalupe is counting on us now!”