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Friday, December 12, 2008

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531 Mary appeared to the Mexican Indian Juan Diego; Mary, looking like a Mexican peasant herself, left her image on Juan's cloak (see Juan's feast on December 9). The cloak is still preserved in the Basilica. After St. Peter's in Rome, the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic shrine. That was a surprise to me, but I went there myself when only 16 and visiting a school friend in Mexico City. My friend's uncle was a doctor in a mountain village and his wife had just born twin boys; he had promised to go barefoot to the shrine to thank Mary for his healthy sons. I immediately asked to go with him. Imagine my astonishment to be called for by this barefoot doctor in a taxi! I thought we were going to walk there but the cab took us right to the square and then we just walked into the Basilica. I was impressed by the number of people there and most were walking on their knees to approach the altar. Now there is a new Basilica.
Our Lady of Guadalupe was named the patron of New Spain in 1910; 200 years later she was that of Latin America and, in 1999, she was named as patroness of the Americas.

It is also the birthday of St. Madeleine Sophie. I took the habit on this day 58 years ago. This year is special as our Provincial was elected Mother General and begins her mandate today; I suspect we may also be hearing the name of our future Provincial today as the present Central Team were to name her before leaving office.
Here is a famous quote from St. Madeleine Sophie: "Ah!If only it were possible, if I were not unworthy, if God would give me the grace, to speak to you of the happiness of the person who gives herself over to the Holy Spirit… completely… whole and entire… with no reservations! If only I could tell you what takes place in her… if I could describe her happiness; it is no longer herself who acts, it is God… every step she takes is by the inspiration of the Spirit… everything becomes easy… she no longer knows difficulty, she meets no more obstacles… The Holy Spirit holds this person captive; the Spirit possesses her, binds her, establishes communication between her and heaven; it is like Jacob’s ladder on which the angels continuously ascend and descend; the good actions, desires, sacrifices of this faithful person mount towards heaven, and the Holy Spirit comes down laden with the new graces that God is pleased to bestow on her. I regret that it is time to end; but if the happiness of the individual open to the Spirit is so great, what would be the happiness of a group of people, of a whole Society that would allow itself to be guided unreservedly by the Holy Spirit. That would be a foretaste of heaven! What peace, what union and, at the same time, what good we would be able to produce."

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