By Chris Lushis
WARSAW — Hundreds of Catholic faithful were in attendance for a late Vigil Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Diocesan Shrine on the night of Dec. 11. Those at the parish in Warsaw rejoiced at hearing the words of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, “¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! ¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live the Virgin! Long live Christ the King!), to which they responded joyously, “¡Viva!”
The Mass, which was celebrated in Spanish, began with a special procession of a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe surrounded by a large wreath made of roses. This memorial was placed under the church’s signature painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which Bishop Rhoades venerated and crowned during the celebration. The special feast was also highlighted by traditional Mexican mariachi music and singing offering praise and honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades emphasized the connection of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the woman described in the Book of Revelation, “the woman who appeared in heaven, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared clothed with the sun, with a crescent moon under her feet and wearing garments sprinkled with stars.”
He continued, “Just as the woman in Revelation was with child, so is the Virgin of Guadalupe, who is wearing a maternity belt commonly used by pregnant Aztec women.”
“I think we can see in the image of Guadalupe the woman who gave birth to Jesus symbolically giving birth to a new people, to the Church here in America, when she appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico and through the amazing success of the evangelization of America which occurred in the years following Our Lady’s appearance,” Bishop Rhoades said. “We can say that Catholicism in America was born in Mary’s maternal arms.”
Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe began after her appearance to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill, Mexico, in 1531. During a time when pagan worship and human sacrifices were the ritual practices of the Aztec country, it was here that the Blessed Virgin Mary requested a church be built in her honor, where she promised to show love, compassion and protection to all those who believed in her. The Blessed Virgin instructed Juan Diego to bring roses he found miraculously growing in the middle of winter to the local bishop. When he opened his cloak, the roses spilled out, and a dazzling image of Our Lady remained for all to witness. As a result of the promotion of this apparition, millions of men and women converted to Catholicism and found safety under the mantle of the Blessed Mother.
Bishop Rhoades shared that the face of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which had so inspired the Mexican bishop, particularly moves him as well.
“It is tender and peaceful, sweet and serene,” Bishop Rhoades said. “The mother of the true God appeared with a mestizo face and spoke the language of the people. Her humble and compassionate gaze gave Juan Diego and the recently conquered native peoples true hope and consolation. Her presence and her words dispelled the darkness of superstition and fear. Our Lady of Guadalupe was God’s messenger, a messenger of the Gospel of her Son, who taught the people that the true God is a God of love and mercy. She wants us to spread the Gospel also today when so many have forgotten God or ignore Him and reject His Church.”
Bishop Rhoades also reminded the congregation of the battle described in Revelation between the dragon, Satan and the woman who has crushed his head. “We see this struggle between good and evil throughout the history of the world; it is one that all the disciples of Jesus must face in their lives,” the bishop said. “Pope Francis teaches us that we do not face this struggle alone, that ‘the Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. Mary walks with us always, accompanies us, struggles with us and sustains us in their fight against the forces of evil.’ In the end, she wins, not the dragon. Liberation and the hour of glory will come. Pope Benedict reminds us that the woman clothed with the sun is ‘the great sign of the victory of love, of the victory of goodness, of the victory of God.’ We are further encouraged by Pope Francis, who especially recommends praying the rosary to sustain us in this battle.”
Bishop Rhoades also celebrated a bi-lingual Mass at the University of Notre Dame on the evening of Dec. 12 for the feast. Students performed traditional Aztec tribal dances and hymns in honor of the Blessed Virgin. All those in attendance were invited at the end of Mass to process together with the bishop and lay roses at the feet of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart’s statue of the Madonna and Child.