IT’S THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING!
I actually am starting to write this entry at three o’clock in the morning, Friday, December 12, 2008. It is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and I am on my way to Plant City Stadium for Las Mananitas, the Mass and celebration which begins this most important day for our Mexican Catholic brothers and sisters. It is the earliest I have ever arisen for a pastoral activity and I am actually excited to join in the celebration of the Patroness of Mexico and the Patroness of the Americas.
In Waimauma, Clearwater, Dade City and other places and parishes, priests and people are preparing to celebrate in the same way this special day. Why so early? Those in attendance have to work in the fields with first light and the growers have no feeling for religious feasts so celebrate at the beginning and end of the day is the order of the day.
Police estimates of the size of this attending the Plant City Mass is set at around 5000. It was a cold and windy morning but the faith and hearts of those in attendance warmed the stadium up considerably. I am attaching my homily delivered in Spanish and an English translation as well. Happy Feast Day to all our Hispanic Catholics of North America and particularly to our Mexican brothers and sisters. Felicidades. Your faith inspires.
Dear Migrant Community of the Americas,
It is with joy and pride that I greet all of you this morning on which we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron of Mexico and queen of the Americas. It is difficult for me to express the pride that I feel in seeing a community gathered in such great numbers, “expressing a profound faith in God, a strong sense of solidarity, an authentic devotion to Mary and rich popular religiosity (#15).” You cannot know how proud and happy you make me feel. Truly, Our Lady of Guadalupe deserves all of this love that you so beautifully express.
But it is also with great sadness that I recognize that there are those among you, my sons and daughters who are treated with injustice, as if you were a nuisance, a weight, a headache, a problem to society. How little they know, those who treat you in this way! I WANT YOU TO HEAR ME CLEARLY: YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM; IN FACT, YOU ARE PART OF THE SOLUTION!
The United States Bishops, in united voice, have declared in the document, Encuentro and Mission, “[that] the Hispanic Catholics are a blessing from God (#6)” and not a problem. You are “a prophetic presence that has transformed many dioceses and parishes into communities of faith that are more welcoming, vibrant, and evangelizing (#6).” I, as your bishop, have certainly seen and experienced that you are “a blessing from God and a prophetic presence,” not only for St. Clement Parish, but for all of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
As “a blessing from God”, I, your bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, need your help. In your beautiful traditions, celebrations, popular religiosity, principals, and cultural values, is found the antidotes that the nation of the United States desperately needs.
As “a blessing from God” that you are, we need your presence to renew in us the true feeling of Catholicism in a nation that is predominantly influenced by Protestantism. In your authentic Catholic faith, you teach us how to express, without fear or embarassment, your popular religiosity, devotion to the Saints, and a true love for the Always Virgin Mary.
As “a blessing from God,” you help us recover a profound respect for the dignity and life of the human person. You exemplify that having a baby or caring for the elderly is not an annoyance, an inconvenience, a burden or a shame. On the contrary, in the openness you have for life, you understand that a child is a great blessing from God and that an older person is a member of the family and is a source of understanding, experience and wisdom. For this nation that is so contaminated with a culture of death, you are seeds of hope.
As a “blessing from God” you help us to reevaluate that being human is not what you can buy, produce or possess. As an antidote to consumerism and materialism, you remind us that the value of a human person is defined by the fact that we are sons and daughters of God and members of the great universal family.
As a “blessing from God” you help the Church reestablish a true sense of solidarity, companionship, unity, and collaboration in a society that is mainly based in the principles of individualism, independence, and competition.
As a “blessing from God” you, in your great respect and obedience to the authority of the Holy Catholic Church, prophetically renounce the great evil of relativism, indifference, and rebellion that has infected the human conscience and has been a great obstacle against the Magisterium of the Church.
As a “blessing from God,” in leaving your land, country, and friends, in search of a better future for your children and families, you reveal to us the true meaning of love. In a nation contaminated by search for egotistical pleasure, you are testimonies of the true pleasure that comes only in complete self gift and sacrifice for love of others.
YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM; ON THE CONTRARY YOU ARE PART OF THE SOLUTION!
As the migrant community of the Americas, you are the answer to our prayers for a new and renewed United States. As “Hispanic Catholics you are a blessing from God and a prophetic presence (#6)” sent to this nation to be agents of a new evangelization.
As your bishop, I ask forgiveness for whatever ways, in this nation, that you have been treated as if you were a problem, as if you were something inferior or without value. I pray to Our Holy Mother that she may help you to be freed of these lies just as she did many years before with St. Juan Diego, who like you experienced injustice, mistreatment, and ignorance.
This same St. Juan Diego, already chosen and sent by the Queen of Heaven, asked Our Lady to choose another person because he felt like a cord, a little stair, excrement, a leaf, someone that would have to be sent and then carried. In other words, St. Juan Diego, enslaved to lies, felt unworthy, insufficient, and incapable of achieving the mission of evangelization for which he was chosen. But the motherly love of Mary was able to break the chain of the lies and to make St. Juan Diego the great apostle to the Americas. Thanks to the intercession of Mary the liberator and the response of St. Juan Diego, in very few years in America, millions were converted to the Catholic Christian faith.
Therefore, trusting in her, I pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe, that as she did with St. Juan Diego, she may also do with you so that you are no longer enslaved by lies, but rather, that by her motherly love, you may be freed and able to live your mission as a people chosen to be a blessing and prophetic presence.
Our Lady of Guadalupe sent St. Juan Diego to the bishop so that the church would be built on the hill of Tepeyac. Today twenty three years in anticipation of the 500th Anniversary of the Guadalupe event and with the authority of your bishop, she sends you so that you may be the St. Juan Diegos of today that work to build for Our Lady of Guadalupe, a spiritual temple. A Church not made of stones that any man can destroy, but rather a Church of immortal souls and hearts that are given in the service of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the mission of evangelization of the Americas.
MARY SENT ST. JUAN DIEGO TO THE BISHOP AND NOW, AS YOUR BISHOP, I SEND YOU AS ST. JUAN DIEGOS OF TODAY TO BE MESSENGERS OF MARY.
WITH GREAT EMPHASIS, I REPEAT ONCE AGAIN: YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM! YOU ARE “A BLESSING FROM GOD AND A PROPHETIC PRESENCE”. YOU ARE TRULY CALLED TO BE THE ST. JUAN DIEGOS OF TODAY, SENT FOR THE NEW EVANGELIZATION!
And as I pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe, that she may free you from enslaving lies, I also pray that you may receive St. Juan Diego and learn from his holy example.
Receive St. Juan Diego!
[The statue of St. Juan Diego will be carried in procession on its way into the sanctuary area. The choir will welcome St. Juan Diego wit a song: “Juan Diego, Juan Diego, you are the smallest of my children, you are under my protection, you will be the messenger that carries my love, I will always be with you.”]
Receive St. Juan Diego as a model of holiness!
Be St. Juan Diegos of today!
In the example of St. Juan Diego, persevere with Mary and do not give up even when you do not see any fruits and feel incapable of fulfilling your mission.
In the example of St. Juan Diego, be obedient and respectful to the Holy Catholic Church and above all, learn to be patient as St. Juan Diego in regards to the imperfections of the authority of the hierarchy.
In the example of St. Juan Diego, do not be defined by the lies and injustices of the times, rather through the covenant of filial love with Our Holy Mother, be messengers and apostles of a new evangelization.
In the example of St. Juan Diego, do not be affected by the bad principles of the times, materialism, hedonism, egotism, or radical individualism, rather on the contrary, be an example of St. Juan Diego, sowers of a renewed Catholic culture of faith.
In the example of St. Juan Diego, be humble and simple, not looking for power or fame or riches, but only to be precious roses in Mary’s beautiful heavenly garden.
In the example of St. Juan Diego, who was worried about his sick uncle, be defenders and promoters of human dignity and think ceaselessly about the sick, the vulnerable, those in need and the least in our great family.
In the example of St. Juan Diego, allow yourselves to be freed from enslaving lies and fulfill your mission to be a blessing from God and a prophetic presence.
Be part of the solution!
BE THE ST. JUAN DIEGOS OF TODAY!
[The homily concludes with the choir singing the following song, “Juan Diego, Juan Diego, you are the smallest of my children, you are under my protection, you will be the messenger who will bring my love, I will always be with you.”]