Mary Page News

February 9, 1999

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Ecclesia in America:
New Magisterial Document on the Americas
Pope John Paul II Visits Guadalupe
Mary's Role in the Evangelization of America
"Morning Star"
Memorial: Our Lady of Lourdes

New Magisterial Document on the Americas

The Synod of the Americas (Nov 16 - Dec 12, 1997) resulted in observations and recommendations of the bishop delegates, which were given to Pope John Paul II for consideration. The apostolic exhortation that resulted included significant statements about devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Americas. The document calls for a Marian liturgical celebration.

In a prayer composed for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, Holy Mary of Guadalupe is invoked as "Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization." In view of this, the Holy Father welcomed with joy the proposal of the Synod Fathers that the liturgical celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Evangelizer of America, be elevated to the status of a feast for December 12.

The following are excerpts from the published text of Ecclesiae in America (January 22, 1999):

We encounter Jesus through Mary

11. At the birth of Jesus, the Magi came from the East to Bethlehem and saw the child with Mary his Mother" (Mt 2:11). At the beginning of his public life, at the marriage of Cana – when the Son of God works the first of his signs, awakening faith in the disciples (cf. Jn 2:11) – it is Mary who intervenes and directs the servants towards her Son in these words: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5). In this regard I once wrote that "the Mother of Christ presents herself as the spokeswoman of her Son's will, pointing out those things which must be done so that the salvific power of the Messiah may be manifested." For this reason Mary is the sure path to our meeting with Christ. Devotion to the Mother of the Lord when it is genuine, is always an impetus to a life guided by the spirit and values of the Gospel.

How can we fail to emphasize the role which belongs to the Virgin Mary in relation to the pilgrim Church in America journeying towards its encounter with the Lord? Indeed, the Most Blessed Virgin "is linked in a special way to the birth of the Church in the history ... of the peoples of America; through Mary they came to encounter the Lord."

Throughout the continent, from the time of the first evangelization, the presence of the Mother of God has been strongly felt, thanks to the efforts of the missionaries. In their preaching, "the Gospel was proclaimed by presenting the Virgin Mary as its highest realization. From the beginning invoked as Our Lady of Guadalupe Mary, by her motherly and merciful figure, was a great sign of the closeness of the Father and of Jesus Christ, with whom she invites us to enter into communion."

The appearance of Mary to the native Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization. Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading to the whole continent. America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting pot of peoples, has recognized in the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, "in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization." Consequently, not only in Central and South America, but in North America as well, the Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as Queen of all America.

With the passage of time, pastors and faithful alike have grown increasingly conscious of the role of the Virgin Mary in the evangelization of America. In the prayer composed for the special assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, Holy Mary of Guadalupe is invoked as "Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization." In view of this, I welcome with joy the proposal of the Synod Fathers that the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Evangelizer of America, be celebrated throughout the continent on 12 December. It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples (cf. Jn 2:11), will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church (cf. Acts 1:14), so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life.

Places of encounter with Christ

12. Trusting in the help of Mary, the Church in America desires to lead the men and women of the continent to encounter Christ. This encounter will be the starting-point of authentic conversion and of renewed communion and solidarity. Such an encounter will contribute greatly to strengthening the faith of many Catholics, helping them to mature in strong, lively and active faith.

Lest the search for Christ present in his Church become something merely abstract, we need to indicate the specific times and places in which, in the Church, it is possible to encounter him. Here the reflections of the Synod Fathers offered abundant suggestions and observations.

They pointed above all to "Sacred Scripture read in the light of Tradition, the Fathers and the Magisterium, and more deeply understood through meditation and prayer". A recommendation was made to promote knowledge of the Gospels, which proclaim in words easily understood by all the way Jesus lived among the people of his time. Reading these sacred texts and listening to Jesus as attentively as did the multitudes of the mount of the Beatitudes, or on the shore of the Lake of Tiberias as he preached from the boat, produces authentic fruits of conversion of heart. A second place of encounter with Jesus is the sacred Liturgy. Thanks to the Second Vatican Council, we have a very rich account of the manifold presence of Christ in the Liturgy, the importance of which should lead to it being a theme of constant preaching. Christ is present in the celebrant who renews at the altar the one and only Sacrifice of the Cross, he is present in the Sacraments through which he exercises his efficacious power. When his word is proclaimed, it is he himself who speaks to us. He is also present in the community, by virtue of his promise that "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20). He is present "especially under the Eucharistic species".

For the full text, see the Vatican Website: Ecclesia in America

[This source: L'Osservatore Romano, 4 (27 Jan 99)].

For more on Our Lady of Guadalupe see:

Pope John Paul II Visits Guadalupe

During his recent trip to the North American continent (Jan 22-27, 1999), Pope John Paul II visited one of the most prominent Marian shrines in the world (Jan 23), the place of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The following are excerpts of his sermon:

Beloved Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

1. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman ... " (Gal 4:4). What is the fullness of time? From the standpoint of human history, the fullness of time is a concrete fact. It is the night when the Son of God came into the world in Bethlehem, as foretold by the prophets and as we have heard in the first reading: "The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and 1oear a son, and you shall call his name Emmanuel" (Is 7:14). These words, spoken many centuries ago, were fulfilled on the night when the Son conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary entered the world.

Christ's birth was preceded by the message of the angel Gabriel. Afterwards, Mary went to the home of her cousin Elizabeth to be of service to her. We were reminded of this by the Gospel of Luke, which puts before us Elizabeth's unusual, prophetic greeting and Mary's splendid response: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour," (1:46-47). These are the events referred to in today's liturgy.

God's revelation fulfils all human longings

2. The reading from the Letter to the Galatians, for its part, reveals to us the divine dimension of this fullness of time. The words of the Apostle Paul sum up the whole theology of Jesus' birth, at the same time explaining the meaning of this fullness. It is something extraordinary: God has entered human history.God, who in himself is the unfathomable mystery of life; God, who is Father and is himself reflected from all eternity in the Son, consubstantial with him and through whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1:1,3); God, who is the unity of the Father and the Son in the flow of eternal love which is the Holy Spirit.

Despite the poverty of our words for expressing the ineffable mystery of the Trinity, the truth is that man, in his temporal condition, has been called to share in this divine life. The Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary to obtain this divine adoption for us. The Father has poured out in our hearts the Spirit of his Son, through whom we can say "Abba, Father!," (cf. Gal 4:4). Here, then, is the fullness of time which fulfils all the yearnings of history and of humanity: the revelation of God's mystery, given to human beings through the gift of divine adoption.
4. Today in this Basilica of Guadalupe, the Marian heart of America, we thank God for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops – a true Upper Room of ecclesial communion and collegial affection among all the Pastors from the north, center and south of the continent –: shared with the Bishop of Rome as a fraternal experience of encounter with the risen Lord, the way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America.

Now, one year after the celebration of that Synod Assembly, and in conjunction with the centenary of the Plenary Council of Latin America held in Rome, I have come here to place at the feet of the mestiza Virgin of Tepeyac, Star of the New World, the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, which incorporates the contributions and pastoral suggestions of that Synod, entrusting to the Mother and Queen of this continent the future of its evangelization.
Blessed are you, America, for believing, hoping and loving 6. "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lk 1:45). Elizabeth's words to Mary, who is carrying Christ in her womb, can also be applied to the Church on this continent. Blessed are you, Church in America, for you have welcomed the Good News of the Gospel and given birth in faith to numerous peoples! Blessed are you for believing, blessed are you for hoping, blessed are you for loving, because the Lord's promise will be fulfilled! The heroic missionary efforts and the wonderful evangelization of these five centuries were not in vain. Today we can say that, as a result, the Church in America is the Church of Hope. We need only look at the vigor of her many young people, the exceptional value put on the family, the blossoming of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life and, above all, the deep piety of her peoples. Let us not forget that in the next millennium, now close at hand, America will be the continent with the largest number of Catholics.
9. I wish to entrust and offer the future of the continent to Blessed Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church.

For this reason, I have the joy now of announcing that I have declared that on 12 December Our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated throughout America with the liturgical rank of feast.

O Mother! You know the paths followed by the first evangelizers of the New World, from Guanahani Island and Hispaniola to the Amazon forests and the Andean peaks, reaching to Tierra del Fuego in the south and to the Great Lakes and mountains of the north. Accompany the Church which is working in the nations of America, so that she may always preach the Gospel and renew her missionary spirit. Encourage all who devote their lives to the cause of Jesus and the spread of his kingdom. O gentle Lady of Tepeyac, Mother of Guadalupe! To you we present this countless multitude of the faithful praying to God in America. You who have penetrated their hearts, visit and comfort the homes, parishes and Dioceses of the whole continent. Grant that Christian families may exemplarily raise their children in the Church's faith and in love of the Gospel, so that they will be the seed of apostolic vocations. Turn your gaze today upon young people and encourage them to walk with Jesus Christ.

O Lady and Mother of America! Strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters, so that in all areas of social, professional, cultural and political life they may act in accord with the truth and the new law which Jesus brought to humanity. Look with mercy on the distress of those suffering from hunger, loneliness, rejection or ignorance. Make us recognize them as your favorite children and give us the fervent charity to help them in their needs.

Holy Virgin of Guadalupe, Queen of Peace! Save the nations and peoples of this continent. Teach everyone, political leaders and citizens, to live in true freedom and to act according to the requirements of justice and respect for human rights, so that peace may thus be established once and for all.

To you, O Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, belong all the love, honor, glory and endless praise of your American sons and daughters!

Mary's Role in the Evangelization of America

After holy Mass on Sunday morning, January 24, 1999, at the Hermanos Rodriguez Racetrack in Mexico City, Pope John Paul II prayed the Angelus. He gave a short discourse in Spanish which included a reflection of the role of Mary in the evangelization of America.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. At the Holy Mass we have just celebrated, I had the joy of sharing with all of you the same faith and the same love for Jesus Christ, as well as the same hope in his promises. I thank you with all my heart for coming here in such large numbers, and I again encourage you staunchly to live your Christian commitment as members of the Church which is approaching the third millennium.

2. The Post-Synodal Exhortation Ecclesia in America, presented yesterday invites this beloved continent to renew its "yes" to Jesus Christ, accepting and responding with missionary generosity to his command to proclaim the Good News to all nations (cf. Mk 13:10). Once again I place under Mary's protective gaze the evangelizing fruits of the recent Synod for America, the apostolic zeal of its local Churches and this Pastoral Visit to the beloved Mexican nation.

3. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends tomorrow; this year its theme is: "He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them" (Rv 21:3). To achieve full communion among all believers in Christ is a constant goal of the Church. which asks the Father with renewed zeal in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 to make Christ's desire that all may be one a reality (cf. Jn 17:11). Full unity among Christians, towards which encouraging steps are being made, is a gift of the Holy Spirit which must be requested with perseverance.

I was saddened to hear of the barbaric murder of Sr Maria Aloysius of the Missionaries of Charity in Sierra Leone and of the disturbing information about episodes of great violence against the Church's work in the Republic of the Congo, Brazzaville. No motive can justify such savage cruelty towards people and institutions who have dedicated themselves for years to the good of all. Let us ask the Lord to inspire in everyone sentiments worthy of the human person created in the image of God.

4. May love for the Mother of God, so characteristic of American piety, help guide your own life according to the spirit and values of the Gospel, so that you may bear witness to them in the world. Our Lady of Guadalupe, intimately associated with the birth of the Church in America, was the radiant Star which illumined the proclamation of Christ the Savior to the children of these peoples, helping the first missionaries in their evangelization. I ask her, who bore the "Good News of God" in her womb (Evangelii nuntiandi, n. 7), to help them be witnesses of Christ to others.

May Blessed Mary intercede for us and, with her motherly protection, accompany us in this inspiring commitment. [This source: L'Osservatore Romano, 4 (27 Jan 99): 5]

"Morning Star"

Bob Spoonhunter created the design of this window inspired by a beaded legging he once saw in a museum. The original design, of Arapaho origin, is recreated in the two bottom panels of this window. The central element is a morning star symbol constructed in yellow, dark blue and red against a green diamond-shaped symbol for a lake. Above and below this are modified caterpillar symbols. Set against a white background, these elements are framed by the Arapaho trail symbol.

The two center panels each contain a pair of square bear paw symbols in yellow, dark blue and red against a green mountain symbol. A caterpillar symbol separates each pair of bear paws.

The Blessed Virgin Mary has often been called the Morning Star who announces the coming of Jesus Christ. She is this Morning Star for every culture, time and place.

For more on Mary as the Morning Star, see:

Memorial: Our Lady of Lourdes

On February 11, the Catholic liturgical calendar makes it an option to celebrate a liturgy in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes. This commemorates one of the few apparitions of the Blessed Virgin that is recognized as authentic by the Church. The following are excerpts somewhat adapted from the Dictionary of Mary.

Place and Date of the Apparitions

Lourdes in 1858: a city of about 5,000 inhabitants, located along the river Pau, at the entrance of the high valleys of the Pyrenees.

– Grotto of Massabielle (from the French vieille masse, ancient mass)" to the west of the city, some yards from the river, at the foot of the rocky mass of Espelugues (from spelunca: cave).
– February 11, 1858, about three years after the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception, a 14-year-old girl of Lourdes, Bernadettte Soubirous, and two companions go looking for dead wood along the left bank of the river. The two companions cross over, leaving Bernadette temporarily stranded on the other side. She tarries there before the Grotto of Massabielle, when suddenly she is in the presence of a "Lady in white." The Lady is praying the Rosary and smiles on Bernadette.
– February 14, second apparition, in the presence of some smaller companions of Bernadette. The Lady smiles again but says nothing.
– From February 18 to March 4: the Lady appears 13 times and gives her "message."
– March 25, Feast of the Annunciation, the Lady reveals her name. She appears two more times: April 7 and July 16.
– In all, 18 apparitions.

The Message

Personal Message:

"Do me the favor of coming here for 15 days;" "I do not promise to make you happy in this life but in the next." Bernadette, in effect, is told that the apparitions will gain her no advantage or special treatment. ...

Penitential Message:
  • "Pray to God for sinners."
  • "Penitence! Penitence! Penitence!"
  • "Kiss the ground for the conversion of sinners."
  • "Drink from the spring and wash in it."
  • "Eat of the grass which is there."
Healing Message

Prayers, penitential exercises, and especially conversion of life, with a sign of this conversion: the spring discovered at the foot of the grotto, February 25. It is a reminder of the necessity of purification and also of the fountain "leaping up to provide eternal life" (Jn 4:14). But the Lady also wanted to bring help for the body. Sick people were cured from the very beginning by washing or being immersed in this water.

Ecclesial Message:

"Tell the priests that people should come here in procession and that a chapel should be built on the site." This is a summoning of the People of God for building up the Church, the material edifice being sign of the building up of "God's Temple," the spiritual edifice made of "living stones."

Revealing Message:

Signature of the message: On March 25, at the insistence of Bernadette, the Lady of Massabielle reveals her name: "I am the Immaculate Conception."

To those whom she calls to conversion the Virgin presents herself as the "highly favored of God." She is the figure of the Church. She is also Mother of the Church, who continues her motherhood in the Mystical Body of her Son.

Gospel Message:

  • "Be on guard and pray" (Mt 26:41; cf. Lk 18:1).
  • "Reform your lives! The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt 4:17).
  • "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never be thirsty" (Jn 4:14).
  • "You are 'Rock,' and on this rock I will build My Church" (Mt 16:18).
  • "I am with you always, until the end of the world" (Mt 28:20).

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