Bishop Rodriguez: The excitement of seeing the “Tilma” brings you to tears

Denver parishes celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Auxiliary Bishop of Denver Jorge Rodriguez referred to all those who have had the opportunity of visiting the Basilica of Guadalupe and passed under the “Tilma” of St. Juan Diego on the moving walkway: “I bet you had the same experience as I did: When you are standing beneath the image and you look at it, you are filled with such excitement that it brings you to tears.”

“Let’s ask ourselves why this happens,” he continued. “The excitement and urge to cry are of the same kind one feels for his own mother. They’re very strong sentiments that we don’t have for everyone.”

DENVER, CO, Dec. 10, 2017: The Parish-Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with Mass and a procession. (Photos by Janeth Chavez | Denver Catholic)

Bishop Rodriguez celebrated the Mass in honor of “La Lupita” (term of endearment for Guadalupe) on the vigil of her feast day Dec. 11, at the Parish-Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Hundreds of faithful came to pay tribute to the patroness of the Americas and awaited till midnight for this Marian feast to sing with mariachis the traditional song “Las mañanitas.”

Many arrived at the church hours in advance, awaiting the Eucharistic celebration. Despite the cold, many more chose to participate in the Mass through a projection shown in tents located outside the church.

As is the custom, on the following day the parish-shrine offered Masses at every hour – all very crowded – from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thus, the faithful celebrated devoutly the anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady to St. Juan Diego, in which her image was miraculously stamped on his cloth.

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 11: Msgr. Bernie Schmitz reads the Gospel during the Vigil Mass in celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Joseph Catholic Church on December 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

A mother in heaven

“When mom is near, the child feels safe, protected. The mother always keeps her son under her watchful eye,” said Bishop Rodriguez. “‘La Morenita’” (‘dear tanned lady,’ as many Mexicans refer to her) felt that her children needed her and made herself present in a very close, tender and beautiful way.”

And while the indigenous people were considered valueless, Mary spoke in their language. “She appeared with tanned skin, when light skin was the one regarded with high status and lineage,” recounted the bishop. “The indigenous people realized that in their insignificance, poverty and degradation, they were loved by God, just as their mother came to tell them,” he assured.

“Jesus loved his mother infinitely more than we love our own – and oh don’t we love our mothers!” said Bishop Rodriguez. “That’s the kind of relationship Jesus wants us to have with his mother.”

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 11: Vigil Mass in celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Joseph Catholic Church on December 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Meanwhile, Monsignor Bernard Schmitz, pastor at St. Joseph Church in Denver, celebrated an 11 p.m. Mass this Monday, in which he referred to the poor and simple, who like St. Juan Diego recur to the Virgin’s protection. “They are certainly the ones who live a material poverty,” he pointed out. “Others are poor in their suffering of a chronic illness or a divided family. Others live in poverty because they suffer from loneliness, many elderly people live in poverty due to a lack of company.”

Also speaking of this matter, Father Benito Hernandez, pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe, highlighted during his homily at the 5 a.m. Mass celebrated this Tuesday, Dec. 12: “We cannot feel alone because she, our ‘Morenita’ from the Tepeyac, keeps us company wherever we go; in our battles and in our daily sufferings.”

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 11: A traditional Mariachi Band plays following the Vigil Mass in celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Joseph Catholic Church on December 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic

A devotion from the homeland

Other parishes of northern Colorado also joined in celebrating the “Lupita.” Saint Michael the Archangel in Aurora had a celebration on Sunday, Dec. 10, beginning with a Rosary, a Sunday Mass followed by a serenade with mariachis to the Virgin and a reception containing a play of the apparitions by children.

“I had the opportunity to participate in something religious, as [the feast] of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said Aldo Raidi, 10, a young parishioner of St. Michael Church who played Juan de Zumarraga, the bishop who asked Juan Diego for proof of the apparitions. “If I were the bishop, I would have believed St. Juan Diego the first time he told me he had seen the Virgin,” he said.

Kelsey, another church member, played the Virgin Mary. She believes that with this play, “we can teach the children who the Virgin Mary is.

“I have heard that there is a great feast for the Virgin in Mexico and I would like to go see it one day,” the young actress added.

Many adults were moved by the performance, remembering their childhood in Mexico, where this devotion was sown. “It’s a tradition that is deeply rooted [in us] and that comes from our grandparents,” said Rafael Dominguez, a layman from St. Michael’s. “It is an honor to celebrate [Our Lady of Guadalupe] in a country that is not your own, to be able to bring these practices and play a small part in supporting our community and celebrate with her.”

DENVER, CO, Dec. 10, 2017: St. Michael Parish in Denver celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with Mass and a reception afterwards. (Photos by Janeth Chavez | Denver Catholic)

Moreover, Laticia Lujan, another faithful parishioner, shared movingly how the “Morenita” interceded for a great family need: “I have a granddaughter who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 5. I prayed for the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe and she was cured. Since then, I venerate her every single year.”

Similarly, thousands of faithful Catholics from northern Colorado gathered around the Mother of God with songs, as “La Guadalupana” and “Buenos días paloma blanca,” and said the prayer with which Father Hernandez concluded his homily: “We ask you for the strength to do the will of God in our lives and may your Holy Mantle, Virgin of Guadalupe, accompany us [and] cover us with its love, now and forever.”

COMING UP: Banned books: Pushing back against the new ideology

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How would you know if you were being brainwashed? When something plainly false — contrary to common sense and right reason — is so constantly forced on you and you are not allowed to question it, it’s a good indication. This is the nature of ideology: imposing a position without truly establishing it or allowing it to be criticized. We have seen that something clearly opposed to the basics of scientific fact, such as the nature of sex as male and female, can be forced quickly upon American society through the influence of media and public education. And, perhaps not too surprisingly, even something as clear as 2+2=4 has been called into question by progressive educators, such as Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez, turning it into a sign of alleged oppression.  

In our time, dystopian novels have become reality. George Orwell best described the use of ideology in modern political regimes through doublethink, newspeak, and thoughtcrime. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the main character, Winston Smith, is coerced to accept that 2+2=5, showing his allegiance to ideology over reality. Orwell speaks of the way ideology gains power over the mind: “The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them.” This domination does not broker any opposition: “It is intolerable . . .  that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be.” If the truth can circulate freely, then ideology will fail.  

You might ask how the acceptance of ideology differs from accepting the mystery of faith, which requires our obedience to God. A key difference is that God’s revelation makes sense even while beyond reason. God does not shut down our thinking but wants us to ask questions and continue to come to know him and his creation throughout our lives. Faith cannot contradict reason because they both come from God, from his gifts of revelation and creation. You know you are facing ideology, however, when it refuses any discussion of contrary views. Catholics have been accused of hate for refusing to go along with the new ideology of human sexuality. This ideology claims to speak truly of the reality of human life, although it doesn’t add up, contradicting itself and the clear facts of science. The fight for the future focuses on speaking the truth. Without the ability to think, discuss, and read freely, it will be hard to respond to the ideological wave overwhelming us. 

Throughout the country, however, great books and humanities programs are being shut down for their emphasis on the Western tradition. Cornell West, an African American philosopher at Harvard, writing with Jeremy Tate, speaks of the spiritual tragedy of one American university closing down its classics department: “Yet today, one of America’s greatest Black institutions, Howard University, is diminishing the light of wisdom and truth that inspired [Frederick] Douglass, [Martin Luther] King and countless other freedom fighters. . . . Academia’s continual campaign to disregard or neglect the classics is a sign of spiritual decay, moral decline and a deep intellectual narrowness running amok in American culture.” For West and Tate, cancelling the Western canon shuts down the central conversation of the pursuit of wisdom that touches every culture.  

Canceling the pursuit of wisdom hits at the integrity of our culture itself, as Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, another dystopian novel, focused on saving books from the fire set on wiping them out, explains: “If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none.” Books proved hostile in this all-too-real futuristic American society portrayed by Bradbury, undermining the state of contended distraction provided by an omnipresent virtual reality. The fight for truth necessarily entails the books we read and teach.  

In our current cancel culture, Catholics too are being silenced for speaking about reality. Amazon recently cancelled Ryan T. Anderson, who studied at Princeton and Notre Dame and now directs the Ethics and Public Policy Center, blocking the sale of its book on its platform for questioning transgender ideology. The book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement (Encounter Books, 2018), provides a well-researched and thought-out response to the movement overturning common sense and millennia of acquired wisdom. Even more than that, Anderson shows how we are experimenting on our children, subjecting them to practices of hormone therapy and surgery that have not been proven safe or effective. Anderson provides evidence of ideology at work, through its coercive attempt to force us to accept what contradicts clear scientific evidence: “At the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person — in particular, that people are what they claim to be regardless of contrary evidence” (29).  

Anderson does not deny the need to help those who suffer from gender dysphoria, although the heart of the books focuses on whether or not we are willing to accept reality and to help others to do so. As Anderson explains, “determining reality is the heart of the matter, and here too we find contradictions … Is our gender biologically determined and immutable or self-created and changeable? … At the core of the ideology is the radical claim that feelings determine reality. From this idea come extreme demands for society to play along with subjective reality claims. Trans ideologues ignore contrary evidence and competing interests; they disparage alternative practices; and they aim to muffle skeptical voices and shut down disagreement. The movement has to keep patching and shoring up its beliefs, policing the faithful, coercing the heretics and punishing apostates, because as soon as its furious efforts flag for a moment or someone successfully stands up to it, the whole charade is exposed. That’s what happens when your dogmas are so contrary to obvious, basic, everyday truths” (47-48). Not only philosophers like Anderson, but many educators, doctors, scientists, and politicians have been cancelled for standing up to the blatant falsehoods of this ideology. 

Does 2+2=5? Is a man a man and a woman a woman? No matter the effect of hormones and surgeries, every cell in the body points to the biological reality of sex, along with a myriad of other physical and emotional traits. Shutting down study and debate does not get to the heart of the matter, the truth of reality and the way to help those who suffer. The ideology does not truly focus on tolerance of others or creating reasonable accommodations, as it seeks to impose itself and coerce us. The reinterpretation of Title IX manifests an “Orwellian fiat” by which sex discrimination, meant to protect women, now becomes a means to discriminate against them: “The Women’s Liberation Front highlights the strange transformation of Title IX into a means to deny privacy, safety, education opportunity, and equality to women” (190). Anderson’s book provides an essential overview of the goals of the transgender movement and how to respond to it from a philosophical and scientific perspective. We should not allow the book to be cancelled! 

The goal of this new ideology is not simply to accept and tolerate a particular position, but, as Orwell recognized, to change us. It constitutes an attempt to redefine what it means to be a human being and to change the way we think about reality. Anything standing in the way will be cancelled or even burned. The quick success of this movement, and other ideologies as well, should make us pause. Do we want our children to think freely and wisely or simply to conform to what is imposed on them without question?  

As Catholics, we are called to think in conformity with faith and reason, upholding the truth, even when inconvenient. We are called to continue to form our own minds and accept the reality of how God made us and how he calls us into relationship with him, as the true source of overcoming suffering and difficulty. If you are uninformed and unable to judge rightly and logically, you are more likely to become prey to the new ideology, especially as enforced by government control and big business. We need Catholic freedom fighters, those willing, with charity, to stop the burning of the great ideas and the cancelling of our own faith.  


Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash