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

Denver parishes celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Avatar

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: A man for strengthening others

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

When the choirs of angels led Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, into the Father’s House on September 3, I hope the seraphic choirmaster chose music appropriate to the occasion.  Had I been asked, I would have suggested the Latin antiphon Ecce sacerdos magnus as arranged by Anton Bruckner. The all-stops-pulled moments in Bruckner’s composition, deploying organ, brass, and full choir, would have been a perfect match for Paul Mankowski’s rock-solid Catholic faith, his heroic ministry, and his robust literary and oratorical style; the a capella sections, softly sung, mirror the gentleness with which he healed souls. Above all, I would have suggested Bruckner’s motet because Father Mankowski truly was what the antiphon celebrates: “a great priest who in his days pleased  God.”

We were friends for some 30 years and I can say without reservation that I have never met anyone like Paul Mankowski. He was off-the-charts brilliant, an extraordinary linguist and scholar; but he wore his learning lightly and was a tremendous wit. He rarely expressed doubts about anything; but he displayed a great sensitivity to the doubts and confusions of those who had the humility to confess that they were at sea. He could be as fierce as Jeremiah in denouncing injustice and dishonesty; but the compassion he displayed to spiritually wounded fellow-priests and laity, who sought healing through the work of grace at his hands, was just as notable a feature of his personality.

His curriculum vitae was singular. The son of working-class parents, he put himself through the University of Chicago working summers in a steel mill. He did advanced degrees at Oxford and Harvard, becoming the sparring partner of a future Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, at the former, and delving deeply into the mysteries of Semitic philology – unfathomable, to most of his friends – at the latter. He taught at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and was pastor of an English-speaking parish in Amman, Jordan. Wherever he was, he lived like a true ascetic; he was also the best company imaginable at a meal or a party.

He was a writer of genius, although his published bibliography is considerably slimmer than it might have been, thanks to the years when he was silenced or censored by his religious superiors. A good example of his ability to combine keen insight and droll humor is his 1992 dissection of the goings-on at the annual convention of the American Academy of Religion (available here). More recently, Father Mankowski drew on his extensive experience as a confessor and spiritual director to pen, with his superiors’ permission, a respectful but sharp critique of his fellow Jesuit James Martin’s book, Building a Bridge (available here). In the decades between those two pieces, and when permitted to do so, he published essays and reviews on a wide range of topics, including literature, politics, Church affairs, biblical translations and the priesthood, while sharing his private musings with friends in a seemingly endless series of pungent parodies, revised song lyrics, and imagined news stories.

Years ago, his friend Father Richard John Neuhaus dubbed Father Mankowski one of the “Papal Bulls:” Jesuits of a certain generation notable for their intellectually sophisticated and unwavering Catholic orthodoxy, which often got them into hot water of various temperatures (including boiling) with their Ignatian brothers and superiors. Paul Mankowski was no bull, papal or otherwise, in a china shop, though. He relished debate and was courteous in it; what he found off-putting was the unwillingness of Catholic progressives to fight their corner with a frank delineation of their position. This struck him as a form of hypocrisy. And while Father Mankowski, the good shepherd, often brought strays back to the Lord’s flock, he was unsparingly candid about what he perceived as intellectual dishonesty, or what he recently deplored as “ignoble timidity” in facing clerical corruption. Paul Mankowski was not a man of the subjunctive, and he paid the price for it.

He is beyond all that now, and I like to imagine St. Ignatius of Loyola welcoming him to the Father’s House with a hearty “Well done, my son.” In this valley of tears, freshly moistened by those who mourn his untimely death at age 66, Father Paul V. Mankowski, SJ, will be remembered by those of us who loved him as a man and a priest who, remaining faithful to his Jesuit and sacerdotal vocations, became a tower of strength for others. This was a man of God. This was a man, whose courageous manliness reflected his godliness.