Mary’s beauty and goodness lead us to the Truth

“I greatly desire that a church be built in my honor, in which I will show my love, compassion and protection. I am your mother, full of mercy and love for you and all those who love me, trust in me, and have recourse to me,” Our Lady of Guadalupe told St. Juan Diego when she first appeared to him.

The miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe visiting Juan Diego is not just that she left an image on his cloak, known as a tilma, which has yet to show signs of decay; it is also that she claimed him and all people as her children.

“Juanito, my son, where are you going?” Mary said to Juan Diego the very first time he met her.

Mary, drawn by her motherly love for a humble Aztec farm- er and all people, reached out to him to change the history of Mexico and to bring millions to her son. Our Lady of Guada- lupe calls each of our names today, seeking to lead us to Jesus because she is our mother.

This past week I had the privilege of leading 160 people on the archdiocese’s Year of Faith pilgrimage to the place where the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego in 1531.

The trip was a grace-filled experience.

One particular insight that I want to share with you is that when God put the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan Diego’s tilma, he left us a sign of both his and Mary’s ongoing, present love for us.

The miracle continues to occur today, because 482 years after Mary’s image first appeared as Juan Diego unfurled his cloak to show Bishop Zumárraga the Castilian roses from the Virgin, the image has not decayed with time.

This demonstrates Mary’s ongoing love for us, and since this could not take place without the consent of the Holy Trinity, it also shows God’s love for us.

The moment when I first stood in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1996 is an encounter I will never forget. As I stood there and gazed at the image, I was struck with awe and wonder at the realization of Mary’s real presence in both my life, and in the life of the Church. I experienced her love for me in a personal and tender way.

The pilgrimage to Mexico was our archdiocesan pilgrim- age for the Year of Faith, and there is a profound connection between Our Lady and faith. Without her faith in God and her “yes” to being the mother of Jesus, our salvation would not have been possible.

When Benedict XVI launched the Year of Faith in Oc- tober 2012, he described it as “a moment of grace” and a time to commit to “a more complete conversion to God, to strengthen our faith in him and proclaim him with joy to the people of our time.”

The Year of Faith will soon be over, and that presents all of us with a challenge: to not let this year end without having grown deeper in your faith, and then, with renewed faith to evangelize as Christ commanded us, especially in the public square.

The pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe was an occasion for deeper growth in faith, an experience of Mary’s maternal care for us all, and a reminder of the powerful story of her intervention in history that led to the conversion of 9 million Aztecs in nine years.

But even if you were not able to make the pilgrimage, you can still look to Our Lady of Guadalupe as a model for sharing your faith with joy and confidence in God.

The way that Our Lady of Guadalupe introduced herself to Juan Diego and the miraculous image she left for the world shows us how she brought Jesus to the violent society of the Aztecs: first with beauty, then with goodness, and finally with the truth.

COMING UP: Collegiality and eucharistic integrity

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The concept of the “collegiality” of bishops has been sharply contested since the Second Vatican Council debated it in 1962, 1963, and 1964. That discussion was sufficiently contentious that a personal intervention from Pope Paul VI was required to incorporate the concept of episcopal collegiality within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in such a way that the pope’s primacy and universal jurisdiction were safeguarded. The debate about collegiality has continued ever since. Now, however, it’s focused more on what kind of collegiality exists within national conferences of bishops. Is it an “affective collegiality” of mutual support and encouragement? Or is episcopal collegiality within bishops’ conferences “effective,” such that a conference has real teaching and legislative authority?  

Whether collegiality is “affective,” “effective,” or some combination of the two, it ought to be clear what truly “collegial” behavior isn’t.   

It isn’t individual bishops attempting end-runs around their national conference, appealing for Roman interventions that would forestall debates that their brother bishops wish to engage. It isn’t bishops trying to browbeat the conference chairman into changing an agenda to suit the tastes of a distinct minority — and misleading their brother bishops as to what they’re about when soliciting support for such a gambit. And it isn’t trying to filibuster a conference meeting so that no action is possible on an agenda item that the great majority of bishops wish to consider and act upon. 

If any of those three maneuvers qualifies as collegial, then “collegiality” has no more meaning than the claim that my poor Baltimore Orioles have a great starting rotation. 

For years now — and by “years,” I mean long before the idea of a “President Biden” entered the stream of national consciousness — the bishops of the United States have been concerned that ours is becoming less of a eucharistic Church than Vatican II called us to be when it taught that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life. Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed that conciliar summons when, in his final encyclical, he taught that “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist,” which “recapitulates the heart and mystery of the Church.” Yet all around us we see declining Sunday Mass attendance: a sadness that preceded the pandemic but has been further exacerbated by it.  Moreover, surveys suggest that too many Catholics think of Sunday Mass as essentially a social occasion, rather than an encounter with the living God in which Christ is offered to the Father and is given back to his people in holy communion — a communion in and through the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, received under the forms of bread and wine.

If the Church lives from the Eucharist and yet the people of the Church don’t participate in the Eucharist as often as they should, or don’t understand what they’re celebrating and receiving when they do, then the Church suffers from a serious eucharistic deficit. Those ordained to leadership in the Church are obliged to do something about that. 

That is why the U.S. bishops have been determined for some time to undertake a comprehensive program of eucharistic education throughout the Church. For the great majority of bishops, that determination has been intensified by the fact that our eucharistic deficit is being compounded by the eucharistic incoherence of public officials who, rejecting authoritative Catholic teaching based on both revelation and reason, nonetheless present themselves for holy communion as if they were in full communion with the Church. The longstanding episcopal failure to address this incoherence exacerbates the eucharistic deficit in American Catholicism by implying that the Church really doesn’t mean what it teaches about the sacred nature of the Eucharist. 

Those suggesting that this is all about “politics” are either ill-informed or deliberately misleading the Church and the gullible parts of the media. Concern for the eucharistic integrity of the Church includes, but goes much deeper than, concerns about the eucharistic incoherence of Catholic public officials who act as if the Church’s settled convictions on the life issues and on worthiness to receive holy communion don’t exist. That is why the U.S. bishops are forging ahead with developing a teaching document that will clarify for the whole Church why we are a Eucharistic community, what the Eucharist truly is, what reception of the Eucharist means, and why everyone in the Church should examine conscience before receiving Christ in the sacrament. 

The wheels of collegiality may grind slowly. In this case, however, they are grinding truly, and for the sake of the Gospel.

George Weigel is an independent columnist whose weekly column is syndicated by the Archdiocese of Denver. The opinions and viewpoints expressed by Mr. Weigel therein are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Archdiocese of Denver or the bishops of Denver.