VATICAN CITY — During this “bitter time” of war, hunger, injustice and poverty, Our Lady of Guadalupe invites everyone to open their lives to her son, Jesus, and to learn to love others like He does, Pope Francis said.
“The Lord, through the Virgin Mother, continues to give us His son, who calls us to fraternity, to set aside selfishness, indifference and enmity, inviting us to get involved with each other ‘without delay,’ to go out to meet our brothers and sisters who have been forgotten and discarded by our consumerist and indifferent societies,” he said.
Today, just like five centuries ago when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego, she “came to accompany the American people on this hard road of poverty, exploitation, socioeconomic and cultural colonialism,” the pope said in his homily during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“She is in the midst of the caravans that walk northward in search of freedom and well-being. She is in the midst of the American people, whose identity is threatened by a savage and exploitative paganism, wounded by the active preaching of a practical and pragmatic atheism,” the pope said, in handwritten remarks that were not part of his previously prepared text.
In his homily, the pope reflected on the Gospel reading from St. Luke, which recalled Mary going “in haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive the Son of God through the Holy Spirit, and that Elizabeth was also with child.
“In Jesus, born of Mary, the eternal one becomes forever and irreversibly ‘God-with-us,’ and walks beside us as brother and companion,” the pope said in his homily.
“Our God guides human history at every moment; nothing remains outside His power, which is tenderness and providential love,” he said, and “He never stops watching over our world — needy and wounded — eager to assist it with His compassion and mercy.”
God sent Mary as messenger “nearly five centuries ago, at a complicated and difficult time for the inhabitants of the new world,” Pope Francis said.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe came to the blessed lands of America, presenting herself as the ‘mother of the true God for whom we live’ to console and attend to the needs of the little ones, without excluding anyone, to embrace them as a caring mother with her presence, love and consolation,” he said.
Our Lady “wants to meet us, too, as she one day met Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac,” Mexico, and “she begs us to allow her to be our mother, to open our lives to her son Jesus and to welcome His message so as to learn to love like Him,” the pope said.
Solidarity with immigrants
WASHINGTON — On the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the U.S. bishops’ migration chairman reaffirmed the Church’s solidarity with immigrants, “each one of them a brother or sister to us all. When we speak about the issue of immigration, we are fundamentally addressing the movement of people — human persons created in the image and likeness of God,” said Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration.
“Unfortunately, this truth is often obscured by political rhetoric, fearmongering and hyperbole. Our Lady of Guadalupe points us toward a better way, one that ultimately leads to reconciliation,” he said in a statement issued late Dec. 12.
“The bishops of the United States continue to affirm the natural right to migrate, balanced with the sovereign right of countries to uphold their borders, as well as their obligations to provide humane processes for newcomers,” Bishop Seitz added. “Let us meet this moment not with policies of exclusion and indifference but with a spirit of compassion and generosity.”
Peace in Ukraine is possible with God, pope says
Pope Francis prayed for Ukraine on the feast of the Immaculate Conception
By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked Catholics around the world to join him in entrusting to Mary “the universal desire for peace, especially for the martyred Ukraine, which is suffering so much.”
Reciting the Angelus prayer at midday Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis noted the Angel Gabriel’s words to Mary that “nothing will be impossible for God.”
“With God’s help, peace is possible; disarmament is possible,” the pope told people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “But God wants our goodwill. May Our Lady help us to convert to God’s plans.”
The pope also invited people to join him late in the afternoon at the Spanish Steps in the center of Rome, where he planned to pay homage to Mary at a statue of the Immaculate Conception after visiting the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the cancellation of the public ceremony at the Spanish Steps in 2020 and 2021.
In his Angelus talk at noon, Pope Francis said that while Catholics talk a lot about original sin, they often overlook the “original grace” of baptism, when “God came into our lives and we became His beloved children forever.”
The feast of the Immaculate Conception, which celebrates Mary having been conceived without original sin, is a good time to remember that “we sinners, too, have received an initial gift that has filled our life, a good greater than anything, an original grace, of which often, however, we are unaware.”
“We who struggle to choose what is good, we can entrust ourselves to her,” the pope said. “Entrusting ourselves, consecrating ourselves to Mary, we say to her: ‘Take me by the hand, lead me: with you I will have more strength in the battle against evil, with you I will rediscover my original beauty.’”
Ukraine was still on the pope’s mind four hours later when he went to the Spanish Steps in the middle of Rome’s major shopping district, where he was joined by thousands of tourists and Romans enjoying the feast day public holiday.
Instead of making a speech at the foot of the Marian statue, Pope Francis always recites a prayer he has written for the occasion, summarizing the prayers and needs of the city and its residents, especially those who, like him, leave flowers.
The pope asked Mary also to “see and welcome those invisible flowers” representing “so many invocations, so many silent supplications, sometimes stifled, hidden but not from you, who are mother.”
But the pope started crying and had to pause for a moment after he prayed, “Immaculate Virgin, today I would have liked to bring you the thanksgiving of the Ukrainian people for the peace we have long asked the Lord for.”