My Dear Parishioners,
Do you ever feel like you’re not completely satisfied with the way your life is going? Do you feel like you’re doing what you can, you’re striving but something is just missing? The reality is that there is a burning desire in your heart and in mine. It is a “holy longing” for deep meaning, connection, belonging, purpose and joy. At its core, this holy longing is a profound desire to be our best and truest selves and for communion with one another and the loving God who created us. It’s how we’re made. As St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Bishop Checchio has called our diocese to embark on a "Year of Awakening" called Lighting Hearts on Fire, where we will prepare to entrust ourselves to the motherly protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and Star of the New Evangelization. This period of intentional prayer and discernment is meant to stir the holy longing within each one of us and prepare our hearts to receive the guidance and supernatural graces God wants to provide us, so that we may more boldly and joyfully follow where He is leading.
When we allow ourselves to be still and quiet, vulnerable and honest, we come to the unsettling realization that we don't have it all together. We're weak, we're broken, maybe even desperate and we're just not making it with the tools we're using. In those sober, quiet moments we realize there is trouble within and all around us and no matter how much we try, the things of this world will never be the answer. Sadly, we've all experienced some form of brokenness in our families, in friendships, in our communities and in our own Church. Our world is plagued by vanity and selfishness, loneliness and depression, abuse and violence, discord and distress, suffering, sin and death.
God sent his only beloved Son into the mess of humanity to show us how to love and have true communion with the Father and with one another. "I came that they might have life, and have it to the full!" (Jn 10:10). Through His passion, death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death and opened the gates to eternal life! He truly is "The Way, the Truth and the Life." But do we really believe that? Are we in touch with the fact that we desperately need saving and do we surrender every part of our lives to Him and accept His saving grace? These are important questions for us to ponder.
Nearly five hundred years ago, one of the most significant and far reaching miracles in history took place. The area now known as Mexico City was in dire need of the Good News of the Gospel. In this region, engulfed in violent conflict and the darkness of sin, the Spanish missionaries had all but given up hope. They planned to leave the country in defeat. But the local bishop wasn't giving up just yet. He prayed earnestly for divine intervention and his prayers were soon answered. A vision of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, appeared on a hill outside Mexico City to a humble native, Juan Diego. She asked him to build a church where her Son would be honored and her radiant image appeared on his cloak as a miraculous sign of their encounter. Her appearance unleashed a grass roots wave of evangelization, the likes of which had never been seen before. In the span of 10 years, virtually the entire population of Mexico (nine million) were converted to Christianity! To this day the sacred depiction of Mary on Diego's cloak is on full display in the Cathedral of Mexico City defying the laws of science, as it should have disintegrated long ago.
Our world is becoming increasingly indifferent toward God and is rebelling against Him in so many ways. Here in our diocese, only 15% of the baptized are engaged in and regularly practicing the Faith. And we who practice the Faith are no less consumed by the troubles and temptations of this world. It's not just "those people" far outside of our experience. When we examine our own hearts, we inevitably see the various ways we say no to God all too often. We are all in great need of a true miracle. "The time is ripe for renewal," said Bishop Checchio in his homily on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe to begin this year of awakening. "We will intentionally seek to be more available to God, to pray more fervently for the graces of conversion of heart and for a deeper friendship with Christ." Our bishop is seeking a renewed zeal for living the Gospel fully and an enthusiastic willingness to bringing the light of Christ into every dark corner of our lives and the world around us. Throughout history, wherever the Church has prayerfully and intentionally sought the aid of Our Lady, communities have flourished and the Gospel has come alive.
Today, our world is in desperate need Our Lady of Guadalupe's intervention. Times are dark and the faith of so many has been weakened or lost, putting many souls in jeopardy. Who can help us get back on track and spread the Gospel message anew if not the one who came at the inception of Christianity in the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe?
Being consecrated means to be set apart for holy transformation. Consecrating our diocese to Our Lady of Guadalupe means we are placing our trust in Mary to help us know the love of her Son and find the humility and courage within us to turn our lives over and "Come and follow" wherever He leads. Mary's 'Yes' to accepting God's will is our model.
Through our baptism, each one of us was consecrated, set apart by God and empowered with supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit to bring the love of Jesus to every place we go and every person we encounter. Our consecration through Our Lady of Guadalupe is a sacred opportunity to recommit to our baptismal promises, grow in friendship with Jesus and be emboldened to live as disciples setting our sights on eternal life in heaven.
We all have the tendency to go right into action mode and produce and accomplish and get things done with the sheer force of our will. Jesus himself calls us into action. But He first calls us to humbly submit to prayer and receptivity. No lasting and meaningful change ever happens without prayer. Dedication to prayer is an admission that we don't know the way and we don't have the strength to make it on our own. Consistent prayer is an act of surrender and an acknowledgment that we depend on God for absolutely everything.
I want to encourage you to begin and end each day with sincere prayer to God, whether you feel like it or not – especially if you're not feeling like it. Don't be shy about talking to God like you would a trusted friend and invite Him into every aspect of your life. Share with Him your hopes and disappointments, your successes and your struggles, your joy and your pain. Be sure to frequent the sacraments: reception of the Eucharist at Mass, regular confession and spending time with Jesus in adoration. Our God is not a far off God. He desires to intimately participate in each of our lives. We just need to let Him in. Like the apostles who spent three years with Christ before they were sent off with the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News to all nations, we too must first spend as much time as we can with Jesus.
In the coming weeks and months, there will be opportunities in our parish and our diocese to enter more deeply into preparation to embrace the Consecration to Jesus through Our Lady of Guadalupe, which will take place on December 12. Upcoming parish and diocesan events, including a Marian lecture series and holy hours, will be announced in the bulletin and on our parish website.
Beginning now, here are some things to prayerfully consider:
This is an exciting time in our diocese. As Bishop Checchio says, "The work of evangelization begins with a transformed heart." Let us turn our hearts over to Jesus through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe and prepare them to be set on fire. As disciples of Christ with hearts set ablaze, we can truly change the world!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!
God bless you,