Wild New yea's Eve parties act out the chaos that preceded the order of God's creation.

Wednesday, 1/1/214

When I was young the Catholic name for New Year’s Day was the “Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord.” With teachers having trouble explaining that to little girls, the Church switched to calling New years Day “The Octave Day of the Nativity.” But, then, the Church gave up on celebrating octaves.

That had them settling on calling it “The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.” Seeing that we have a Gospel in which Mary reflects on everything in her heart, naming the feast for her motherhood seems like a good idea. However, as Catholics we have always been proud of the deep roots of our liturgies, so we don’t like our feasts taking on new names.

We should notice that New years is celebrated by all nations and peoples. It might not hurt us to be in step with the rest of the world. Now, what all other people celebrate at New Years is the creation of the word. Why shouldn’t we too celebrate that?

But when those other people celebrate creation, they don’t commemorate the powers of heaven’s making everything out of empty space. Rather, they believe that there was always chaos there, and creation consisted in heaven bringing order out of the original chaos. That might sound foreign to us, but actually our Bible starts in the same way. The opening line of Genesis is  “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth the earth was a formless wasteland.” The original Hebrew for “formless wasteland” was tohu-bohu which sounds like clothes being flung around in a dryer.

An odd thing about the New Years celebration for all primitive peoples is that it consists in acting out their own creation myths. All those people believe that heaven showered the world with blessings on the day of creation. Their myths follow that up with the story of how the first people did something awful, which is their version of  eating the forbidden fruit. That caused the gods to run away, wanting to have nothing more to do with sinful peoples.

Primitive peoples act out their creation myths to make the gods think they are back at the beginning when people were innocent. They try to trick the gods into coming back, to once again shower the world with blessings.

Our wild New Year’s Eve parties are a holdover from the legends that saw the world in chaos up to the moment the gods brought order to the world.

In a spirit of Auld Lang Syne lets pray for great friends long gone.

Tuesday, 12/31/13

St. John opened today’s reading by saying, “children, it is the last hour.” We have come to the last hours of 2013, and that puts us in a nostalgic mood.

After Mass yesterday John Lippincott took me to a different restaurant, and the ride bought us past many homes to which through the years I had brought Holy Communion on First Fridays. Coming back to me with those homes were the faces and conversations of many dear Catholics.

Their return, brought with them faces and stories from other people I saw on First Fridays through sixty-one years as a priest.  I regularly visited people in Pumburi and Sapchunni in Korea. And there were people along the St. John’s in Crescent City. There was a nice old Fernandina couple called the Saylors. They always complained about the tasteless diet their children forced on them.

Those folks are all gone, but what lives on is the good they did for the many people they touched in their lifetimes. So, lest those old acquaintances be forgot, we’ll lift our prayer in memory of them on this last day of the year.

Even though St. John wrote against all the evil in the world, we must remember that everything God created is good.

Monday, 12/30/13

In the first reading John said, “Do not love the world, or the things of the world. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement of the eyes, and a pretentious life is not from the Father.”

We must not carry thoughts of the world's evil too far. Of course it would be wrong to live just for pleasure, wealth, and beating out others; but people of this world are not bad through and through. Even people who seem to lead bitter, mean lives still have some good in them. Our job is to blow on the ember of their goodness to get it to flame again.

Back in the year 400 there was a British priest, Father Pelagius, who preached to great crowds, telling them that they had it in them to become saints. He was very like Norman Vincent Peale, a Twentieth Century Presbyterian preacher who sold millions of copies of his book that he called “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

St. Augustine spoke out against Father Pelagius, saying that even St. Paul felt helpless when confronted with his own evil tendencies. In Romans 7:19 he said, “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I d not want.”

While we go along with St. Augustine and St. Paul in recognizing our strong evil tendencies, we must also remember that we are God’s children, made in his image and likeness.

At Vatican II there was a division between the German bishops and the French bishops. While the French bishops gave us upbeat documents like the one on freedom of religion, the German bishops were more concerned with combating the evils in a secular world. Our last two Popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, sided  with the Germans who saw us at war with a secular society. Our present Holy Father seems to be more open to the good in men.

Jesus asked us to treat everyone like family.

Sunday, 12/29/13

A picture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus together in the stable turns our thoughts to family life. We call this day the Feast of the Holy Family, but on this day, going beyond Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we thank God for what wonderful things our families can be.

The First Reading from the Book of Sirach supplies us with a grand list of benefits that come to those who are good family persons. They atone for their sins, and are helped at avoiding sins. When they pray they are heard. They store up riches in heaven. They, in their turn, will be gladdened by others. They will live long lives.

Those rewards are particularly meant for young people. But what family life can old people have? Well, instead of grieving over being neglected, they must get out of their selves. They must restore family cheer to others who are alone.

Once when someone standing nearby told Jesus that members of his family were waiting to see him, Jesus told them that his family was very large. He said it included all men and women, old and young, who attempt to live according to God’s law.

Look around you. All the people you see are God’s children. He loves this one, that one, and that one too. He appreciates it no end when you become a brother or sister to any  lonely ones who are his children.

This story is told to make us protectors of today's innocent children.

Saturday, 12/28/13

In Chapter Two of his Gospel Luke described how when the child Jesus was forty days old Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple where he was recognized by Simeon and Anna. Luke followed that by relating, “When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.”

If it happened that way it could not have happened the way Matthew described it. He told us that the Holy Family remained in Bethlehem for up to two years before they went down to Egypt, staying there for years, then going to settle in Nazareth for the first time.

This is a hard, but necessary, thing for people to grasp: the incidents related in Bible stories are often not factual. Though not factual, they are true in that they convey true concepts. When Matthew and Luke sat down to write their Gospels they settled on the stories going around that backed up the message they were writing their gospels to teach.

The story of the massacre of the babies in Bethlehem cannot be fitted into Luke’s Gospel;  and, there is a good chance it never happened. The Jewish historian for those years, a man named Josephus, didn’t approve of Herod, and he wrote about all the heartless things King Herod did; but he makes no mention of such a massacre.

The story of the slaughtering of the Innocents is there to turn our attention and pity to such children as those who are victims to AIDs, Cholera, and starvation. That is what this feast is meant for. It should make us protectors of today’s innocent ones.

When Peter and John are paired in Gospel stories Peter symbolize authority while John symbolizes love for God.

Friday, 12/27/13

Today, in honoring St. John, the Beloved Disciple, we should note the passages where he is contrasted with St. Peter. First, at the Last Supper, when John was lying against Jesus, Peter instructed him to find out from Jesus who his betrayer would be.

They are contrasted again in today’s Gospel as they ran together to the tomb of Jesus. John ran faster than Peter, but then he waited to let Peter go in first.

Next we see them together when they breakfasted with Jesus by the Lake of Tiberius. Jesus takes Peter aside to give him charge over his sheep. Then, when Peter asked what John’s role would be, Jesus answered, “What if I wish him to remain until I come?”

In each of those instances John recognized Peter’s authority, while Peter recognized John’s deep relationship with Jesus.

The lesson for us there is that we must have respect for the authority of Church leaders, while they must have respect for good peoples' possibly closer relationship with the Lord.

Saul watched the coats of the young men who stoned St. Stephen.

Thursday, 12/26/13

On the Feast of St. Stephen I like saying a word for the men who stoned him. Sure, they did a terrible thing, but their religious convictions made them feel they were right.

St. Luke, in his “Act of the Apostles” identified Stephen’s killers as “members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen.” He went on to say they were Cyprians, Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia.

Here is how they came to be together, far from their homes. Rome had a way of  preventing rebellion from the Jews scattered around its Mediterranean’s ports. She rounded up five young Jews from each place, confining them as hostage in Rome for five years, so that the threat of executing those boys kept the people at home from rebelling.

The boys chosen as hostages often were not very religious to begin with, but after being confined for their beliefs, they began taking those beliefs seriously, with many of them becoming so religious that when their five years were up, instead of returning to their home ports, they settled in Jerusalem to take part in the temple worship. There they formed their own “Synagogue of the Roman Freedmen.”

They had come to believe that being religious meant observing kosher, so they were angered by Stephen’s telling people that observing kosher wasn’t important.

One thing that inclines us to be understanding of their motives is that there was a young man watching over the coats they took off to throw better. That young man who was encouraging them was Saul, the future St. Paul.

The case of Saul and those young men should warn us against hating people for views they cling to in all honesty.

It is not enough for us to put Christ back in Christmas, we must also put the Mass back in Christmas.

Wednesday, 12/25/13

Good people are always campaigning to put Christ back in Christmas. Let’s go one further. Let’s put the Mass- part-of-it back into our Christmas.

Back before there was any Santa Claus. Even back before the birth of Santa’s prototype of St. Nicolas; people celebrated the birthday of Jesus with a special Mass. The Mass was so central to the celebration that it was called Christ’s-Mass-Day, later shortened to Christmas Day.

I have been offering Mass almost every day for sixty-one years, so let me say something about the Mass part of my Christmas. First of all, I see it rooted in the Last Supper.

As the host at the Last Supper Jesus offered up the blessing on behalf of everyone at table with him. In using his own words that night, he asked everyone to join him in recalling all God’s blessings. Next, he asked them to join him in calling down God’s Spirit to bring them together.

Then, came the most important part of the table blessing. He told the assembled Apostles that he was making a Pleasing Gift of himself to the Father, and he asked them to become part of the Pleasing Gift with him.

In our First Century accounts of the Mass it was the people’s joining Jesus as part of the Pleasing Gift that made the Mass a sacrifice for them.

Of course, we all know that their Greek word for the Pleasing Gift was the Eucharist. We put the Mass back in Christmas by offering up our hearts as part of Christ’s Pleasing Gift of himself.  

This is the night when God will come through on his promise, sending us a king whose house and kingdom will endure forever.

Tuesday, 12/24/13

The first reading tells how King David, after establishing his throne, and building his palace, set his mind on building a fitting temple for the Lord. The Prophet Nathan, on being told of the king’s intent, told him that God would be pleased with any temple David would build.

However, that night God let Nathan know that he did not want or need David to build him a temple. (He was reserving that task for David’s son, Solomon.)

But God, not wanting David to feel pushed aside, made a great promises to him. He said the following.

“Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me, your throne shall stand firm forever.”

Over the following centuries the people of Jerusalem came to feel that no matter how badly they behaved, God would always keep his promise to keep their temple from falling. In Jeremiah’s time, three centuries later, the people had given up praying in the temple. They had come to see their temple as a good luck charm. In passing it, they always knocked on the wall, repeating the words, “The temple of the Lord.  The temple of the Lord. The temple of the Lord!”

Toward the end of Jeremiah’s time, the Babylonian army invaded Jerusalem, reducing the temple to gravel. The people then complained against God, saying he had failed in the promise he made when he said, “Your house and your kingdom would endure forever.”

Why bring this matter up now? Well, this is the night when God would come through on his promise. Tonight he is sending us a child king whose house and kingdom will endure forever.”  

Like John the Baptist, we must prepare the way of the Lord.

Monday, 12/23/13

Everywhere we hear people asking, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

We hear such answers as: “Almost, I still need to thaw out that turkey,” or, “No, I still need to fight the crowds for last minute shopping,” or, “We have the car gassed up. We are driving to Alabama for Christmas.”

In these closing days of Advent, the Church puts the example of John the Baptist before us. His whole life was summed up in the expression, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

By all his preaching, but much more by his life, he prepared for the coming of the Lord.

The Bible repeatedly compared John to Elijah. Both dressed in animal skins. Elijah lived off what the birds brought him, while John lived on locusts and wild honey.

John was happy when his disciples complained of the growing popularity of Jesus. He said, “He must increase, while I must decrease.”

We must get ready for Christmas by shrinking our egos down to where we can snuggle up close to the manger.

When you are in a bind the way Joseph was, do what he did, leave it to God.

Sunday, 12/22/13

Gabriel told Mary she was to conceive of the Holy Spirit, then, she conceived just when she said, “Le it be done to me according to your word.” Immediately afterwards, she travelled south to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. She returned to Nazareth after Elizabeth had borne her son six month later.

The people of Nazareth, seeing Mary to be with child congratulated her  spouse Joseph on becoming a father. And Mary, for her own reasons, did not tell Joseph how she came to be pregnant.

The Bible described Joseph as being a just man, and he was just in every way. For one thing, presuming the child to be the son of another, as a just man, he could not take that stranger’s son as his own.

But, knowing Mary to be good through and through, as a just man, he could not subject her to the pain of a public divorce.

For someone caught between two such unsatisfactory choices my mother used to say, “You are damned if you do, you are damned if you don’t.” Another way of expressing such a predicament is to say you are “in a bind.”

When you are in a bind just do what Joseph did, namely, leave it to God.

Once, teaching grade school. I asked each kid to describe a time when he of she was in a bind. One kid wrote, “My parents got divorced, and I love my dad, but he put me in a bind when he was marrying again. He asked me to be his best man.”

My beloved is leaping with eagerness.

Saturday, 12/21/13

We have someone leaping in both readings. In the first reading that comes from the Song of Songs, the saintly soul anxiously awaits the coming of her Lord. For her he is like a gazelle or a young stag, whose desire to be with her has him leaping over the hills in her pursuit.

I once had a demure young lady surprise me with the choice of that reading for her wedding. I would not have likened her intended to a young gazelle. To me he was a ponderous ox; but for her the young fellow was transformed by the eyes of love.

For me, the Gospel also had a mildly humorous aspect. Where it says Mary travelled by way of “the hill country,” the Latin text had her travelling by way of Montana.

The Gospel invites us to share in Elizabeth’s exuberant joy. In her old age she has miraculously been given a child in her womb, and on top of that she has been treated to a visit from the Mother of her Lord. 

In the history of the world no scene has been given the attention shown to this story about Gabriel and Mary.

Friday, 12/20/13

In the history of the world no scene has received the attention given to the story of Gabriel appearing to Mary. Any of us saying our daily rosary will recite the Hail Mary a hundred and fifty times a day; and this is going on with others all around the world. Our ancestors have been praying their Hail Marys back through a thousand years.

Mary spoke just twice, saying, “How can this be, when I know not man,” and “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to our word.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t analyze those words or meditate on them. Her  words are holy, beyond our touch. The closest thing to this scene in the whole of the Bible is the story of the burning bush that Moses went up to examine closely.

Confronted with the scene of Gabriel and Mary we feel we are being warned, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” 

Each of us has the potential of becoming like God in a unique way.

Thursday, 12/19/13

The Bible has many stories of aged women to whom God gave a child after it was physically impossible for her to bear one. Today we have the story of Samson’s aged mother, as well there was Jacob’s mother Sarah, and Samuel’s mother Hannah. Through those stories the Bible is telling us that none of us owes existence to just natural intercourse. God has fashioned each of us.

There is a story I tell over and over about how each of us is special. Please put up with me telling my story again.

Twenty-five years ago a sixth grade girl raised her hand, asking, “If we are all made in God’s image, how come some people are left handed?

Within her question there was a deeper question in hiding. Namely, “If we are all so different from one another, how can we all be created in God’s image?”

That question kept coming back to me, then one night a possible answer popped into my head. It occurred to me that God in his greatness could be like a diamond with millions of facets; and each of us is created with a potential of mirroring a different one of those facets.

At birth we are not recognizable as miroring God. We are like rough un–cut stones that must be polished over and over before each can be like God in a unique way.

The Second Vatican Council had a special document on Christian education. In essence it said that the purpose of Christian education is that of helping each individual in developing his or her unique personality. 

Joseph was righteous, he was just.

Wednesday, 12/18/13

Our Gospel describes Joseph as a righteous man, but I am saddened at their abandoning the way our Bible for centuries had referred to Joseph as “a just man.”

My mother had her way of referring to people who hit you in the face with their spirituality.  She would avoid any woman who jangled a rosary in her face. She’d refer to such a lady as a “holier-than-thou.” She might also have referred to her as “that righteous dame.”  

In calling Joseph a just man we add no tinge of pretentiousness. It has us seeing him for what he was, a good man wrestling with a terrible problem.

Being a just man in terms of the Law of Moses, Joseph could not take that child Mary was carrying as his own. But being a just man in God’s eyes, he could not make a move that would hurt that wonderful woman Mary.

You think you have problems? They are nothing compared to the perplexity that had Joseph in its grasp.

Thank God for the angel who set him straight on the situation, telling him that, “it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”

Matthew and Luke's genealogies for Joseph and Jesus do not agree.

Tuesday, 12/17/13

Matthew began his Gospel with a genealogy, listing the great ancestors of Joseph. His clear purpose in beginning with them was that he was writing his Gospel to refute the claim that Jesus went against Jewish traditions. Matthew showed that being directly descended from Abraham and King David, Jesus couldn’t have been more Jewish than that.  

Such genealogies were a common thing in the Bible, and they were never expected to be accurate. Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies didn’t agree. Luke lists forty generations between David and Joseph, while Matthew lists only twenty-eight; and most of the names are different.

Matthew list, fourteen generations for the eight hundred yeas between Abraham and David, for the four hundred years between David and the Babylonian Captivity, and for the six hundred years between then and Joseph.

Arabic scholars put out a reason for being three sets of fourteen. They say three sets of fourteen breaks down to six sets of seven. That would put Jesus as the first in a seventh set of seven; and that was thought to be a position of total greatness.

While Hebrew genealogies, known as toledoths, gave only the names of male ancestors, Matthew draws attention to King David’s wife Bathsheba, and to his great grandmother Ruth, and two of David’s female ancestors Tamar, and Rahab.

Now, Matthew wrote his Gospel because Our Lord’s enemies were condemning him for eating with Gentiles. The four ladies he listed as Our Lord’s ancestors, in addition to being great Jewish heroines, were also Gentiles.  

Twelve hundred years before Christ Balaam saw his star.

Monday, 12/16/13

There is a fairytale-like story behind the first reading in which Balaam foretells the rise of the Christ-child’s star. As Moses and the Israelites grew strong during their forty years in the desert, they began pushing aside the strong nations in their path. As they came up from the desert to the land of Moab just across from the Holy Land, Moab’s king, Balak, sent to the Middle East, offering a great sum to Balaam, a holy man who could curse the invading army to force it to turn and flee.

As Balaam, riding on his ass, approached the land of Moab, an angel blocked his passage, and the ass, seeing the angel turned aside. After Balaam beat the ass, the ass was given the power of speech; and he asked, “Hey, didn’t you see the angel?”

At Balak’s pleading, Balaam made another move at cursing the Israelites, but blocked again, he was treated to the distant vision which we read today, “I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near; a star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.

Isaiah and Elijah can help us prepare well for Christmas.

Sunday, 12/15/13

Throughout this season of Advent the readings at Mass make references to the Old Testament prophets who prepared the way for Jesus. Our first reading today is from Isaiah who might be the finest poet who ever lived. Then, our Gospel focuses on John the Baptist who came in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah. So, let us see what Isaiah and Elijah can add to getting ready for Christmas.

Our first reading, coming from Chapter Thirty-five of Isaiah is from a time of great sadness in Jerusalem. The cruel conquerors of Assyria had recently enslaved the people of Lebanon; as well, they had led Israelites of ten tribes off into captivity.

While all Jerusalem wept over the loss of relatives and of fair lands, Isaiah’s grounding in God kept him from lamenting.

He pictured God’s trustfulness with a poetic vision of Carmel and Sharon restored to spender. He saw those in sorrow “meeting with joy and gladness.”

In today’s Gospel Jesus said, “Of those born of woman there has been none greater than John the Baptist.” All the people marveled over John’s strength of character.  Jesus joined them in seeing John to be almost a reincarnation of the great prophet Elijah. He said, “If you can see it, he is Elijah.” In the last verse of the Old Testament God announced, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the Day of the Lord.

One great Old Testament story about Elijah comes from the Second Book of Kings. Queen Jezebel had put all of God’s prophets to the sword, installing in their place  four hundred and fifty priests of the god Baal.

Elijah called the bluff of those priests.  On a rocky mountain ridge he had servants place slaughtered cattle on two stacks of dry timbers. He challenged the priests of Baal to call down fire from heaven to light their sacrifice. With a day of wild dancing, and with self-inflicted bloody cuts, the priests strove without success to get Baal to send down fire. Elijah had his servants thoroughly soak the wood with water. Then, with complete confidence, he asked God to ignite the wood for his sacrifice. God sent down the fire, and Elijah wasn’t at all surprised.

Isaiah and Elijah ask us to be worthy of Christmas by giving God our complete love and trust. 

John the Baptist is Advent's Poster Boy.

Saturday, 12/14/13

The readings today feature John the Baptist who is like the Poster Boy for Advent. In his single-hearted dedication to the Lord, he is likened to the Prophet Elijah.

On the last page of our Old Testament we have the prediction by the Prophet Malachi that Elijah will return before the day of the Lord. The final verse in the Old Testament states, “Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day.” 

Then, in today’s Gospel, when the disciples asked Jesus why the scribes say that Elijah must return before the day of the Lord, Jesus said that Elijah had already returned; and the disciples realized he was speaking of John the Baptist.

John was not actually identical with Elijah. They had different blood types and different DNA. But, in a poetical sense he was Elijah.

In teaching grade school Religion classes I used Our Lord’s identifying John with Elijah as an example of how we could not always take Bible verses as being literally true.

Our school had a number of Jewish and Protestant kids who didn’t seem to mind my classes. In fact, they usually did better than the Catholics. However, I remember one Baptist boy who insisted on taking every Bible verse as literally true. If I said that some things were written with “poetic license,” he would say, “I don’t care what you say, Father, I will always believe my Bible.”

Once when I asked each kid in the class to tell a story about a time when he or she  stood up for their beliefs, the Baptist boy wrote, “It happens every day in this class.”  

Maybe ten years later he turned up as best man at a wedding, and he thanked me for showing how to understand the Bible.

The Mass is rooted in the last Supper.

Friday, 12/13/13

Let me describe the way I take part in the Mass. The other priests who say Mass where I do usually put an extra cross on the altar before them to help them realize they are taking part in the sacrifice of Good Friday. I don’t go along with that because I prefer meditating on how the Mass is rooted in the Last Supper.

Our English version of the words written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul quote them as recalling Jesus saying, “This is my body which will be given for you.” They picture him as looking forward to his death the next day. However, in the actual Greek wording of Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul, Jesus said, “This is my body which is given for you.” Taking it that way, I imagine he was already giving his life at the Last Supper.  

Another thing. Those three wrote that Jesus “said the blessing.” We usually take that to mean he said two or three appropriate words. However there was a three-part ritual blessing that was proper to that formal dinner. By that blessing Jesus first asked the diners to join him in recalling God’s many favors. Secondly, he asked them to join him in  begging for God’s Spirit. Thirdly, he asked them to join him in becoming part of a Pleasing Gift to God. They would do that by offering complete obedience to God’s will.

Now, I think he might have chosen that time to give himself to them in order that they could be one with him in the same Pleasing Gift. The Greek for Pleasing Gift, the third part of the blessing, was Eu-charis. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patron Saint of all the Americas.

Thursday, 12/12/13

Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron feast of all the Americas. Every year we hear her story. On December 9, 1531 Juan Diego, a simple Nahunta Indian, was hastening into town for medicine and a priest for his sick uncle. On  a slope known as Tepeyac Hill he was confronted by the vision of a light filled fifteen year old young lady. Speaking to him in Nahunta, she asked that a church in her honor be built on that site.

Juan Diego got in to see the Spanish bishop, and speaking through an interpreter he conveyed the lady’s message. The bishop, perhaps to get rid of him, told him to go back and ask for a sign. When Juan again met with the lady, she told him to gather roses from the top of Tepeyac Hill. The season for roses was past, but turning, Juan saw a bush blooming gloriously, so he gathered its buds in his tilma, then hurried back to show them to the bishop.

When he unrolled his tilma the bishop and those with him saw on it the colorful image of a lady standing above a new moon, crushing a serpent under her feet. (The painting on the pancho-like garment of rough burlap does not seem to be a trick.)

Perhaps you know the story better than I do. I had always wondered what the name Guadalupe meant. One explanation I have heard is that in Nahunta it would mean “The lady who crushes the snake.” That would refer back to Chapter Three of Genesis where we read that God would put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and she would crush the serpent's head.

Although Pope John XXIII called Our Lady of Guadalupe the Mother of the Americas, and Pope John Paul II named her the patron saint of North and South America, we seldom hear of devotion to her outside of Mexican circles. Our gringo snobbery could even be sinful in God’s eyes. There was a bit of that two years ago when Jenny Rivera, a great Mexcan-American singer with fifteen million albums died in a plane crash. There was great mourning up and down the border, but outside of the Southwest people just asked, “Jenny who”?