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A regular highlight of my Advent season is our bilingual celebration in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, whose feast day is December 12. Although more subdued and socially distant this year, we will have a bilingual celebration on Sunday, December 13, at 4:30pm Mass, in partnership with the Spanish speaking community at our sister parish, Church of the Ascension, on the near north side of Minneapolis. Ascension pastor (and former Basilica vicar) Fr. Dale Korogi will be the celebrant. You are invited to join us via livestream or in person.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to an indigenous man, Saint Juan Diego (whose feast day is December 9), outside of Mexico City on a hill called Tepeyác in 1531. Our Lady had both indigenous Aztec and Spanish characteristics, and in his native language she told Juan Diego to ask the bishop to build a church in her honor. The bishop requested proof of her request, so Our Lady instructed Juan Diego to gather blooming roses in his tilma (cape). When he unfurled his cape before the bishop, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe miraculously appeared on the cape. The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was constructed on the hill in her honor. A beautiful mosaic of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, made at the Vatican Museums in Rome, is installed in the southwest corner of our Basilica.
In other years, Aztec dancers, in beautiful feathered attire, would joyously dance on our front plaza and in the church. Guests wearing traditional attire would process with statues and banners of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and a festive celebration with customary foods would follow in our Teresa of Calcutta Hall.
Though more subdued this year, without dancers, processions, or delicious treats, the celebration in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe provides us inspiration during COVID-19. By choosing Juan Diego as her messenger in 1531, she often represents empowerment for the least powerful and marginalized. She has also been a source of comfort and strength for Latinos and others almost 500 years. During our global pandemic, may her example of patience, solidarity, and grace provide us all with comfort and inspiration.
In our weekly video series "Art That Surrounds Us," Johan van Parys, Ph.D., our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, shares information about a piece from The Basilica of Saint Mary's art collection. This week, Johan shows us three representations of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception at The Basilica, in honor of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. May Mary, the one full of grace, guide us through Advent to the great celebration of the Incarnation, the birth of her Son.
A few weeks ago someone contacted me to arrange a time to meet with them. I suggested that we meet via Zoom. They thought this would be great and we agreed on a time and a date. They said they would send a link to the Zoom meeting. Now, since the pandemic began, I have somewhat reluctantly become very familiar with Zoom, so I automatically set up a Zoom meeting on my own. When the time for our meeting came, I dutifully started the Zoom meeting I had set up. After about 10 minutes, I received an email from the person informing me that they were at the meeting waiting for me. I immediately remembered they had said they would set up the meeting, and so I joined them at the Zoom meeting they had set up. I apologized for my tardiness and explained that I had mistakenly set up my own Zoom meeting and had been waiting for them. Fortunately they were able to see the humor in my gaffe and we had a good laugh over it.
As I reflected on this experience, it occurred to me it was a good analogy for what sometimes happens in my prayer life. More times than I care to admit when I go to prayer, I am in one place waiting for God, and God is in another place waiting for me. Most often we eventually sync up, but other times we are like ships passing in the night.
Of course, while I’d like God to shoulder some of the responsibility for the above, the reality is that it is entirely my fault. God does not operate on my schedule and God definitely isn’t at my beck and call. Having acknowledged this, however, it is also very important to note that God is always present and available to us, but it is on God’s terms, not ours.
Given the above, the obvious question is: how do we become aware of God’s presence and availability to us? I believe the answer is found in two words: Openness and Attentiveness. God is always and everywhere present. We need to be open to that presence, whenever and however it occurs in our lives. One of the ways we can do this is by putting aside our expectations of how and where God should be present, and simply be open to the many and surprising ways God comes into our lives. Attentiveness helps us do that. Attentiveness is nothing more, but also nothing less, than simply putting aside our agenda, our preconceived ideas, and our sense of how things should be, and just resting and trusting in God’s presence, and opening ourselves to God’s grace.
Being open to God’s presence and availability is not easy. It requires patience and practice. And sometimes we end up in one place waiting for God and God is somewhere else waiting for us. When we get it right, though, we will find peace and hope in the tender embrace of our God’s love.