Sunday, 12 December 2010

Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Triumph of Life

We interrupt our regular broadcast schedule to bring you some seminal thoughts in honour of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Edit:Added the image of Our Lady, and a comment regarding the title she revealed herself under.

In the December of 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a native convert to Catholicism, named St. Juan Diego, in what is now Mexico City. On the ninth of December, she told him to tell the Bishop that she wanted a church built on the hill where they were (called Tepeyac). The Bishop didn't believe Juan, and dismissed him. On the way home, Our Lady met Juan again, and he related to her what had happened, asking her to send someone else, who was more learned and sophisticated. She replied that while she had many she could ask to do her will, "It is necessary for every reason that you yourself solicit and help." So the next day, St. Juan Diego went to the Bishop again, who again refused to believe him, but, impressed by his forthrightness and simplicity, asked Juan to ask Our Lady for a sign of confirmation. So Juan left the Bishop and again encountered Our Lady on top of Tepeyac hill. He asked for the sign, and she promised him that if he returned the next day, on the 11th, she would provide one for him.

When Juan returned home, however, he found his uncle, Juan Bernardino, deathly ill. He stayed with his uncle the whole next day, but on the twelfth, his uncle sent him to fetch a priest to administer the Last Rites. While Juan was on the way, he remembered Our Lady, and went around Tepeyac seeking to avoid her, not because he didn't wish to complete her task, but because he wanted to take care of his uncle first. The Virgin Mary, however, came down the hill and met him on the way, asking why he had failed to come to her. Having explained about his dying uncle, she assured him that his uncle was already cured of the terminal illness, and sent him to the top of the hill to collect the promised sign. Later, St. Juan Diego would find out that Our Lady appeared to his uncle at that very moment and healed him. She also revealed to Juan Bernardino her title, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Why Guadalupe? Actually, it's a phonetic equivalent in Spanish of the Nahuatl word, Coatlaxopeuh, which means, "I smashed the serpent with the foot," recalling God's promise of redemption in Genesis 3:15.

Mary instructed Juan to go and pick the flowers he would find growing at the top of the hill--and there, in a barren, rocky place, in the dead of winter, he found beautiful Castillian roses growing, roses not native to Mexico, but very familiar to the Spanish bishop. After he had gathered them up, she herself arranged them in his tilma, a mantle made of cactus fibre, and told him not to open the tilma to anyone but the bishop. When he arrived at the bishops house, the servants, tiring of his frequent visits, refused to let him in until he showed them what was in his tilma, but because of Our Lady's instruction, he refused. Finally, the bishop was summoned, and St. Juan opened his tilma, letting the roses fall to the ground. But the miracle didn't end with the roses, for on the tilma was the image of Our Lady as she had appeared to St. Juan Diego. The bishop fell to his knees weeping in remorse for not having believed Juan immediately, and took the tilma to his own private chapel. He commissioned the chapel to be built on Tepeyac, and when it was complete, placed the tilma with the image above the altar. Within ten years of the chapel's construction, nine million natives had converted to Christianity!

This conversion brought about major changes to Mexico. At that time, the natives viewed the Spanish with great distrust, and the Spanish, for their part, had refused to acknowledge that the natives even had real human souls. With the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego, hostilities ceased, and peace reigned between the Spanish and the natives, forming a new race of "Mestizo", who still to this day consider Our Lady their Mother. Further, with the natives' conversion to Christianity, their fear-filled religion of human sacrifice was done away with. A culture of death, sacrificing tens of thousands of people to their gods in order that they would be blessed with prosperity, suddenly found themselves in the care of a loving God who Himself provided the only Sacrifice they would need, in His Son.

Now, nearly 500 years later, the cactus-fibre tilma still exists, and the image still is on it. It has survived the elements, accidents, and outright attempts to destroy it (such as a bomb blast by anti-clerical forces in 1921 which decimated the entire church, but the tilma remained intact). Miracles continue to be wrought at the most visited Marian shrine in the world, as healing was worked in the case of Juan Bernardino, and Our Lady continues to reveal that her Son truly is Emmanuel--God-with-us.

The image of Our Lady has been studied repeatedly, and found to have no human explanation. Moreover, there are elements that would have been unthinkable to portray by a human artist--such as the reflection of the bishop and servants in the eyes of Our Lady, as revealed by ophthamological studies. But the image itself is a message, having not simply the image of Our Lady radiating the light of God as Revelation 12 describes, but her garment is covered with Aztec heiroglyphs, among which is the symbol for the infinite, transcendent, all-powerful God, right over her pregnant belly. In other words, the image told the native Mexicans, as it tells us, that Jesus is the Infinite, Transcendant God, but that He loves us and makes Himself intimately Present to us.

Throughout the world, thousands upon thousands of people are brutally and savagely murdered in what should be the safest place in the world for them--all in the name of convenience and prosperity. Similar to that perpetrated by the Spaniards upon the native Mexicans, this mass murder is perpetuated with the excuse that these people aren't really people anyway--that they thus don't have the right to live.

They are the unborn. They are the human sacrificial victims of our culture of death's worship of the gods of lust, convenience, libertarianism, and prosperity. They are the victims of the lying gods whose names are "Freedom" and "Choice"--otherwise known as Moloch and Tláloc.

The children are not the only victims. No one is untouched by this travesty. The mothers, especially, are wounded incredibly. Often the "choice" they make is not a choice at all, but they are pressured by all sorts of sources, be it their husband or boyfriend, their parents, even their workplace. Abortion has been shown to lead to severe depression, reckless behaviour, accidental and violent deaths, and even suicide. The lying gods do not bring "freedom" through "choice", but only repay death for death.

Just as Our Lady crushed the serpent's head, and brought an end to human sacrifice in Mexico, she desires the end of the culture of death rampant in the world today. She calls us continually to turn to her Son in prayer and penance, and to speak out against the culture of death, with the Gospel of Life. Especially during this season of Advent, as we await the Birth of Christ, the Virgin of Guadalupe shows herself as a pregnant Mother, who herself was an unwed pregnant girl in a society where such a scandal could have cost her her reputation, her freedom, even her own life. Yet she gave her Fiat to God, "Let it be unto me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

We too must respond in faith, hope, and especially love. We are not called simply to defend the unborn, but to aid frightened, hopeless mothers and their families in their distress. The Culture of Life reaches out to everyone at every stage of life, bringing God's promise of hope and help to their lives. We must each do our part to reach out in love to those trapped by the culture of death. Our Lady's words to St. Juan Diego apply to us today, as well: "It is necessary for every reason that you yourself solicit and help."

God bless,
Gregory
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

(For a more detailed account of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the miraculous image, click here.)

12 comments:

Kane Augustus said...

Not related to your post, bud, but I thought you might like this wee post I wrote.

Cheers!
Kane

Gregory said...

Thanks. I found your article insightful and intriguing. I'm prompted to wonder what a person of higher intelligence makes of the various scientifically-studied miraculous phenomenon such as the image on the tilma, or the shroud of Turin, or the Eucharistc Miracle of Lanciano?

It's one thing to dismiss the deity in a prely abstract and theoretical way, but whenfaced with such concrete and inexplicable evidences as these, I can only conclude that even the most intelligent denier must simply be uninformed, or very much in denial indeed.

Kane Augustus said...

Gregory,

"Thanks. I found your article insightful and intriguing."

Oh, well, thank you very much!

"I'm prompted to wonder what a person of higher intelligence makes of the various scientifically-studied miraculous phenomenon such as the image on the tilma, or the shroud of Turin, or the Eucharistc Miracle of Lanciano?"

I suppose I'd have to be of a higher intelligence to answer to your wonderings. ;)

Honestly though, I have no idea about those particular miracles. I've seen a few presentations on the shroud of Turin, but none of those presentations have made any conclusions as to whether the shroud is authentic, a fake, or something miraculous. They simply presented the case from both sides and left it up to the viewer to decide.

As to the other two miracles you've listed, I've never heard of them.

I do know, however, that there are people who have made it a point to investigate the miracle-claims put out by the religious. What is interesting on that front is that those who are decidedly religious and doing the investigations operate to the conclusion that the miracles are true (in most cases). And those that are not religious operate in such a way that they disblieve the miracle accounts. Whether the truth is somewhere between those polar biases, I can't say, and mostly because it would be conveniently cliche to say so. But it still wouldn't solve anything by interjecting a third supposedly neutral bias.

"It's one thing to dismiss the deity in a prely abstract and theoretical way, but whenfaced with such concrete and inexplicable evidences as these, I can only conclude that even the most intelligent denier must simply be uninformed, or very much in denial indeed."

I suppose that could be one way to view things. Still, I don't think it's an overly charitable point of view. Perhaps a person's disbelief has nothing to do with examining certain miraculous claims and then denying them. Perhaps disbelief is more honest than that. Perhaps a person's disbelief can be based on a cumulative case of unbelievable religious claims and easily confirmable interactions with reality.

There are a bevy of reasons for disbelief, and in my research, many of those reasons have nothing whatsoever to do with whether certain miracles occured (perhaps with the exception of the resurrection of Jesus -- that one tends to be argued quite strongly on both sides of the divide).

Gregory said...

For having never heard of the miracles I mention, you sure go on at length to offer reasons why an intelligent, researched person might choose to disbelieve them.

I wonder, do you actually read my blogs? I've mentioned Lanciano before at Barque, and the above post is all about Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Honestly though, I have no idea about those particular miracles. I've seen a few presentations on the shroud of Turin, but none of those presentations have made any conclusions as to whether the shroud is authentic, a fake, or something miraculous. They simply presented the case from both sides and left it up to the viewer to decide.

I have a CD audio presentation on the Shroud. I might send it to you via email if you're interested, and if I'm able to. One of the interesting points the speaker makes is that the Shroud is the most scientifically studied artifact in history, and studies done by some 2000 scientists over the last few decades have caused 95% of them to convert to Christianity as a result. So the Shroud may or may not be authentic--it's not been definitively proven--nevertheless, it certainly seems authentic enough to have such a dramatic effect on those who study it.

I do know, however, that there are people who have made it a point to investigate the miracle-claims put out by the religious. What is interesting on that front is that those who are decidedly religious and doing the investigations operate to the conclusion that the miracles are true (in most cases). And those that are not religious operate in such a way that they disblieve the miracle accounts. Whether the truth is somewhere between those polar biases, I can't say, and mostly because it would be conveniently cliche to say so. But it still wouldn't solve anything by interjecting a third supposedly neutral bias.

I wonder if you have any sort of documentation that religious people always seem to approach miraculous phenomenon as though it were automatically true, while atheists automatically approach such phenomenon as if it were false? This seems to be rather not the case with the exacting process that the Church puts in place in order to verify claims to the miraculous. It might be fairer to state that the believer in the miraculous simply holds out the possibility that such things could happen, and then sets out to determine whether it has, in fact, happened in a particular case.

Gregory said...

I suppose that could be one way to view things. Still, I don't think it's an overly charitable point of view. Perhaps a person's disbelief has nothing to do with examining certain miraculous claims and then denying them. Perhaps disbelief is more honest than that. Perhaps a person's disbelief can be based on a cumulative case of unbelievable religious claims and easily confirmable interactions with reality.

There are a bevy of reasons for disbelief, and in my research, many of those reasons have nothing whatsoever to do with whether certain miracles occured (perhaps with the exception of the resurrection of Jesus -- that one tends to be argued quite strongly on both sides of the divide).


I'm not entirely sure you understood my point. I'm not saying that there aren't many factors causing a person to disbelieve in God or religion or whatnot. What I am saying is that for a person to do so without engaging in some sort of cognitive dissonance, they must be utterly unaware of the scientifically studied and yet unexplainable phenomena such as this, or they must engage in an act of the will to deny that such a thing has indeed happened. To say that, for example, in the case of the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano, a piece of bread and a cup of wine literally and physically turned into a chunk of myocardium (heart tissue) and five globules of blood, some 12-13 hundred years ago, and is still intact and studiable (and indeed, studied) to this day, without the aid of any sort of preservatives, is not somehow miraculous; to say that, in the case of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, that the very fabric upon which it appeared should have disintigrated within 40 years of the events, and yet is still here, despite surviving even a bomb blast intended to destroy it 390 years later, is simply a naturally-occuring phenomenon; to examine an image left on a cloth with no explanation of how it got there, presenting a completely anatomically correct depiction of a crucified man, who had been tortured in exactly the same manner as the Gospels describe Christ's crucifixion, including biological realities that would have been unknown until long after a concrete historical record of the cloths existence was established, including but not limited to bone structure, blood flow patterns, blood serum and even blood type, as well as pollen from various species of plants indigenous only in the Middle East, some of which died out after the first century AD, was simply a forgery of the Middle Ages; it is such conclusions as those that cause me to wonder how intellectually honest those with allegedly higher IQs are being when they deny God's existence.

Gregory said...

As for the charge of uncharity, I admitted very directly that it is simply very possible that such people simply have never heard of these, and other similar miracles, through no fault of their own.

But when, as an atheist friend of mine once did, a thinking person says "I don't believe in God because there simply is not enough evidence of His existence; He should demonstrate Himself in some manner," and after being presented with the scientific analyses of the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano, replies, "Well, it seems like a bit of a dog-and-pony show, if you ask me--hardly the way one would expect God to operate," well, what other conclusion remains than that their unbelief is not a sincere quest for the truth, but a wilful denial of it?

I am not saying that I expect everyone to suddenly become a Christian because they've heard of or studied up on a particular miracle. I am saying that if a person really does claim to have a higher-than-average intelligence, and an actual interest in truth, then he cannot easily dismiss such phenomenon as having absolutely no relevance to the question of God's existence.

Rightly did Jesus say of ones who would simply shrug off such miraculous events, that they would not believe, even if someone were to come back from the dead.

Kane Augustus said...

"For having never heard of the miracles I mention, you sure go on at length to offer reasons why an intelligent, researched person might choose to disbelieve them."

Yes, well, I do read. And those people I have read have given their reasons for disbelieving certain miraculous claims. It's simply a matter of drawing a logical conclusion from there, even if intelligent people haven't heard of the miracles you've listed.

"I wonder, do you actually read my blogs?"

In fact, no, I don't always read everything you write. I often don't have the time, even though I'd like to. I'm sure you know what it's like.

"It might be fairer to state that the believer in the miraculous simply holds out the possibility that such things could happen, and then sets out to determine whether it has, in fact, happened in a particular case."

Okay. That's fair. I can go with that.

The same would have to be said for people of all faiths, though. So you're going to have to delineate between competing truth-claims, and their competing assents to their evidence-based approaches to supposedly miraculous events.

I'm fairly certain that Muslims have a brace of supposed evidence for their miracle claims. I'm fairly certain Catholis have a cornucopia of evidence for their miracle claims. Whose claims are true, and who decides the criteria for what is true between competing claims and evidence measured?

Obviously, the one who is correct decides what's true. In that case, how does any one religionist know his/her claims are true beyond the certainties of any other religionist?

Kane Augustus said...

"it is such conclusions as those that cause me to wonder how intellectually honest those with allegedly higher IQs are being when they deny God's existence."

Yes, well, we know that a high IQ is not an obstacle to denial. I'm sure some of the super-genius minority of the world have undergone major denial in the face of a lost loved one, the death of a child, an impending divorce, etc. Human reactions are not excused from the functioning capacity of a high-IQer.

Kane Augustus said...

"I am not saying that I expect everyone to suddenly become a Christian because they've heard of or studied up on a particular miracle. I am saying that if a person really does claim to have a higher-than-average intelligence, and an actual interest in truth, then he cannot easily dismiss such phenomenon as having absolutely no relevance to the question of God's existence."

Agreed.

"Rightly did Jesus say of ones who would simply shrug off such miraculous events, that they would not believe, even if someone were to come back from the dead."

Well, given the immodest number of people having claimed to witness the dead rising, and the widespread notion of resurrecting deific figures at the time, it doesn't surprise me that most people during the time of Jesus would deny yet another resurrection story.

What I find interesting about Jesus's resurrection story is that it really wasn't that big a deal to the people of his time. For example, if after Jesus died and got up the dead got up from their graves and mingled in the streets (cf. Matt. 27:52-53), why is such a public phenomenon given so little attention in history? Why did it really not concern the ECF that so many besides Jesus experienced a resurrection (which, if Christian claims are to enjoy their urgency legitimately), even though the resurrection was to be the hallmark of Jesus's status as God? The definitive miraculous marker for Jesus being the Christ?

I could go on with questions. I think those are enough for now, however.

It's an interesting subject to me. And one that is much better answered by people like yourself than that yipping irritant William Lane Craig. ;)

Cheers!
Kane

Joey said...

What a great post. Our Lady of Guadaloupe, pray for us. Sweet Jesus, save us from ourselves and from teh culture of death.

Gregory said...

"For having never heard of the miracles I mention, you sure go on at length to offer reasons why an intelligent, researched person might choose to disbelieve them."

Yes, well, I do read. And those people I have read have given their reasons for disbelieving certain miraculous claims. It's simply a matter of drawing a logical conclusion from there, even if intelligent people haven't heard of the miracles you've listed.


The problem with that line of reasoning, Kane, is that I mentioned three very specific cases, not simply "miracles" in the abstract. I mentioned those three cases in particular because of the depth and breadth of scientific inquiry into each case, and the utter inability to explain any of these cases from a merely materialistic point of view. Whether or not an atheistic, materialistic scientist is comfortable referring to such a case as a "miracle" or an "act of God" does nothing to negate the fact that there is something there, that has no scientific explanation, and yet endures and is studiable.

Hence my criticism: if you haven't heard of these miracles, much less studied or researched them, you really can't overcome them by saying that other miraculous claims have been explained away or dismissed by scientists. Even the allegedly "inconclusive" Shroud of Turin, the most studied historical artifact in the world, has caused 95% of the atheist or agnostic scientists who studied it to become Christians.

"I wonder, do you actually read my blogs?"

In fact, no, I don't always read everything you write. I often don't have the time, even though I'd like to. I'm sure you know what it's like.


I certainly do know what it's like. I just make it a point not to comment on blogs that I don't have time to read. Especially on blogs specifically oriented to interacting in the Comments section. It seems that a rudimentary knowledge of the topic presented there would be somewhat incumbent in those circumstances.

Gregory said...

Had typed a whole lot more, but the computer crashed. You know how it is. I'll try to reproduce it later. In the meantime, Kane, your three comment limit has been reached, so if you want to pursue this discussion, do it by email or wait for a new post.