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Pope Francis: Gospel is passed on through one’s mother tongue

Pope Francis thanked mothers and grandmothers who hand on the faith to their children and grandchildren, saying the faith is passed on in one’s mother tongue.

By Christopher Wells

Pope Francis looked to the example of Our Lady of Guadalupe to emphasize the importance of transmitting the faith in one’s native language, as he continued his series of catecheses on “the passion for evangelization.”

Although the faith had already arrived in the Americas when Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego, the Pope noted, the first evangelization of the new continent had not been without problems. “Instead of the path of inculturation, too often the hasty approach of transplanting pre-constituted models had been taken, lacking respect for the indigenous peoples, the Pope said.

Faith transmitted through our mother tongue

When Mary appeared to Juan Diego, though, she came “dressed in the clothing of the native peoples, speaking their language, welcoming and loving the local culture.

“She is a Mother, and under her mantle, every child finds a place,” he continued. “In Mary, God became flesh; and through Mary, He continues to incarnate Himself in the lives of peoples.”

The Holy Father highlighted Mary’s proclamation of God in the native language of the people. “Yes, the Gospel is transmitted through the mother tongue.”

The Pope thanked mothers and grandmothers, especially, for handing on the Gospel to their children and grandchildren, explaining that faith is passed on with life. “This,” he said, “is why mothers are the first evangelizers.” And he invited those present to offer a round of applause for mothers.

Inculturating the Gospel and evangelizing cultures

Turning to St. Juan Diego, Pope Francis noted that he was already married when he embraced Christianity. Despite difficulties, including resistance from Church leaders, Juan Diego persisted in the mission Our Lady gave him.

“Even today,” the Pope said, “in so many places inculturating the Gospel and evangelising cultures requires constancy and patience, not being afraid of conflict, not losing heart.” We must not be discouraged, he continued, knowing that Mary is there to console us and help us to grow, “like a mother who, while following her child’s steps, launches him into the world’s challenges.”

Our Lady confirmed her message to Juan Diego with a miracle, the “extraordinary and living image” that appeared on the tilma, or cloak, of the saint. This is “the surprise of God,” the Pope said. “When there is willingness and obedience, He can accomplish something unexpected, at times and in ways that we cannot foresee.”

Even today, at Marian shrines, pilgrimage destinations, and places of proclamation, we see the welcome and evangelization that marked the life of Saint Juan Diego. “Faith is welcomed in these places in a simple and genuine, popular way,” the Pope said, concluding, “We need to go to these oases of consolation and mercy, where faith is expressed in a maternal language; where we lay down the labours of life in Our Lady’s arms and return to life with peace in our hearts.”

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