Pope Francis expresses joy for the twinning of two geographically distant Sanctuaries dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, remarking on how Mary is always a bond of communion for the holy People of God.
By Linda Bordoni
Mexico’s most visited Shrine, Our Lady of Guadalupe, has been ‘twinned’ with a less well-known Sanctuary devoted to Mexico’s patron saint in the Spanish town of Guadalupe, in the region of Extremadura at the feet of the Sierra de las Villuercas.
The roots of this 14th-century monastery stem from the discovery by a shepherd, on the bank of the Guadalupe River, of a statue of the Blessed Virgin which had apparently been hidden by local inhabitants from Moorish invaders in 714. On the site of this discovery, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe was built.
In a message addressed to Francisco Cerro Chaves, Archbishop of Toledo, Pope Francis expressed his joy for the twinning of the Shrine in Spain with its Mexican sister sanctuary, requesting that he extend his greeting also to Cardinal Carlos Aguaiar Retes, Archbishop of Mexico City, and to all the bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and faithful “who have wished to place themselves at the feet of the Blessed Virgin Mary on this day, as one holy People of God.”
“Mary, our Mother, is always a bond of communion for her People.”
Noting that both Scripture and apostolic tradition show Our Lady gathering the apostles and the community around her in an atmosphere of prayer, the Pope said “the Mother of Jesus, in a simple way, continues to call us.”
File photo of faithful attending Mass in St Peter’s Basilica in memory of Our Lady of Guadalupe
This, he continued, has been expressed in many places in the world with the invitation to build a temple that would be a house with doors always open to all, a house of prayer and communion.
“Today the sweet name of Mary is calling you,” the Pope said, with an ancient invocation that speaks to us of encounter with God and with humankind.
He reflected on the etymological roots of the word Guadalupe, upon which he said, scholars cannot agree whether it is derived from the Arabic wadi meaning “valley, river” possibly combined with Latin lupus meaning “wolf”, or from the Mexican Nahuatl Aztec language.
A message of love
“What is curious,” he added, is that what could be seen as a conflicting viewpoint, can be read as a message of love from the Holy Spirit “heard in each one’s own language.”
Thus, he went on to explain, in Arabic the word could sound like “hidden river,” the source of living water that Jesus promises to the Samaritan woman, “that force of grace that, even in times of rejection and misunderstanding, keeps the Church alive.
However, the Pope continued, mixing with the Latin, the word would speak to us of a “river of wolves”, a “haven of peace for those who are troubled by their own sins, by violence, by so many internal and external wars that make ‘man a wolf to man.’ It is the same hidden river of grace that in dialogue with Jesus shows us our reality, opening us to hope.”
“Like St. Francis, in his famous encounter with the wolf, the Virgin Mary challenges us to be a leaven of communion and reconciliation between God and mankind, encouraging so many of the faithful who come to the Shrine for this purpose.”
Finally, the Holy Father observed, combining the term with the Mexican roots, Our Lady of Guadalupe is proclaimed as the one who conquers the serpent.
Thus, he said, Our Lady is the true mother of those are called who to this sanctuary, together with their shepherds, “to proclaim their faith in the Son of God, in Him who, by making all things new, has reconciled the world to Himself.”
“I encourage you to bring forth in the hearts of the men and women of our time that river of living water which wells up to eternal life, to worship God in Spirit and Truth”
Pope Francis concluded by pointing out that “in every historical moment, in every culture, the Gospel, while remaining always the same, is enriched in meaning.”
“Far from discarding, it includes every person who accepts it,” he said inviting the faithful to ask God that, in every time and place where Mary our Mother calls us, we may bear witness to that intimate union of which only the Spirit can be the artisan.
An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe