METUCHEN, N.J. (CNS) — Never doubt for one moment that Our Lady of Guadalupe, a “dear woman of love and compassion, solace and healing, solidarity and hope for the future,” is with us at this time, Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen said on the vigil of her feast day.
“How much has happened during this past year, since that evening and moment of grace for us,” the bishop remarked Dec. 11, referring to the Diocese of Metuchen being consecrated last year to Jesus through Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, her feast day.
“Where would we be without our dear Mother and her love for us?” he asked.
To mark this anniversary, Bishop Checcio led Catholics from the four-county diocese in the rosary and a prayer of renewal of the act of consecration.
The livestreamed prayer, held at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi in Metuchen, capped the diocese’s weeklong celebration of its “Season of Renewal,” an initiative launched to mark the spiritual milestone.
As part of that, ministry leaders from around the diocese took part in offering their own reflections and also opportunities for prayer throughout the week.
Leaders from Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen, the Catholic Center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and those entrusted with ministering to the Catholic youth of the diocese were among those to take part in the series of virtual events.
In his remarks at the cathedral, Bishop Checchio told parish ambassadors and members of the diocesan staff gathered for the reduced-capacity celebration that even given the graces from the 2019 consecration, this past year has been a reminder that roses come with thorns.
“Where would we be without our dear Mother and her love for us?”
“We have felt those thorns in the suffering of many during these months from the coronavirus, the scourge of racism in our land and in our hearts, that became apparent to us, and the suffering of many even from actions of those within our beloved church,” said the bishop.
Yet, he reminded them, we do not face these thorns nor sufferings alone.
“Today we celebrate again Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas,” said Bishop Checchio. “If we join with her, Our Lady of Guadalupe will speak to us in new ways, making apparent to us the power of a love that enters into our sufferings alongside us, a love that impels us to go forth and follow the example of self-emptying love.”
The accompaniment of Mary is a great gift to us, he said. We are asked to share the love she models “with a world that has so many who are lost and who don’t know what they are missing in life.”
“The Blessed Mother gives us the great example of the Visitation, going to those in need even when it’s difficult,” the bishop continued. “She also gives us the great example of staying with Jesus, always, even at the foot of the cross, as a sword pierced her heart in the moment of her Son’s great suffering for you and me.”
Bishop Checchio encouraged those present and those watching the livestream to reflect with gratefulness on the graces of the past year and to recommit themselves to taking their next steps forward with Mary, keeping her by their side and remembering her example, as they bring Jesus to all whom they encounter.
He said their next steps forward with Mary may include family members or friends; those who are sick; those who have lost a loved one or are suffering in other ways; a neighbor, a co-worker, a classmate or a stranger who needs to know Jesus’ love; an immigrant in need of welcome; a person in prison who needs to be visited; those who are hungry or homeless; or even a child in need of financial assistance so they can stay in Catholic school.
“Our mission is the greatest there has ever been: to make Jesus more known and loved,” said Bishop Checchio. “Mary accompanies us, just as she offered assurance to St. Juan Diego when doubts were overtaking him: ‘Am I not here? Am I not your Mother?'”
In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Archbishop José H. Gomez also celebrated a virtual Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the eve of her feast day.
“This year, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a time of pandemic, at a time when so many people around the world are suffering from the pandemic and from the economic situation and social isolation,” he said in his homily.
“We ask our Mother to intercede for us, for those who are sick, for the souls of those who have died because of this disease and for their families, and for all who are suffering,” he said.
The faithful pray, he said, “that she may bring healing and hope to the sick and comfort to our brothers and sisters whose lives and livelihoods have been harmed and destabilized. We ask her to release us from this coronavirus plague.”
The Mass followed the annual “Mananitas,” a musical tribute, which this year was livestreamed so that families could celebrate safely from their homes amid increased COVID-19-related public safety measures.
The celebration included a video of Aztec dancers honoring Mary, a Mariachi tribute and a rosary prayer led by Our Lady of Guadalupe expert Ernesto Vega and Catholic singer Yesenia Flores.
Several musical artists also serenaded “La Morenita” at the cathedral, which is home to the only known relic of the tilma of St. Juan Diego outside of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.
In the Archdiocese of Chicago Dec. 11, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was temporarily removed from the Des Plaines, Illinois, shrine to her and transferred to the Marian Chapel on the shrine grounds.
The transfer was made to prevent large crowds from gathering for the feast day amid the pandemic. A bouquet of roses was left in place of the image.
The shrine was closed from the afternoon of Dec. 11 to the morning of Dec. 13, when the image was returned to the shrine. Usually on Mary’s feast day, over 250,000 pilgrims visit the shrine in a 24-hour period from five different states
Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich and shrine officials had asked pilgrims to celebrate the feast day in their homes.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused much hardship and pain for so many,” Father Esequiel Sanchez, the shrine’s rector, said in a statement. “The message of comfort offered by Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: ‘Am I not here, I, who am your mother?’ extends particularly to us today.”
Even without the usual observance of the feast at the shrine this year, “it is still a time of prayer, petition and hope,” the priest said.