This School of Love
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“…take my soul into your most sacred wound, so that in this school of love, I may learn to make a return of love to God, who has given me such wondrous proofs of his love.”
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December 12, 2014
The first temple and tabernacle in which the Word of God made Man reposed, in which he reigned with delight and joy, was the most pure bosom, the virginal heart, the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Temple of Solomon, dedicated to the true God, was adorned in the most magnificent and richest manner; but this living temple of the Holy Spirit, which the Son of God chose as his place of abode, was still more magnificently adorned. The former was interiorly adorned with the purest gold, but in the Heart of Mary was found the gold of the purest and most perfect charity. The Temple had lamps and its perpetual fire; in the Heart of Mary the glowing lamps of her love burned night and day.
The doors of the temple were of incorruptible wood, the symbol of the purity that should be there; but with her who is called the Gate of Heaven, could anything impure or corruptible ever find entrance? No, not even the shadow of sin. From the first instant of her Immaculate Conception she radiated with the brilliancy of the purest holiness, purity, and perfection. Were not her virtues also pearls and most precious stones, the rarest metal, the most refined and pure gold? Were they not the emerald of hope, the topaz of faith, the ruby of holy and pure love, and the sapphire of constant contemplation of her God, her sovereign Good?
This mother of beautiful love was all love, holiness, and perfection; and her virtues adorned the House of God and of her Son, like rich ornaments of paintings, jewels, flowers, and perfumes. She was the living ark of the covenant where not only the tables of the Old Law reposed, but also the Lawgiver himself of the New Law, the law of love. Her heart and that of St. Joseph were like the seraphim which stood before this ark in adoration, reverence, and love.
Some saints, entranced with admiration and enthusiasm for the beauty, holiness, and amiability of Mary, called her a conqueror of hearts. The beauty, grace, and sweetness of her virtues first conquered the Heart of her God and caused him to take flesh and dwell within her. She understood that the possession of hearts, the return of love, was the wish of the Heart of her Son. She loved all that our Lord did and suffered for it.
For this reason Mary would like to inspire all hearts and bring them to love our Lord with a real love, with an undivided love. With the sweet force of her love, the power of her intercession, the tender solicitude of her maternal heart, this Mother of eternal love seeks to gain and conquer hearts for her Son. Did she not therefore cooperate in the work of reconciliation by the sacrifice of her divine Son?
Fr. Leo John Dehon, SCJ, “The Sacred Heart of Mary,” Spiritual Directory
“I very much want and ardently desire that my hermitage be erected in this place,” the Lady from Heaven instructed the Amerindian, Juan Diego. Standing on a mountain sacred to the Nahuatl people, the Lady continued, “In it I will show and give to all people all my love, my compassion, my help, and my protection, because I am your merciful mother and the mother of all the nations that live on this earth who would love me, who would speak with me, who would search for me, and who would place their confidence in me. There I will hear their laments and remedy and cure all their miseries, misfortunes, and sorrows.
“And for this merciful wish of mine to be realized, go there to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will tell him in what way I have sent you as messenger, so that you may make known to him how I very much desire that he build me a home right here, that he may erect my temple on the plain.”
“Am I not here, you mother? Are you not under my shadow and my protection? Am I not your source of life? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle where I cross my arms? Who else do you need?” This written account of the vision of the Lady from Heaven, now known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, is amplified by her image, preserved on the tilma, or apron, of Juan Diego. Employing the symbolic language of the native Nahuatl people, this image serves as a visual catechism lesson explaining the mystery of the Incarnation on American soil and the self-offering of Mary who gives Jesus his human body.
Mary’s olive-hued skin clearly identifies her with the Indians and not with Spanish conquerors. An endearing and popular title for Our Lady of Guadalupe is La Morenita, “the brown beauty.” Her pale red dress is the color of spilled-blood. While the missionaries misunderstood the native sacrifices that were performed to preserve life, the natives could not comprehend the wholesale slaughter of their people perpetrated by the conquistadors. Yet, as the color of the sunrise, pale red also suggests a new beginning.
The Lady from Heaven wears a turquoise mantle. This color, reserved for deities and royalty, signifies the abundant life that results from the creative tensions in the universe. To the natives, the trailing stars of a comet indicated the end of a civilization. Here, the stars on the Lady’s mantle announce the beginning of a new civilization.
Only royalty and representatives of deities were worthy of being carried. An angel carrying La Morenita indicates that she came, not with the Spaniards, but on her own. Since a god supported each epoch, the presence of this heavenly being suggests that Mary is announcing a new era.
Among the divinities worshiped by the natives, the moon is among the greatest and the sun is the principal deity. The Lady from Heaven stands on the moon, but does not crush it. The rays emanating from behind her indicate that she hides the sun but does not extinguish it. She is greater than the greatest of the native gods.
Unlike native divinities, Mary looks directly at people. Her face, reflecting humility and compassion, speaks of maternal protection. The black maternity band around her waist indicates that she is pregnant. Over her navel, the symbolic center of the Nahuatl universe, she wears an Indian cross. She brings the child in her womb to the peoples of the New World. Jesus is the center of the universe and the new presence of God. Her brooch, with a Christian cross design, proclaims that she is at once the bearer and a follower of Christ.
By means of this image, Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, continually reminds people, especially the oppressed or disadvantaged, that the Incarnation is an ongoing mystery. For a people whose culture is dismissed, whose language is ignored, and whose experience is misunderstood, God looks, speaks, and acts as one of them.
Source: La Morenita, Evangelizer of the Americas, Virgilio P. Elizondo, Mexican American Cultural Center, 1980, and Guadalupe, Mother of the New Creation, Virgilio P. Elizondo, Orbis Books, 1997.
This is my seventh year working at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in which I have served the community as a teacher, assistant principal and now as principal. I grew up fortunate enough to have parents who made providing me and my brothers with a Catholic education their top priority. My calling to education came from this realization of how much of a gift this was. Consequently, I have chosen to work at under-resourced schools to ensure that students who couldn’t necessarily afford the most expensive schools received an education that they deserved, rather than the one that they could afford.
On a daily basis, our faculty is tasked with forming students of academic strength, of faith and of character. The faculty members feed off the dedication that we see in each other. This is a commitment that is deeply rooted in a faith in God and in a realization that ministering to His youngest disciples is not only worthwhile, but essential. The faculty meets each morning to begin the day in prayer. It would be impossible to separate the spirituality and service of the work we do at Our Lady of Guadalupe School. Our service to the community helps to form our spirituality while our faith, in turn, gives us the strength to serve through what can be tireless work.
I have come to see the work that I do as a service to God. I see many students and families struggle on a daily basis, yet this reminds me that the work we do is valuable. Despite the cost of sending students to Our Lady of Guadalupe School, families selflessly sacrifice for their children’s education. The value of our work is manifested as these students graduate, move on to high school and subsequently to college. We serve to set a foundation for students who can move on from our school to do great things.
Each year on December 12th, Our Lady’s feast day, the spirit, enthusiasm and devotion of the community becomes more evident. The days surrounding the feast day is one which I can only describe as celebratory humility. Catholics from all over the Houston area flock to Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in order to pray and celebrate. The feeling is simply infectious. The devout bring roses which drape the altar and the grotto. These roses are an outward symbol of an inner devotion. My spirit is reinvigorated and my commitment to serve is renewed on this day. God’s love is real, and my service to the students and families at Our Lady of Guadalupe school is my own version of the rose that I leave at the altar. It is the way that I know best to demonstrate my gratitude for the blessings that God has bestowed upon me.
Matt Garcia-Prats, Principal at Our Lady of Guadalupe School, Houston, TX
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer the parishioners, students, teachers, and staff at Our Lady of Guadalupe, an SCJ sponsored parish and school in Houston, Texas. Please join the Priests of the Sacred Heart in using this prayer from their Prayer Book.
Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe,
a few short years after the gospel was preached on our shores
you came to us, bearing your Son, Jesus.
Others had come with greed in their hearts,
guns in their hands,
and disease in their bodies,
but you came with our Savior in your womb.
You came dressed in our colors,
speaking our language and using our symbols.
Your message was one of love and protection.
You gathered us into your arms
and assured us that you are our mother too.
As we place our trust in you,
you promise to protect us from the powerful of our world.
Dear Lady of Guadalupe,
we still need your love and protection
in the midst of a pagan world.
We still need your Son, our God,
who is our brother and savior.
Just as your motherly image remains among us to this day,
so too may we learn from you
how to heal all in our land
as brothers and sisters in the family of God.