Like Mary, the Church Is a Mother


No other person radiates what Advent is all about more than Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Pregnant with the Son of God, she hopes for, awaits, and prepares for His birth.

God the Father kept her, “the second Eve,” in mind from the moment Adam and the “first Eve” disobeyed God, a sin,“original” by name, that could only be healed by a Savior.  

In fact, at her conception in the womb of her own mother, Saint Ann, God the Father preserved her, appropriately, from that original sin. That’s the act of God we celebrate today, her Immaculate Conception.

Next Monday, December 12, we’ll continue to honor this grand Advent woman on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She appeared to a Mexican peasant, Juan Diego, (whose feast is tomorrow) as a pregnant mother, in 1531.

While all who love Jesus also love His Immaculate Mother, the people of Mexico, and Mexican descent, have an especially tender and exuberant love of her under the title Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Her feast is a day not only to honor the “woman clothed with the sun,” the expectant woman of Advent, but to thank God for the gift of Mexicans who now proudly call the United States their earthly home.

Except for our Native Americans, every citizen of this “one nation under God” is an immigrant, or the descendent of one. We are a nation of immigrants, and boast of that identity.

We New Yorkers, in a city and state which has the Statue of Liberty at our front door, and who daily chat and work with people of every ethnic group possible, especially wear that “name tag” of a “nation of immigrants” happily.

Especially do we Catholics relish the title. As historians of immigration point out, almost half of immigrants to the United States were, and are, Catholics. Those newcomers, including our ancestors, looked to the Church for a welcome, protection, help in starting a new home, education, and, of course, the preservation of their strong faith. With some few embarrassing exceptions, we have not let them down.

These immigrants were, and are, hardly a threat, a burden, or a menace. On the contrary:  they were and are friends, neighbors, workers, patriots, parishioners, and citizens.

That is under attack today, as you know. While calls for secure borders and careful scrutiny of immigrants are fair and necessary, branding them as enemies and problems is contrary to the Bible and to America’s glowing tradition.

Recently I was speaking to a group about the moving traditions our Mexicans have on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. One of my listeners commented, “But they need to get over all that! Why don’t they become Americans?”

That got my Irish up, as I replied, “Why don’t you become an American? To welcome, prize, and protect the immigrant is among what is best in our American heritage!” 

I cherish Saint Patrick’s Day; I savor Columbus Day, when the grandchildren of Italian immigrants celebrate; I revel at the Steuben Day parade, when those of German background do the same; Our Puerto Ricans have theirs...on and on...all as American as Rockefeller Center.

My priests, sisters, deacons, lay faithful, and brother bishops tell me—and I hear it from the people as well—that our immigrants are now scared, nervous, and unsure of their future.  They came here in search of a dream, and they worry it might become a nightmare.

The Church stands with them; the Church will speak and advocate for them. Their Church is a Mother—like the Blessed Mother who appeared at Guadalupe—who embraces her children others might scorn: the unborn, the poor, the immigrant, the dying.

That Advent woman, Mary, whose Immaculate Conception we hail today, who appeared to Saint Juan Diego at Guadalupe, and asked him, “Why are you afraid? Am I not your mother?” was herself away from home, without a home, with an untimely pregnancy, in Bethlehem, to give birth to her son, who happened to be the Savior of the World. Not long after, she, the baby, and the child’s foster father, Saint Joseph, had to flee their native country because the political authorities wanted to kill Jesus. They were refugees again.

No surprise the Church this baby would grow up to found has a special love for immigrants and refugees.


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