A Mother for the Civilization of Love

Interview With the Postulator of St. Juan Diego’s Canonization Cause

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By Omar Árcega
MEXICO CITY, DEC. 14, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The civilization of love has a mother — Our Lady of Guadalupe — who appeared and affirmed that she wanted to give all of her love, that is, Jesus Christ.

This observation was made by Monsignor Eduardo Chávez Sánchez, who was the postulator for the canonization of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatotoatzin. (St. Juan Diego was canonized by Pope John Paul II on July 31, 2002.)

Monsignor Chávez, who is the coordinator of an institute for studies on the apparition, and a canon at the Basilica of Guadalupe, spoke with ZENIT about Mary’s appearance and message, and what she can give society today.

ZENIT: In what sense can it be said that Our Lady of Guadalupe has built [Mexican] national identity?
Monsignor Chávez: In my opinion, Mexico was forged on Dec. 12, 1531, because she embraced all that is the Indian and Spanish identity, and from here sent a message to the whole world; she spoke in Nahuatl and put her picture on a Nahuatl tilma. Her messenger, St. Juan Diego, was an Indian of Toltec mentality — she took much from this mentality to give Jesus’ message as the true, living God. She spoke to the whole world through the Indians, without neglecting the Spanish because she is the Immaculate Conception that Spaniards understood perfectly well; she is a woman of Advent, also perfectly understood by them; we know that the Iberians celebrated the octave of the Immaculate Conception at the time of her apparition.
So she forges a new identity combining the Spanish and Indian world-visions. She sent the fruit to the whole world, that is why John Paul II called her the perfectly inculturated model of this evangelization.
ZENIT: Why is it said that the Virgin of Guadalupe is the Mother of the civilization of love?
Monsignor Chávez: She gave birth to the civilization of love because when she said to Juan Diego, «I want a little sacred house» she was talking about a church, but also about the family, that is, she spoke about the Church. Our Lady of Guadalupe said very clearly: I want to give all my love and that love is Jesus Christ. In other words, she wanted the construction not only of a material church but of the new civilization where Jesus Christ is the center, that is, love. For all these reasons, she is the forger of the civilization of love.
ZENIT: Is it correct to call her an Indian Virgin?
Monsignor Chávez: Yes, if one takes into account some elements. But what is most correct is what John Paul II said: she is the mestizo Virgin. John XXIII had already said this: her face is mestizo, she is the integration of all races, she is the mother of all human beings, of all peoples, that is why she said to Juan Diego: «I am your mother and mother of all the most varied races,» hence, she is mother of all human beings.
ZENIT: What could be the impact of Marian values on the North American mentality?
Monsignor Chávez: Catholicism in the United States is lived with great intensity, because it isn’t a majority religion there, so that it makes Catholics more faithful and practicing. One is a Catholic because one really lives it, and not because of mere tradition. On the other hand, the Catholic Church comes with the banner of Holy Mary, very especially under her name of Guadalupe. Thus a Church where the Virgin Mary is venerated is a place where the one living and true God is adored, that is why she has much force in the United States. As a result, there is a real impact of Marian values on North American society.
ZENIT: Is Our Lady of Guadalupe a symbol of unity between cultures?
Monsignor Chávez: Indeed, she is a sign of unity of all cultures. And what is that unity? Love. A Chinaman, a European, an African — we all need love, we want to live in love. That is why John Paul II saw it so clearly that he called her: Mother of America, Patroness of America; no longer «the Americas» in plural because one realizes that in love there are no borders. We are all God’s children and have the same dignity.
ZENIT: What does 13 Reed mean for the Aztec mentality and how is it related to the Virgin of Guadalupe?
Monsignor Chávez: It is a date that for them meant the beginning of a new era. In the codex of the foundation of Mexico the first thing they put is the marking 13 Reed, which means «a new civilization begins.»

In the Aztec calendar also the central designation at the top is the 13 Reed, a new cycle. As [Miguel] León-Padilla says, it symbolizes the way to the house of wisdom, to the house of light; it is a new day and divine wisdom. The year 1531 in the European calendar coincides with the 13th Reed in the indigenous calendar, for them the fact that the Virgin of Guadalupe had this meeting with human beings means that a new era is beginning full of divine wisdom.
ZENIT: What does Our Lady of Guadalupe transmit to present-day society in terms of values?
Monsignor Chávez: Above all, humility. She chose Juan Diego and his most important characteristic was humility, simplicity. She too is humble. She said, «Let is be done unto me according to your word, I am your handmaid,» in the same way that St. Elizabeth did when she received the Virgin’s visit: «Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to see me?» And as John the Baptist who said: «I am not the one who should shine, he it is who must shine, I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals.» All this is humility. Sin comes to the human heart because of pride.
ZENIT: How did Juan Diego’s Toltec mentality influence the reception of the Guadalupe message?
Monsignor Chávez: Toltec culture was like fertile earth for the reception of the message. They had come to believe in one God: Tloquenahuaque. They even called him the hidden God. To come to the idea of one God with the sole force of reason is frustrating because there is evil in the world and this reality cannot be explained. Netzahualcoyotl cried out to him: «I want to sing your flowers Tloquenahuaque but you are very far away and do not care about the human being.»

That is why when the Virgin of Guadalupe meets with Juan Diego and says to him «I am the mother of Tloquenahuaque» — it should be made clear that it was not about an idol — it is a characteristic of the living God, Juan Diego understand perfectly that it was the only God, who is not far away, who does not make fun of him. However, from the beginning of seeing her he always knew that she was the mother of Jesus because he said to her, «I am going to Tlatelolco to receive catechism from your priests.» He did not confuse her with an idol; he understood perfectly that Mary is the Mother of Jesus.
ZENIT: What role should Our Lady of Guadalupe have in the celebrations of the bicentenary of the independence of many Latin American countries, among them, Mexico?
Monsignor Chávez: A very important one because she is the one who forges a whole nation. But I see greater transcendence from this homeland: We have a responsibility vis-a-vis the whole world, we must be those instruments of God, through the Virgin of Guadalupe, to be a civilization of love in the whole world.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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