“The victory, if it comes, will come through Mary.” These were the dying words of Cardinal August Hlond, as recounted by Pope St. John Paul II in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope. Reflecting on the Cardinal’s prophecy, the pope wrote:
During my pastoral ministry in Poland, I saw for myself how those words [of Cardinal Hlond] were coming true. After my election as Pope, as I became more involved in the problems of the universal Church, I came to have a similar conviction: On this universal level, if victory comes it will be brought by Mary. Christ will conquer through her, because He wants the Church’s victories now and, in the future, to be linked to her.
Human Life International founder, Father Paul Marx, shared the Holy Father’s conviction. That is why he chose Our Lady of Guadalupe – whose feast day we celebrate in just a few days – as HLI’s patroness.
Fr. Marx, who tirelessly devoted his life to the defense of Life and Family, personally understood the hardships of the great battle between the forces of Life and Death and encouraged all, in every age, to turn to Our Lady of Guadalupe as the solution against fear and hopelessness. “In contemplating her simplicity, we find the strength to emulate her faith,” he said, “and proceed with confidence in the knowledge that God will overcome the seemingly insurmountable barriers looming over the world today.”
“Be Not Afraid”
Fear and hopelessness are a risk whenever we forthrightly confront the evils in our culture. In the past few decades, while there have been many victories, there have also been many – and catastrophic – losses. Despite the tireless efforts of so many committed pro-life and pro-family activists, abortion is still legal and untold millions of babies have been slaughtered; euthanasia activists are gradually gaining ground; same-sex ‘marriage’ is the law of the land; contraception, divorce, and immoral “reproductive technologies” have been normalized; pornography is epidemic; and gender ideology is sweeping our cultural institutions.
In the face of a lost culture wandering ever further from the truth about God, man, and morality, one risks becoming discouraged. But in moments of such discouragement, I often recall the booming voice of Pope St. John Paul II, thundering above the massive crowds who flocked to see him: “Be not afraid!”
Pope St. John Paul II first issued that memorable exhortation on October 22, 1978, after which he adopted it as a recurrent theme of his papacy. In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the Holy Father explained the meaning behind this unofficial motto and linked the fearlessness that he was calling for to Mary’s example. “Be not afraid!’ Christ said to the apostles and to the women after the Resurrection,” he wrote. “According to the Gospels, these words were not addressed to Mary. Strong in her faith, she had no fear.” Mary’s fearlessness arose from her unshakeable conviction in the power of Christ’s redemption, and in the goodness of God.
We too should have no fear, said the saintly pope, because “man has been redeemed by God,” and because “the power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear.” Our own fearlessness in the face of evil will arise in proportion to our dependence upon Mary, and the extent to which we emulate her example.
Our Lady of Guadalupe: Hope for a Culture of Life
Perhaps no Marian apparition provides such cause for hope as does Our Lady of Guadalupe. Before she appeared to the humble peasant Juan Diego, Aztec culture was still in throes of bloody-thirsty paganism. The conquistadors reported that, before they managed to partially curtail the practice of human sacrifice, the Aztecs had routinely sacrificed 10,000 human victims each year, tearing the still-beating hearts out of their victims’ chests. Many of those victims were children.
Mere human calculations would have said that demonic paganism was so deep-seated in Aztec culture that it would take hundreds of years of missionary toil to succeed in ripping it up by the roots. That is the human way: the best we can hope is to change the world by changing one mind and one heart at a time through slow, toilsome work. Instead, within just a few years after Mary’s apparition, paganism had been swept aside, and millions of Aztecs had been converted and baptized as Catholics. Human sacrifice came to an abrupt end. Mary claimed Mexico as her own.
In 1910 Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared Patroness of Latin America by Pope St. Pius X, and in 1945 Pope Pius XII declared her to be the Empress of all the Americas. On January 22, 1999 Pope Saint John Paul II named Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of the Americas and raised December 12 to the rank of Feast for all the countries of the Americas.
Our own culture’s bloodthirsty paganism is sanitized and hidden behind a veneer of clinical efficiency. But, as Fr. Marx never tired of observing, in substance it is no different from the horrors witnessed in the most degenerate pagan civilizations, such as the Aztecs. “In ever greater numbers, society sacrifices our young and aged at demonic altars, hurrying them to destruction through abortion, sex education, prostitution, pornography, infanticide and euthanasia,” said Fr. Marx, “foolishly believing that just a little more contraception, just one additional population control program, and we will be blessed with the happiness and peace that we so desire.”
In the face of the systemic, deep-seated, industrial-scale anti-life juggernaut that takes the lives of untold unborn children every year, we may feel a sense of helplessness and even powerless in the face of such evil.
But Mary is not powerless. There is no fear in her.
In the apparition at Guadalupe, Mary appeared as a young, pregnant native mother. She is carrying the Christ-child in her womb. What a potent symbol! God is present among us, but in a position of utmost dependence: an unborn child in his mother’s womb! Our Lady of Guadalupe is an icon of tender maternity and maternal strength, and of the utmost value and dignity of human life from its earliest stages. If Christ was with us from the first moment of His conception, then each unborn child, made in His image, shares in that dignity. And if Mary could change the course of human history by saying “yes” to God, and serving humbly as His mother, then we too can bring about the end of evil by our own daily “yes” to God, and through our daily work and sacrifices.
As the moral decline of the Americas [and the world] intensifies and spreads across the globe, we are in desperate need of renewal, conversion, and amendment of life. We need heavenly guidance and intervention. Sadly, most have accepted and embraced the “wide” path that leads to destruction of which our Lord warns. (Matt. 7:13-14) We are witnessing firsthand a “dramatic” confrontation between two diametrically opposing views, the “Culture of Death” and the “Culture of Life.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe brought the “Culture of Life” to pagan Aztec civilization with a speed that defied all human expectations. We need recourse to Mary to win the battle. We must pray the daily Rosary. By meditating on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we obtain the graces to live for Christ alone! We must consecrate ourselves to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. We must pray novenas to Our Lady of Guadalupe, begging for the conversion of our culture.
Pope St. John Paul II promulgated the following prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe, entrusting Life and Family to the Holy Virgin’s intercession. Please join me in praying this prayer, making it part of your daily devotion. The way to heal our country and the Americas, indeed all the world, is through Our Lady’s motherly guidance that leads us to her Son instructing us to “do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).
Prayer of Pope St. John Paul II to Our Lady of Guadalupe
O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the true God and Mother of the Church, who from this place reveal your clemency and your pity to all those who ask for your protection, hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust, and present it to your Son Jesus, our sole Redeemer.
Mother of Mercy, Teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice, to you, who come to meet us sinners, we dedicate on this day all our being and all our love. We also dedicate to you our life, our work, our joys, our infirmities and our sorrows. Grant peace, justice and prosperity to our peoples; for we entrust to your care all that we have and all that we are, our Lady and Mother. We wish to be entirely yours and to walk with you along the way of complete faithfulness to Jesus Christ in His Church; hold us always with your loving hand.
Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, we pray to you for all the Bishops, that they may lead the faithful along paths of intense Christian life, of love and humble service of God and souls. Contemplate this immense harvest, and intercede with the Lord that He may instill a hunger for holiness in the whole people of God, and grant abundant vocations of priests and religious, strong in the faith and zealous dispensers of God’s mysteries.
Grant to our homes the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings, with the same love with which you conceived in your womb the life of the Son of God. Blessed Virgin Mary, protect our families, so that they may always be united, and bless the upbringing of our children.
Our hope, look upon us with compassion, teach us to go continually to Jesus and, if we fall, help us to rise again, to return to Him, by means of the confession of our faults and sins in the Sacrament of Penance, which gives peace to the soul.
We beg you to grant us a great love for all the holy Sacraments, which are, as it were, the signs that your Son left us on earth.
Thus, Most Holy Mother, with the peace of God in our conscience, with our hearts free from evil and hatred, we will be able to bring to all true joy and true peace, which come to us from your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns for ever and ever.