Sunday, December 30, 2012

(107) The Holy Family and Our Own Particular Families

             Fr. Tim Davison was born and raised in Gallipolis, Ohio and is a product of St. Louis Church there.  Currently, he is pastor of a large parish in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  While visiting his ailing father, he gave this very eloquent and meaningful sermon on the Feast of the Holy Family December 27, 2009 in the church where he grew up.  It's a beautiful reflection on the Holy Family and what the Christian family should be.

By Fr. Tim Davison

For Christians the Holy Family is the most perfect example of what every Christian family should be.  And we need models to help us to strive toward the very best family possible.  What do we see in the Holy Family living together in Nazareth that families today can try to imitate?

            Obedience. St. Luke tells us that Jesus, the Son of God was obedient to Mary and Joseph.  And so we see obedience as one of the virtues that even Jesus practiced in His youth.  It is a fact that many children would do well to imitate.  Obedience to parents is a Christian virtue that can incline children to practice a loving obedience toward God which is so vital for the Christian development.  As long as parents are not commanding their children to sin, the children should obey their parents as the representatives of God, Our Heavenly Father.  That is why the Fourth Commandment is listed as the first one among the ones that deal with our relationship toward our neighbor.

            As a priest I have seen how destructive toward the family’s peace and well-being is the spirit of disobedience.

            Prayer & Teaching the Faith. What else do we see in the Holy Family that families today should seek to imitate?  Undoubtedly Mary and Joseph taught Jesus His prayers and gave Him good example by their own lives of piety and reverence toward God and the holy things of God.  They took Him to Jerusalem, the center of their religious practice of the faith, and fulfilled the precepts of the Jewish religious law.  Jesus, even though He was God’s Son, still grew in human understanding and love as He practiced His Jewish religion.  In observing the religious law the Holy Family left us an example.  Prayer and obedience to God’s law are part of the picture for a family that is a school for Christian life.  How many families neglect daily prayer together and obedience to God’s commands to their own detriment.

            Work Ethic. Another important element that we see in the Holy Family’s life together is work.  Certainly there were times of rest, but also time to work in the home or in the shop.  Idleness and wasting time were not part of the picture for the Holy Family nor should they be for families today.

            Helpfulness, Generosity, and Sensitivity to the Needs of Family Members. Along with work comes helpfulness to one another.  Thinking of others and their needs, being generous in offering help to each other, and overcoming laziness is a very important aspect of life for a Christian family that desires to live in a holy way.  Again, the family is a school to teach the virtues that children need in order to mature in the faith and learn to put their gifts at the service of one another.  Healthy family life is hard work in itself.  There are many setbacks and headaches and heartaches along the way. 

            Some Silence. But through it all Christian families should keep in view the life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Nazareth.  How much silence was observed in that holy house?  I can imagine that there was ample opportunity for silent reflection to occur.  Is that possible in modern homes?  Anything is possible if one truly desires it.  Perhaps it is recognizing the value of silence that has been forgotten today in many homes.

            The family today experiences many challenges.  So many marriages fail.  So many distractions are present in the homes with the tv and internet, and all the many social activities that children are involved in at school, etc.  It can be very difficult to find time together in a meaningful and constructive way.  At times the parents have to stop and really think deeply about how to make sure that their family is a school for teaching true Christian virtues and values.  It takes a lot of prayer and a lot of work to create a true domestic Church where God is obeyed, loved, and honored and where each member of the family is truly helped to live a Christian life.

            The family is the basic building block of any society.  A society is only as strong as its families.  Holy families that pray together especially the holy rosary are helping to build a strong tomorrow for the Church and Society.  It is certainly worth all the hard work and effort involved because where there are healthy, happy, generous, and obedient children and where parents are truly guiding and teaching the children the Christian virtues the whole society benefits.  Let us pray to the Holy Family of Nazareth……Jesus, Mary and Joseph for all families today. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

(106) Review of the Visit of the Pilgrim Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Marian Prayer Program of the Knights of Columbus at St. Louis Church Gallipolis December 11-16, 2012

The Inauguration of the Marian Prayer Program at the National Convention August 2011

The Knights of Columbus is sending the Pilgrim Image to parishes all over the U.S. for a day or two in its 2011-2013 Marian Prayer Program as part of the New Evangelization.  Each of its 72 jurisdictions (each state, almost every province in Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, Dominican Republic, Guam, and Puerto Rico) has a copy of the image to circulate an image.  This image touched the original image and the frame has some of the earth from where Mary appeared.  See

St. Louis Church Gallipolis December 11-December 16, 2012

            Only eight weeks after receiving the statue of the International Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima, St. Louis Church Gallipolis, Ohio was especially privileged and blessed to receive the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Knights of Columbus on her great feast day, December 12.  

Very important was to prepare the people for the image on the two previous Sundays with announcements in the bulletin and from the pulpit.  To really appreciate the image, it is imperative to understand the history and meaning of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Thus Paul Sebastian, one of the knights of Council 3335, wrote two bulletin inserts (2 pages each) to help to prepare the people for the Pilgrim Image.  More detail and photos are included in two December blogs at   

After hearing that a member of one council didn’t even know who the image was after the visit, we asked our pastor to briefly explain from the pulpit the importance of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a little of its history since many don’t read the church bulletin and don’t regularly attend Mass every Sunday.  We opened the viewing of the image to the public with a blurb in the local newspaper promised by the editor for five consecutive days and left the church opened through most of the weekend of December 14-16 in addition to the feast day itself on December 12.

The Knights of Columbus gave us no such information on the history and meaning of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe nor anything about what they were trying to accomplish with this wonderful initiative of their Marian Prayer Program.  Thus we found on the letter of Carl A. Anderson, the Supreme Knight on the “Mother of the Civilization of Love” (See and read it to the membership at the Council meeting the day before the arrival.  Furthermore, we put notices in the bulletin and send out e-mails to as many parishioners and knights as possible.  We were, however, happy to receive prayer pamphlets and holy pictures that came with the image
Reception of the Image. Because of the death of one of our knights, Don Robinson, our 4th Degree members were occupied with being his honor guard, we did not welcome the image or send it off with a procession of knights in regalia nor did we have a 24 hour honor guard during adoration as we did with the visit of the International Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima October 14-15.  To promote solidarity in the Council, it was proposed that the knights attend a Holy Hour specifically for the K of C, but we could not agree on a common hour. 
Bruce Davison, an elder and former Grand Knight of Council 3335 St. Louis Church Gallipolis, picked up the 30 x 18 inch image from the council at Sacred Heart Church Pomeroy, Ohio on Tuesday, December 11.  He placed it on a tripod in front of the main altar at St. Louis.  At 5:30 pm Paul Sebastian gave a talk on the history and meaning of the image.  This was followed by benediction and rosary.  At 7:30 pm he gave another talk in the church basement on Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Unborn with a greater focus on how she transformed a Culture of Death among the Aztecs to a Culture of Life with a comparison to our own Culture of Death.

Eucharistic Adoration. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration for the next 24 hours through the night of December 11-12 into the great feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Jaga Sebastian signed up two people to commit themselves to adoration during each hour.  Often several would be there.  At 9 am about 12 members of the Latin American community had an hour of rosary and guadalupan song in Spanish with a CD recording of a Mexican Mariachi band to accompany them in tribute to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.  Having lived near the shrine in Mexico City for a month of language training for my 14 year mission in Peru and visiting it every day, I was moved to tears.  Following Mexican custom, they walked on their knees from the back of the church until each one touched the image.  Other parishioners present were very impressed.  Since Fr. William Myers, our pastor emeritus, with the prodding of Bruce Davison started a monthly Sunday afternoon five hour Eucharistic Adoration in about 2005 with 24 hour adoration for special occasions as the Prayer Vigil for Life December 8/9 and the Visit of the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima, this was our best participation ever for Eucharistic Adoration.

The image has an official certification from the Rector of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City as being an authentic copy.  This is important because many copies have a slightly different tint and there are many versions.  Just the same as the original image in Guadalupe, the facsimile looks even more beautiful and vibrant from a distance.  The Catholic Women’s club put a bouquet of beautiful pink roses before the image along with a basket for petitions that would be offered at each Mass during the presence of the image. 
Closing Days & Summary. The 24 hour Eucharistic Adoration was closed with a well attended Mass and benediction at 5:30 pm in the evening.  The image remained on display below Mary’s altar and statue through the Masses of Sunday December 16.  Then we packed the image in its protective case with this report enclosed and Keith Elliott, the Worthy Navigator of our 4th Degree Assembly, took the image to its next destination.  

 About 100 people attended the special opening talk, benediction, & rosary; the 24 hour Eucharistic Adoration; and Mass on the great feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12.  Probably twice that number saw the image at the well-attended funeral on December 13 plus the three regular Masses of the weekend of December 15-16.  Of course, these figures include double counting of people who saw the image more than once.  The parish is small with about 120 families or 250 faithful.
In this way during the 2011-2013 Marian Prayer campaign of the Knights of Columbus, which includes the Year of Faith, Mary is continuing her great mission of nurturing our faith and bringing us closer to her son as she has done over the centuries.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

(105) Our Lady of Guadalupe (II): Mary's Message to us in the Image


           Only eight weeks after receiving the statue of the International Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima, St. Louis Church Gallipolis-Ohio is especially privileged and blessed to receive the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the date that coincides with her great feast day on December 12.  The Knights of Columbus is sending it to parishes all over the U.S. for a day or two over the course of a year in its Marian Prayer Program as part of the New Evangelization.  We will receive the large image the evening of Tuesday December 11 with benediction and rosary.  The Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for adoration through the night into her great feast with Mass in the evening……some 24 hours.  In this Year of Faith, Mary will continue her great mission of nurturing our faith and bringing us closer to her son as she has done over the centuries.  As part of the spiritual preparation for Christmas, individuals and parish groups are invited to sign up for an hour of adoration as our Latin American families will do from 9-10 am on Wednesday. 


            During the ten years after the conquest of Mexico in 1521, evangelization of the Indians was painfully slow.  Only about 30,000, a small fraction or 0.4% converted to the faith.  St. Juan Diego was one of the few.  The Indians resented their treatment by the Spanish conquerors.  Strife and unrest increased.  Bishop Juan de Zumárraga (see his portrait below), a Franciscan who fought for better treatment of the Indians, feared a full scale revolta blood bath.  He turned to Mary for help, praying to Our Lady for reconciliation and peace.   It is believed that he asked to receive roses native to his homeland of Castile Spain as a sign that his prayer would be answered.  His prayer was answered through St. Juan Diego in spectacular fashion on December 12, 1531 with the miraculous image of her that she placed on his tilma beneath his cargo of Castilian roses as he presented them to the Bishop.



  The Indians could immediately relate to this icon of Mary, which was full of symbols they could easily understand.  Mother Mary adapted to the Aztec culture by appearing in the dress of an Aztec princess.  She seemed to be one of them and their mother too.  Suddenly, they could relate to the Church her son founded.  The Spanish missionaries did not have to go out and proselytize; the Indians eagerly sought them out.  In the short span of seven years the message of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe brought 8,000,000 Mexican Indians to the fold within seven years and thus firmly established the faith in our hemisphere, roughly making up for the losses to the Protestant Reformation.  Note in reading this article, how Mary ingeniously adapts her message to the Indian culture.  Clearly Mary, the patroness of the missions, is the greatest evangelizer of all time. Mother, in this Year of Faith, pray that we become more firm with a deeper faith and to spread it in every way we can.  As you did in the 16th Century, please reach fallen away Catholics, lukewarm Catholics, and non-Catholics in the New Evangelization while nurturing our faith.

Juan de Zumárraga, the first Archbishop of Mexico City  

            The question then arises: Exactly what does the image convey through its many symbols to millions of Indians having the same gods, but 22 different languages?

            It is interesting to note a parallel between the image and Indian customs and culture.  The Aztecs wrote their histories by painting on cloth and in their codices (hieroglyphics) used drawings and symbols instead of letters.  The figure of Nuestra Señora is shown blotting out the sun which they adored.  Only its rays are visible.  Thus the human figure of the Mother of God is shown as greater than the sun which therefore could not be God.

Another important deity was Quetzalcoatl, the comet or sky serpent.  According to Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, there actually was a great comet which passed close to Earth about 4,000 years ago and caused great destruction.  Interesting is that Halley's Comet passed close to earth at the time of Mary's appearance.   For centuries the Indians would sacrifice hundreds, even thousands of prisoners and babies at their festivals to appease the Sky Serpent, reminiscent of the dragon that appeared in the sky in Revelations 12:3 of the Bible.  Without realizing it, what they had probably amounted to a form of satanic worship.   

            Evil certainly had considerable control of their religion and culture, much of the latter advanced in some ways for the times and beautiful, yet in other ways diabolical.  The Aztecs at the time would wage war with their neighbors for the express purpose of obtaining prisoners for their human sacrifices… many as 50,000 per year…….a Culture of Death.  Mary continued the work of her Son, who saved the Indians from the darkness.  Today in essence “modern” mothers sacrifice their unborn babies to the idols of convenience and pleasure in abortion and euthanasia……another Culture of Death in some ways worse.  Lord, save our world from the darkness that engulfs us today.

            The image of Mary convinced the Indians that they would no longer have to make human sacrifices to appease it.  The sky serpent or moon god is represented as a crescent moon charred by the flames of hell.  The moon also symbolized darkness.  In addition Santa María (Holy Mary or Saint Mary) is shown triumphantly standing upon the charred crescent moon in the same manner as she is depicted crushing the same serpent over 300 years later as the Immaculate Conception on the Miraculous Medal which she gave to St. Catherine Labouré in her Paris convent in 1830 to distribute.  Both remind us of Genesis 4:15……”I will put enmity between you and the woman” and Revelations 12:1…….”A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”  All of this shows us that her son, the light of the world, triumphed over darkness and evil.  

“Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

         Today tourists can visit the Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Mexico City and the two large pyramids to the Sun (246 ft. in contrast to the Great Pyramid of Egypt at 481 ft.) and the Moon (140 ft.) outside of the city.  The Pyramid of the Moon is shown below.  The Aztecs probably made human sacrifices there as did their predecessors in the 6th Century.  Our Lady of Guadalupe put a stop to human sacrifices in Mexico.  Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn, please do the same with the human sacrifice of babies through abortion in today’s world.
Pyramid of the Moon as Seen From the Pyramid of the Sun

            The mantle of Nuestra Señora is blue green, which was the Indian color symbolizing royalty as fit for the Queen of Heaven and Earth.  Covering it with stars indicates that she came from heaven and that the celestial bodies which they adored were not gods, but instead were created to serve His creatures.  Another interesting fact may be added about the 130 foot Tepeyac Hill on which la Santísima (Most Holy) Virgin appeared.  Prior to the arrival of Hernán Cortés, the conquistador, this region was dedicated to the worship of the goddess, Teotenantzen which means Mother of God.

            After studying her figure, the Indians were sure that she had been an inhabitant of earth at one time.  Having made herself visible to St. Juan Diego proved that the human soul is immortal.  Her image also taught them that Maria Santísima is not a goddess.  While supported by an angel, her hands are folded in supplication-- indicating that she is interceding for us at the throne of the true invisible God.  Her eyes are also cast downward, showing humility and compassion as our mother and God’s messenger. Also, in Indian iconography, a god looked straight ahead with wide open eyes.

            On her neck a small golden brooch with a black cross identifies Our Lady with the cross which the Indians had seen on the banners of the troops of Hernán Cortés.  It convinced them that they should embrace the religion of their conquerors and follow the Christ who is symbolized by that cross and thus is greater than Mary.  Thus in great numbers they eagerly sought the missionaries in order to learn about the meaning of this cross.  These Indians were astounded to hear that the Son of God had offered Himself as human sacrifice for their salvation especially since they for years had offered slaves, prisoners of war, and babies as human sacrifices to their pagan god.  See

            Furthermore, Mary is wearing a black sash or bow (symbol of new life) around her waist, indicating to the Indians that she is pregnant, thus making her feast day in Advent a beautiful part of reliving the joyful expectation of the long promised Messiah at Christmas.  Therefore Our Lady of Guadalupe is also the Patroness of the Unborn. Furthermore, the four pedal flower over her slightly enlarged womb symbolizes life.  Her blouse has a very high neck line, perhaps a message to women of today regarding modest dress, notwithstanding that the culture today is so different from any culture in history. 
In 1921 a terrorist hid a stick of dynamite in a bouquet of flowers and placed it within three feet of the image.  Marble blocks were torn out of the altar; every window was broken; and a brass crucifix now on display in the shrine as shown above was badly deformed.  In addition a painting of St. James behind the image was destroyed.  Yet not even a crack appeared in the glass covering as the image was left completely intact.  Evil again tried to prevail, but failed.  God is in control.  Through all of this the image has survived and is beautifully preserved over the main altar almost as it actually was nearly a century before the Mayflower touched our coast.  Can it be then, that this divine work of art also has a message and a significance particularly applicable to our modern but chaotic times?

            Scientific Scrutiny. As with the Shroud of Turin, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been subjected to scientific examination.  Investigations by artists and scientists show that no one of this world could have painted such a work.  The cloth had never been prepared for painting; even gold adheres to the rough cloth with no fixative.  A painting done by an artist on the rough fibers would be very uneven.  The fibers are not penetrated; and not even a brush mark could be found.  In his study of thousands of paintings throughout the world, Professor Francisco Camps Riberia and others could find no technique or process that approached the image.  Unusual is the fact that the icon seems larger and the colors even more vibrant at a distance.

            The tilma of St. Juan Diego was hand woven from the fibers of the maguey cactus plant, which has a lifespan of only twenty years.  Since the material is rough, very absorbent, and has a large seam running through the middle; it is most unsuitable for painting.  Through the years it has been exposed to a 50% nitric acid solution that spilled on it, thousands of people touching it, and the smoke of countless candles.  Yet the colors have a bright freshness instead of the expected dull and dark colors so common to other paintings of the period.  Turquoise paints in particular fade very easily.  The sun burst does have some fading to indicate that it will pass away.  Mysteriously, the image has a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the normal body temperature,  

In 1936, Fritz Hahn, a professor in Mexico City, took two fibers from the tilma……one red, the other yellow, and then brought them to Germany for a close examination. There, Dr. Richard Kuhn, Nobel Prize Winner and director of the Department of Chemistry of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, came to the conclusion that the fibers in question contained no known artificial coloring — neither mineral, vegetal, animal, nor synthetic.  Attempts to duplicate the image on the same type of cloth worn by Juan Diego failed.  More recently a NASA scientist and Dr. Philip C. Callahan, a biophysicist confirmed these findings with infrared analysis.  Nor does the color penetrate the fibers.  There is no over-varnish or under-drawing (i.e., under-sketch) as standard in painting.  The stars on Mary’s mantle mirror exactly the positions of the visible constellations before dawn on December 12, 1531, looking from many light years away, as if from heaven.  The flowers on her inner garment follow a contour map of central Mexico, further indicating her queenship and the encounter between and earth.  See              

            This image is the only authentic portrait of Our Lady.  It corresponds very well to the only known detailed description of Mary's features made in 1821.  This is described in the book, “The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich”.  A painting later discovered in the catacombs and a portrait of her said to be painted by St. Luke also resemble the image.  The height of the Virgin in the image measures four feet eight inches which was probably her actual height.  Her features are not really those of an Indian maiden and while her color is slightly tan, it is not dark……a blend of the Hebrew, the European, and the Indian.  She is Mother of all.   

            A Most Affectionate Motherly Message to Each One of Us.  Let us close by quoting Nuestra Señora's own words which have particular application to our lives, our special missions from God, and work with its not infrequent frustrations.  Here St. Juan Diego, as we so often do, is so involved in the worries of this life and caring for his sick uncle that he forgets to keep his appointment with Nuestra Señora.  Thus in her last appearance she said to the 57 year old Indian in his language:

“Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son:  Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you.  Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance.  Also do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety, or pain.  Am I not here, who am your Mother?  Are you not under my shadow and protection?  Am I not your fountain of life?  Are you not in the folds of my mantle-- in the crossing of my arms?  Is there anything else you need? (Qué más te falta?)”  At that moment his uncle was healed.  These words are the most affectionate expression by Mary of her motherly love to each one of us. Once again la Madre de Dios (the Mother of God) personally reiterates her maternal function in the Church as the mother of each one of us individually.  Can she be any more precise, tender, and loving in her declaration?  Dear reader, she’s also talking to you.  Take this personally and your love for Mary will grow.

            Note: Acknowledgments are due to Helen Behrens for much of the information in this article.  Her fascinating booklet, “America's Treasure” together with a wealth of slides, pictures, and other material in English as well as Spanish is available from her English Information Center at Apartado 26732.  Furthermore, I enjoyed so much talking to her and listening to her explanations.  May she rest in peace.

Books on Our Lady of Guadalupe

Warren H. Carroll:  Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness
Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate:  Handbook on Guadalupe
Fr. Christopher Rengers: Mary of the Americas