Confronting the World: A Nine-Month Novena

Seven years from now, in the year 2031, the Church will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego. Much can happen in seven years, for much happened in the seven years that followed her apparitions, most of all, the conversion of millions of souls to the Catholic faith.

The world into which the Virgin Mother of God entered by her apparitions at Tepeyac, in what is today Mexico City, from December 9th to 12th, 1531, was marked by sharp contrasts. On the one hand, there was an open rebellion against God and His Law written upon every human heart. The Aztec people were engaging in a cruel and wholesale practice of human sacrifice, killing violently innocent and defenseless human lives in the name of their religion. Wicked men had perverted the religious sense of the people, so that they no longer listened to the voice of God in their heart, the conscience, which teaches every man of good will that it is always and everywhere wrong to destroy innocent and defenseless human life. At the same time, a number of the Spanish explorers, for the sake of selfish interests, viewed the native people as less than human and, therefore, thought nothing of using military force to conquer them, at the cost of many human lives and of great destruction of the necessities of life.

On the other hand, God had spoken to the heart of the King of Texcoco already in 1464 and to his son, leading them to seek God and His truth, beauty and goodness. Their work to lead the people to the knowledge of God found its fulfillment with the arrival of the first Franciscan Friars, missionaries from Spain, in 1524. The Franciscan Friars, under the leadership of one of their own, Fra’ Juan de Zumárraga, the First Bishop of Mexico, were carrying out, in a wonderful way, the first evangelization of Mexico.

The Friars provided a careful teaching of the faith, instructing the native people about God and His plan for our eternal happiness. Through their teaching, many of the natives came to understand more fully the voice of God speaking to their hearts, and many embraced the Catholic faith. Among the first of the converts to the true faith were Juan Diego, his wife Maria Lucia, and his uncle Juan Bernardino. They happily walked the fourteen miles from their home to Tlalteloco to receive instruction in the faith from the Franciscan Friars on Saturday and to participate in Sunday Mass. When Maria Lucia died in 1529, Juan Diego moved near to his uncle, Juan Bernardino, to care for him. His Catholic faith deepened more and more, especially through his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.[1]

It was into this world, suffering from so much confusion, error and violence, that God sent the Mother of His only-begotten Son, Savior of the World, to give powerful witness to the truth of His immeasurable and unceasing love for all mankind and to the fullest expression of that truth in the Mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation. God chose Juan Diego and Bishop Juan de Zumárraga to receive the apparitions and message of the glorious Virgin Mary, so that she might reach all the people, drawing them to the truth, beauty and goodness of God Who alone dispels the lies, the ugliness and the evil, which destroy human life and lead man into sin and eternal death.

The whole purpose of the apparitions and message is expressed in the first words of Our Lady to Saint Juan Diego:

Know, know for sure my dearest and youngest son, that I am truly the ever perfect Holy Virgin Mary, who has the honor to be the Mother of the one true God for whom we all live, the Creator of people, the Lord of all around us and of what is close to us, the Lord of Heaven, the Lord of Earth.

I want very much that they build my sacred little house here, in which I will show Him, I will exalt Him upon making Him manifest, I will give Him to all the people in all my personal love, Him that is my compassionate gaze, Him that is my help, Him that is my salvation.

Because truly I am honored to be your compassionate mother, yours and that of all the people that live together in this land, and also of all the other various lineages of men; those who love me, those cry to me, those who seek me, those who trust in me. Because there [at my sacred house] truly will I hear their cry, their sadness, in order to remedy, to cure all their various troubles, their miseries, their pains.[2]

The apparition of the Mother of God, her image which God, in a miraculous way, left permanently on the mantle of Juan Diego, and her message confirm the truth of our salvation which Our Lord accomplished by His Passion and Death, the grace of which He never ceases to offer us in the Church, His Mystical Body.

When the people were rebelling against God and His plan for our happiness already now on earth and, one day, perfectly in Heaven, the goal of our earthly pilgrimage, God sent the Mother of His only-begotten Son, our Savior, to lead them to Him alive for them in the Church. The little sacred house of the Virgin of Guadalupe is a symbol of the whole Body of Christ in which God the Son Incarnate dwells through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from His glorious-pierced Heart into the hearts of those who seek Him, who give Him their hearts, and who strive to serve Him in all things.

Our Lady of Guadalupe leads us to the true dwelling of God in our midst, announced through the Prophet Zechariah:

See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they shall be his people, and he will dwell among you, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you… Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the Lord! For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.[3]

God has indeed come to dwell among us always in His holy Church, in which His only-begotten Son, Our Lord, works to draw all men to Himself, so that they may live in justice and peace, serving God and their neighbor, and reach their eternal home in Heaven.

Yet we witness in our time so much confusion and error regarding God and His plan for our eternal salvation. How often we behold open rebellion against the Law of God written upon every human heart. How often we hear today that the Church is behind the times, that the Church needs to dialogue with the world, that the Church must find a compromise with the world. No, the Church is not behind the times, for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.”[4]  What the world needs from the Church is Christ, His saving teaching and sacraments. Yes, the mission of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ is to bring Christ to the world, Who alone is our salvation, not by compromising with the world but by calling the world to conversion, as Lord Himself did from the first moment of His Public Ministry, when He declared: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”[5] When tried before Pontius Pilate to be condemned to death on the Cross, Our Lord made clear the mission of His Redemptive Incarnation, His mission as King of Heaven and of Earth: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”[6]  His Passion and Death were His ultimate witness to the truth, leading to His Resurrection and Ascension, the victory of Divine Truth and Love.

Having ascended to the right hand of the Father, He, in complete union with God the Father, poured forth upon the Church from His glorious-pierced Heart the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit. From His Most Sacred Heart, Christ pours forth into the hearts of the members of His Mystical Body the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit—Septenarium Sacrum—to inspire and guide us to take up daily the Cross for our eternal salvation, and for the salvation of the world.

We confront serious difficulties in our personal lives. We confront the situation of the world beset by an abysmal decline of Christian culture, by an attack on the most fundamental truths about the world itself and about human life and its cradle in marriage and the family, and by violence in multiple forms, most especially in warfare. We confront the situation of the Church beset by pervasive confusion, error, and their fruit, division. And we are tempted to seek their resolution apart from Christ and His Cross. We are tempted to seek their resolution apart from Christ Who has promised to remain with us always in the Church until the Last Day. We are tempted to abandon Christ in the Church through schism and apostasy. The only way to meet all the challenges we confront in our personal life, in our life in the world, and in our life in Christ in the Church, is to remain faithful to Christ, to remain faithfully with Christ on the way of the Cross and to stand with His Mother, the ever-Blessed Virgin, who stood so faithfully, so trustingly at the foot of His Cross.

To this end, I am calling on all Catholics, especially those in the Americas, to join me in praying a nine-month novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, beginning on March 12 of this year, and ending with a consecration to Our Lady of Guadalupe on her feast on December 12.

Our Lady of Guadalupe bids us to come to her, so that she may lead us to her Divine Son, the only source of our salvation. The situation in the world today is grave, even as it was at the time of her apparitions in 1531, but we must never give up hope, we must never turn away from the maternal gaze of the Mother of God Who draws us to her Divine Son alive for us in the Church, above all, in the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. In the Virgin of Guadalupe, we behold the “woman clothed with the sun,” who “was with child,” and who “gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.”[7] The Virgin of Guadalupe is the Virgin Mary, “full of grace”[8] because she was destined from all time to bear in her womb, through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, the “Son of the Most High,”[9] the Son who rules “over the house of Jacob forever,” and of whose “Kingdom there will be no end.”[10]

This nine-month novena is a great spiritual cause. All those who join me will receive from me each month short video reflections, written reflections and prayers, and helpful and encouraging instruction. If we completely give ourselves to this novena, if we surrender our hearts, together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, into the Sacred Heart of Her Son, she will never fail to intercede on our behalf; and He will never fail to provide an abundance of divine grace. Let us pray that, just as millions of souls converted to the faith, millions of souls in our world today will turn their hearts toward Jesus Christ our Savior and to His saving grace that comes to us in the Sacraments of the Church.

Join this novena and consecration at

Filled with the confidence which Our Lady of Guadalupe gives to us and imitating her example, let us be one in heart with Our Lord, her Divine Son, in His Eucharistic Sacrifice by which he saves the world and offers to us the incomparable food of His true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. And so, resting our hearts in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us be confident and courageous in carrying out this nine-month novena and consecration, so that the truth of His dwelling with us in the Church may shine forth for all to see.

May Our Lady of Guadalupe, through us who seek to imitate her messenger, Saint Juan Diego, draw all souls to her Divine Son and to His Mystical Body, the Church.

[1] Cf. A Handbook on Guadalupe (New Bedford, MA: Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, 2001), pp. 42-47.

[2] “Sábelo, ten por cierto, hijo mío, el más pequeño, que yo soy en verdad la perfecta siempre Virgen Santa María, que tengo el honor de ser Madre del verdaderísimo Dios por quien se vive, el Creador de las personas, el Dueño de la cercanía y de la inmediación, el Dueño del cielo, el Dueño de la tierra. Mucho quiero, mucho deseo, que aquí me levanten mi casita sagrada, en donde lo mostraré, lo ensalzaré al ponerlo de manifiesto, lo entregaré a las gentes en todo mi amor personal, a Él que es mi mirada compasiva, a Él que es mi auxilio, a Él que es mi salvación.  Porque, en verdad, yo me honro en ser tu madre compasiva, tuya y de todos los hombres que vivís juntos en esta tierra, y también de todas las demás variadas estirpes de hombres, los que me amen; los que me llamen, los que me busquen, los que confíen en mí. Porque ahí, en verdad, eschucharé su llanto, su tristeza, para remediar, para curar todas sus diferentes penas, sus miserias, sus dolores.” “El Nican Mopohua,” tr. Instituto Superior de Estudios Guadalupanos, in Carl A. Anderson y Eduardo Chávez, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Madre de la civilización del amor (México, D.F.: Random House Mondadori, S.A. de C.V., 2010), p. 214. English translation: “The Nican Mopohua,” in Carl A. Anderson and Eduardo Chávez, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love (New York: Doubleday, 2009), pp. 173-174. 

[3] Zech 2, 14-15. 17.

[4] Heb 13, 8.

[5] Mk 1, 15.

[6] Jn 18, 37.

[7] Rev 12, 1-2, 5.

[8] Lk 1, 28.

[9] Lk 1, 32.

[10] Lk 1, 33.

Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash

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Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Patron emeritus of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, was born on 30 June 1948 in Richland Center, Wisconsin, USA. He was the youngest of six children and attended high school and college at Holy Cross Seminary in La Crosse, Wisconsin, before becoming a Basselin scholar at the Catholic University of America in 1971. He studied for the priesthood at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI on 29 June 1975 in St. Peter’s Basilica. After his ordination, he returned to La Cross and served as associate rector at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman and taught religion at the Aquinas High School. In 1980, he returned to Rome and earned a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1984, he served as moderator of the curia and vice-chancellor of the diocese of La Crosse. In 1989, he was nominated defender of the bond of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. On 10 December 1994 he was appointed bishop of La Crosse and received episcopal ordination on 6 January 1995 in St. Peter’s Basilica. On 2 December 2003 he was appointed Archbishop of Saint Louis. On 27 June 2008 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature. On 8 November 2014 Pope Francis nominated him Patron of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta. He was Patron until 19 June 2023.

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