During this Holy Season of Advent I pray that the Lord is filling you with his grace and peace as we seek to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity.
In addition to the seasons of Advent and Christmas, the month of December is rich in many important feasts and memorials of Saints. Included among the saints we celebrate in December is Saint Juan Diego whose feast is December 9. As men of God, we seek to live virtue and we find great inspiration in the virtues found in the lives of the saints. This month we focus on Saint Juan Diego and the virtue of Hope.
Saint Juan Diego lived from 1474-1548 in present day Mexico. On four occasions in December 1531 he had visions of Our Lady which culminated in the miraculous image of “Our Lady of Guadalupe” being imprinted on his cloak known as a tilma. If you are not familiar with the story of Our Lady of Guadulupe, I encourage you to take some time to learn about the story and the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (The Knights of Columbus produced an excellent documentary called Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message. You can watch the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuLFyeqke_M and find the video on Formed.org and Amazon Prime, among other places.)
In seven years after the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe took place, 9 million conversions took place in Mexico. This is the most unprecedented conversion experience in Church history. At the heart of these conversions was the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the testimony of Saint Juan Diego who devoted the rest of his life to telling the story before the image of those who came to see the image.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read: “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. ‘Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.’ ‘The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.’” (CCC 1817)
Sometimes we think of hope as “optimism”, in the sense that everything will work out in the end. The theological virtue of Hope is much richer than optimism. Hope is the virtue by which we navigate our lives. Heaven is our “North Star” and the Virtue of Hope keeps us focused on our journey to heaven and helps us to see everything in its light. Hope brings order to all of our priorities by helping us see everything in the light of our final end and God’s will for us. Hope allows us to live our lives in the light of Christ and his ultimate victory over sin and death. Hope dispels fear, anxiety, worry, discouragement and despair. Hope is strengthened by the great revelation of God’s Mercy.
Through Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saint Juan Diego grew in the virtues of faith, hope, and love and devoted his entire life to God’s will by sharing his testimony of his encounter with Our Lady. Through his simple example, he bears witness to the virtue of hope.
In addition, Saint Juan Diego gives us a great example of evangelization. Sometimes we are intimidated by Evangelization. In Saint Juan Diego, we find that Evangelization can be as simple as simply telling the story of how Our Lord Jesus Christ has impacted our lives. For many of us, we can take His impact in our life for granted.
We are living in challenging times when many have lost hope and are struggling. I want to encourage you men to spend some time considering what Our Lord has done in your life. What is your testimony? I encourage you to meet with other brothers in Christ to share the good things that God has done. And, I challenge you to evangelize (to share Good News) by sharing the good news of what God has done in your life with a friend or family member who may have fallen away from the faith or may not be in the Church.
As we prepare to celebrate the great feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that the Lord would fill you and your families with the blessings of his peace and presence.