Fulton Sheen, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the New Evangelization, Pt. 1

Fulton Sheen, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the New Evangelization, Pt. 1

We all have heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The same can be said about a date. And in this case, the date is December 9. This is the day that Venerable Fulton Sheen died (in 1979) and was chosen by the Church to be the feast day of Venerable Fulton Sheen upon his beatification, which is pending as of this reflection’s publication. Why is this date so significant? When we discover why, we will look at the importance of Fulton Sheen in God’s greater plan for the new evangelization of America in a whole new light.

It is interesting to note that the season of Advent begins with the Church turning our attention on December 8 to Mary and the mystery of her Immaculate Conception. What is interesting about this feast is that it was originally celebrated in the Eastern Church on December 9 as far back as the 5th century in Syria. It was called “the Feast of the Conception of the Most Holy and All Pure Mother of God.” A few centuries later the feast was celebrated in the West on December 8. Divine Providence would so have it that Mary’s Immaculate Conception serve as a uniting mystery of Mary that would unite East and West on December 8 and 9, like two lungs breathing together as one.

Shifting back to the Americas, it was on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the East, December 9, 1531, that Jesus would send His Mother on a new mission to build another bridge to expand His Kingdom in the West. This time it was bridging the Old World and the New World. And the location Jesus chose to send His mother was the geographic center — the very heart — of the Americas, Mexico City. More specifically, Mary appeared on Tepeyac Hill, the hill that was dedicate to the Aztec mother god, Tonantzin. The other major god who ruled the Aztecs was Quetzelcoatl, the stone serpent. The Aztec civilization of death marked by human sacrifice poured out for blood-thirsty gods. So, from the very point where Mary appeared a spiritual confrontation was announced that she did not intend to lose. The name by which the Mother of the true God would reveal herself was Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Why is that name significant? Before departing for the New World, both Christopher Columbus and Cortez visited a monastery in Spain dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The monastery was a place of pilgrimage for two centuries after Our Lady revealed the location of a statue of her dedicated to her Divine Motherhood that was hidden from the Moslems since the 8th century. It was found in a cave next to the “Wolf River” (“Guadalupe”). The recovery of the statue brought great hope to Catholic Spain who would eventually drive out the Moslems.

Therefore, when Mary appears in Mexico (called the “New Spain”), and reveals herself as Our Lady of Guadalupe, she is immediately connecting her mission to bring Christ to both the old world and the new world. Moreover, in the Aztec language she would have spoken to St. Juan Diego and his uncle, her name would have been pronounced “Quatlasupe” (which means “One who crushes the serpent”). So, Our Lady of Guadalupe appears on the hill dedicated to the Aztec mother god as the one greater than Tonantzin and as “the one who crushes the serpent” (Genesis 3:15), which is the key biblical passage chosen for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. And Mary did conquer where everyone else failed and she did without bloodshed. The only sacrifice that would be made and the only blood that would be shed would be that of her Divine Son, by whose blood we are forgiven and by his flesh given divine life.

To a culture completely disfigured in its humanity, Mary, through her miraculous image, began the remaking of the New World into God’s image. Where there is Mary, there is her Son and the image to which God created us to possess. And what we have learned from historians is that within nine years, 8 million Aztecs converted to Christianity. That averages to 3,000 converts a day. In other words, Our Lady of Guadalupe brought about a Pentecost a day for nine years.

We fast forward to our times . . . to the end of what Fulton Sheen called the fourth of four 500-year cycles in the Church, each of which has been marked by a major crisis (or crises) facing the Church. The turning of the tide at the beginning of the past 500-year cycle was Our Lady of Guadalupe and her evangelization of an Americas marked by diabolical gods and a culture of death. Now, at the end of that 500-year cycle, the Church is calling for a new evangelization of an Americas which has progressively rejected the true God and fallen back into the worship of the self, believing it can be like God without God. This is the hallmark of all followers of the lies of the evil one, knowingly or unknowingly. And this worship is manifested by the fruits of egotism which sees all life and creation merely as means to its selfish end. The gravest expression of this is the new culture of death marked by contraception, which takes the power of generating life away from God and into human hands — a mentality and lifestyle which logically leads to abortion. So, we are not back where we started 500 years ago. We are worse. Much, much worse. Babies murdered by abortion worldwide since 1980 has now exceed one billion.

Never in the history of the world has the image of man reached such lows and disfigurement. Once you divorce God from humanity, humanity loses all meaning because it can no longer see the image in which it was made. Welcome to 2019. By any sociological, moral and religious metric, our civilization is at the 11th hour and 59th minute. Mercifully, God has not abandoned us. God has revealed throughout history that His last resort to a world which has rejected Him is to send His mother to lead us back. And that is why December 9 is so important for Catholics, especially in America, to contemplate deeply its significance as it applies to what God is doing in this moment in history. December 9 points us to the linking of Advent, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe and now Fulton Sheen as key components of God’s blueprint to lead the Americas back to Jesus Christ.

This reflection will be continued in next week’s newsletter.

Dr. Peter Howard, S.T.D, is president of the Fulton Sheen Institute (fultonsheen.institute). He hosts a podcast on Sheen, “Treasures In Clay,” and is the author of “The Woman: Mary as Mediatrix in the Teaching of Fulton J. Sheen.” To book Dr. Howard for a talk at your parish to share the story and mission of Fulton Sheen, click here.