The Most Rev. José H. Gomez
Archbishop of Los Angeles
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, California
August 5, 2012
Greetings again, my dear Guadalupanos!
I want to tell you a little story about one of the newest blesseds in our Catholic Church. She was a woman of our times. She lived for almost all of the 20th century.
This holy woman came of age during the dark time in Mexico, during those long decades beginning in the 1920s — when it was a crime to believe in Jesus Christ and to want to worship him!
Many of you saw the great movie, For Greater Glory, that came out earlier this year. As we know, this movie was a true story about the time of the persecution of the Church in Mexico.
As we probably know, thousands of refugees from the Cristero War found a home here in Los Angeles. Many of them were priests and religious men and women who fled persecution. Many were lay people who became founding parishioners of some of our churches. And we still have some Angelinos who are survivors of the Cristero War. This great Archdiocese of Los Angeles became a city of refuge for thousands of men and women forced to flee the persecutions in Mexico.
The woman I want to tell you about was one of them. She is Blessed María Inés Teresa Arias and she was beatified in Mexico City this past April.
I’ve said many times that Los Angeles is ‘tierra de Santos y Santas’. Land of Saints! Not just because our cities and streets have saints’ names!
But because the life and example of Blessed Junipero Serra, the Venerable Mother Luisita, Founder of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, Blessed Maria Ines Teresa of the Blessed Sacrament. And the many more men and women who have faithfully lived their Christian vocation throughout the years in Southern California.
Her story is so beautiful because it is so ordinary.
I consider Blessed María Inés to be one of our local saints. ¡Una santa en Los Angeles! And I want to tell you why. I believe that her story is significant for our celebration today.
Manuelita, as she was known, was born in 1904, and she grew up in a large Catholic family in Nayarit, Mexico. She had seven brothers and sisters. She was the fifth child. She used to go to daily Mass with her father and she worked in a bank. She was active in her church and in helping the poor. She had a fun social life.
When Manuelita was 20, one of her cousins gave her the autobiography of the Little Flower, St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s. From that time on, she felt a deep desire to consecrate her life to Jesus Christ.
She joined the Poor Clare sisters in Mexico City — even though, as I said, at the time they were killing priests and nuns and the faith was under persecution.
In 1929, things got so bad that Blessed María Inés and other Poor Clares were driven into exile. They were welcomed here in Los Angeles.
Blessed María Inés received her habit as a novice here in Los Angeles. And after a year here, she pronounced her temporary vows in what was then one of our parochial churches, St. Turibius. And on that day, which was December 12, 1930, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, she had a mystical experience.
She was kneeling before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And she heard the beautiful Blessed Virgin Mary of Tepeyac speak these words to her:
If it enters within the designs of God, to make use of you for the works of apostolate, I commit myself to accompany you in all your endeavors.
What an amazing message! Imagine hearing the sweet voice of Our Lady — promising to walk with you and to assist you in serving Jesus Christ!
This is why I consider her a local saint. ¡Una santa en Los Angeles! Because she heard her missionary calling here.
When Blessed María Inés and her sisters returned to Mexico in 1931, she felt more and more convinced that God was calling her to found a new religious order. And so she did. She established the Poor Clare Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.
And for the next 50 years, she sent her sisters out all over the world to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Blessed María Inés planted her sisters in 14 other countries — Mexico, Japan, Costa-Rica, Nigeria, India, Russia and more.
There is even a beautiful community of Poor Clare Missionary Sisters here in Los Angeles, where it all started. I know some of her daughters are with us today.
Blessed María Inés gave her sisters a beautiful mission:
To carry the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, so that she — through her maternal tenderness — would bring her Divine Son to live in the hearts of those who hunger for God without knowing it.
And that’s why I’m telling you about her, dear Guadulpanos!
The spirit of Tepeyac, the spirit of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the missionary spirit. Blessed María Inés knew that! And, my brothers and sisters, we need to learn that too.
Mary came to Tepeyac because she is our loving Mother. She came because in her maternal heart she wanted to give her Son to the people of the new world. She came to spread the faith in her Divine Son to every man and every woman — not only in Mexico, but throughout the world.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is not only the Mother of the people of Mexico. She is the Mother of all the peoples of the Americas! She is the New Eve. She is the Mother of all the living!i
My brothers and sisters, we are all children of Our Lady’s mission at Tepeyac! All of us! We are all Guadalupanos!
We received the gift of faith because St. Juan Diego heard her voice and carried out the will of God — almost 500 years ago! We received the gift of faith because our ancestors kept our faith alive and passed it on to us — through generations and generations. Even in the darkest times.
My brothers and sisters, now it is our turn. The mission of Tepeyac continues today. It continues in you and me! Our Lady of Guadalupe is counting on us now!
Jesus Christ wants to make use of us. Just as he made use of St. Juan Diego. Just as he made use of Blessed María Inés. He wants our lives to be apostolate. He wants us to be apostles and missionaries. And Our Lady of Guadalupe will accompany us in all our endeavors. Just as she promised to be with Blessed María Inés.
We are only ordinary believers. But God is expecting great things from each of us. He is calling all of us to work with the graces he gives us. To use our gifts and talents for the works of apostolate — to be apostles, to be missionaries. Just like Juan Diego, just like María Inés.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is calling us today, my brothers and sisters. She is calling us to greater faith, to greater love, to greater hope. She is calling us to dedicate our lives to the loving plan of God. To everything for his glory. In our homes, in our families, in our neighborhoods and communities, in our political life.
Let us carry the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe into our world today! Let us bring Jesus Christ to the hearts of those who hunger for God without knowing it!
Blessed María Inés used to pray this prayer:
Take me Lord as an instrument of your glory and lead me. … You will not regret having sent me. … I want everyone to love You so very, very much.
Dear Guadalupanos, that should be our prayer today — and every day.
Let’s ask Our Lady of Guadalupe — the bright star of the first evangelization and the Mother of the New Evangelization — to help us all to be better instruments of the love God. So that everyone in our world may come to love him — very, very much.