Opening Mass Homily
Most Reverend Tod D. Brown
Bishop of Orange, California
Anaheim, California, August 7, 2012
Welcome to all of you who have come here to Anaheim in Orange County for this historical convention. The Church of Orange is blessed by your presence.
A few months ago four of my staff and I were lunch guests of Pastor Rick Warren, the internationally known author of the best seller “A Purpose Driven Life”. As we were leaving the Saddleback Church grounds, Pastor Warren gave us autographed copies of his famous book as well as some other writings. He gave me a copy of his wife Kay’s book entitled “Say Yes to God”. I mention this because in her book, Mrs. Warren singles out Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the best New Testament figure who responded “Yes” to God’s call at the time of the Annunciation. She mentions this more than once. I was very pleased and also somewhat surprised to learn that this wife of a renowned Protestant minister embraced our Mariology on this point. During lunch Pastor Rick Warren expressed total support of our position on religious liberty.
I know that many of you participated in the recent Marian Congress in Los Angeles. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of our Diocese of Orange and our Order has been dedicated to her. As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has asked the Church to focus on the New Evangelization we are fortunate to have as our patroness, the first evangelizer of America. When Our Lady appeared to now St. Juan Diego between December 9-12 in 1531, she came as a pregnant mestiza (or mixed race) woman, to show her identification with the indigenous people of the new world. She carried the new life of Jesus Christ. We are familiar with the details of her appearance to the humble Indian convert, Juan Diego. There were his struggles to carry out the instructions of the “beautiful lady”, her kind patience in dealing with him, the use of his native language, the resistance of Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, the winter roses and the miraculous and stunning image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan Diego’s tilma. In those tumultuous times in Mexico, our Lady brought a message of love and peace. Millions of native peoples embraced Christianity in the years that followed.
Now, five centuries later, we have our own disturbing times where we face a growing secularism, attacks on the value and gift of human life, attempts to redefine traditional marriage and serious curtailment of our religious rights. Certainly, there is a clear and demanding need today for the New Evangelization called for by Blessed John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI. Many of the bishops of Region XI (i.e., California, Hawaii and Nevada) visited the recently established Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization during our recent Ad Limina Visit to Rome and we were very encouraged by that experience. After the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the same subject this October we will be receiving valuable assistance as the dioceses represented here launch this project. The New Evangelization calls us to faith, instills hope and fills us with love. I’m confident the members of our Order will be in the front ranks of the evangelizers. Like Juan Diego, a layman, the success of the New Evangelization will depend on our laity and their involvement. As laity, your lives will act as witness to our faith.
We can, with certainty, seek the support of our patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the first evangelizer in our hemisphere. She embraces every culture, ethnic group, nationality and race. Five hundred years ago, she opened the door of faith and she does so now. Like her we hear “Blessed are you who believe” (Lk. 1:46).
As Mary said “Yes” to God our challenge is to say “YES” to the New Evangelization!