We are preparing for the Consecration of the Diocese of Metuchen to Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th and in doing you may ask, "Why Our Lady of Guadalupe?" Let's first recall the story of St. Juan Diego.
St. Juan Diego was born in 1474 as Cuauhtlatoatzin, a native to Mexico. He became the first Roman Catholic indigenous Saint from the Americas. When a group of 12 Franciscan missionaries arrived in Mexico in 1524, St. Juan Diego and his wife, Maria Lucia, converted to Catholicism and were among the first to be baptized in the area. St. Juan Diego was very committed to his new life. On December 9, 1531, St. Juan Diego was in a rush to make it to Mass and to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. However, he was stopped by the beautiful sight of a radiant woman who introduced herself, in his native tongue, as the "ever-perfect Holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God." Mary told St. Juan Diego she was the mother of all those who lived in his land and asked him to make a request to the local bishop. She wanted them to build a chapel in Her honor there on Tepeyac Hill, which was the site of a former pagan temple. When St, Juan Diego approached Bishop Zumarraga telling of what had happened, he was presented with doubts and was told to give the Bishop some time to reflect on the news. Later that day, St. Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary again and told Her he failed to get permission to build the chapel. He tried to explain to Her he was not an important person, and therefore not the one for the task, but She said he was the man she wanted. When St. Juan Diego returned to ask the Bishop once again for permission, the Bishop asked for a "sign" or proof the apparition was real and truly from heaven.
Now, St. Juan Diego ran back to Tepeyac and received a third visit from the Virgin Mary. At this time he explained to Her what the Bishop asked for and She agreed and told him She'd provide him with proof on the next day, December 11. St. Juan Diego didn't get a chance to meet with the Virgin Mary because his uncle grew ill and he was to stay home and take care of him. He needed to find his uncle a Priest and while in his travels to find one, the Virgin Mary intercepted him and asked what was wrong. He explained his situation and promised to return after he found his uncle a Priest. The Virgin Mary looked at him and said, "Am I not here, I who am your Mother?" She promised him his uncle would be cured and asked him to climb to the hill and collect the flowers growing there. He obeyed and found many flowers blooming in December on the rocky land. He filled his tilma, cloak, with flowers and returned to Mary. The Virgin Mary arranged the flowers within his cloak and told him this would be the sign he is to present to the Bishop. Once St. Juan Diego found the Bishop, he opened his cloak and the Bishop was presented with a miraculous imprinted image of the Virgin Mary on the flower-filled cloak. The next day St. Juan found his uncle fully healed. News of this miracle spread and he became well known however he always remained a humble man.
The first miracle surrounding the cloak occurred during the procession to Tepeyac Hill when a participant was shot in the throat by an arrow. After being placed in front of the miraculous image of Mary, the man was healed. St. Juan Diego's imprinted cloak has remained perfectly preserved from 1531 to present time. St. Juan Diego was beatified on May 6, 1990 by Pope John Paul II and canonized on July 31, 2002. His feast day is celebrated on December 9th.
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Checchio states, “The time is ripe for renewal,” Lighting a fire in the heart of our world. After making a personal visit to all ninety parishes during his first year as shepherd of the Diocese of Metuchen, the bishop noted the numerous graces and blessings bestowed upon his flock, as well as symptoms of illness within the fold - many of the baptized are far from God and are not living vibrant faith lives with true apostolic zeal. (Only 15% of the baptized in the Diocese are practicing the Faith.)
The bishop’s intention for this consecration is to ask for the graces needed for a New Evangelization and he is placing it under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He wants it to stir up an increased holiness of life, a renewed commitment to living the Gospel message to the full, and the enthusiastic willingness to share that message with others among the faithful.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A CONSECRATION?
Consecration is a word that is not often heard outside religious contexts, and even then, it may not be readily understood. To be consecrated means to be set apart for a holy or transformative purpose. Biblically speaking, consecrations were a means to respond to God’s invitation to be “His people.”
Although you may never have thought about it or realized it, in the sacrament of baptism, you, too, were consecrated, set apart for God. You became a child of God called to be his disciple, his witness in the world. Moreover, you have been empowered by the Holy Spirit with supernatural gifts for the mission of evangelization. Have you used those gifts to bring others to Jesus?
Unfortunately, the reality is that many of us have not always lived up to the responsibilities and promises of our Baptismal consecration, clergy and laity alike. Sadly, moreover, many baptized Catholics have never fully known or felt a living relationship with God who made them and claims them as his very own. Because of so many forces in the world, an increasing number of Catholics have fallen away from the life of the Church: not living in an intimate, personal and vibrant relationship with Jesus.
So, today, perhaps more than ever before, we need to personally and communally renew our Catholic faith. We need to renew our baptismal consecration, determined to be disciples who will ‘light a fire in the heart of our world.’
The bishop’s invitation to be consecrated to Jesus through Our Lady of Guadalupe is a concrete opportunity for each of us to respond in a whole-hearted way to the Gospel in our present times; recommitting ourselves to our Baptismal consecration we will come closer to Jesus, grow in holiness and receive the grace which will enable us to carry on His work. We will be able to go forth from the comfort of our Churches into the world to bring back the lost sheep, that is, the baptized who are no longer practicing their faith as well as the lukewarm who occasionally show up. With our faith life rekindled by our communal and personal consecrations, we will be able to lead our brothers and sisters who have left the Church into a life-changing encounter with Jesus. (Taken from the Diocese of Metuchen website)