This is the desire that we rejoice to entrust to the hands and the heart of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary, on this day which is especially consecrated to her and which is also the tenth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. On the morning of Pentecost she watched over with her prayer the beginning of evangelization prompted by the Holy Spirit: may she be the Star of the evangelization ever renewed which the Church, docile to her Lord’s command, must promote and accomplish, especially in these times which are difficult but full of hope!
As one looks around the formerly Christian West today, one cannot help but see that those cultures formed by Christianity in Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere have been rapidly denuded in the past five decades of the very basis of their being. Quite apart from the revealing nature of the interview itself, this exchange (http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/multimedia/video/2008/wallace/sanger_margaret.html) between Mike Wallace and Margaret Sanger in 1957 reveals just how much basic Christian morality was a part of the public discourse of that time. Such a conversation would be impossible on a major network today.
Throughout the formerly Christian world, contraception, abortion, divorce and sundry other evils, as well as a gradual leaching out of even residual Christianity from culture (think of the annual fight over Christmas in this country) and politics has led to innumerable evils. In a stark, statistical way, a demographic plunge that has placed the native-born birthrate beneath replacement levels has been one result; fatherless home have led to all sorts of problems for the young. But beyond that, there is a general malaise, a sense of despair, that all the electronics in the world cannot help.
Benedict XVI is keen to make all Catholics aware of these terrible developments, and has repeatedly urged all of us to play our part in speech after speech and letter after letter. Both Paul VI and John Paul II had called for the Church to launch a “New Evangelization.” At a homily for the First Vespers of the Feats of SS. Peter and Paul, June 28, 2010, Benedict decided to put these words into concrete form. “Human beings of the third millennium,” he declared, “want an authentic, full life; they need truth, profound freedom, love freely given. Even in the deserts of the secularized world, man’s soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
The Pope went on to say that “There are regions of the world that are still awaiting a first evangelization; others that have received it, but need a deeper intervention; yet others in which the Gospel put down roots a long time ago, giving rise to a true Christian tradition but in which, in recent centuries with complex dynamics the secularization process has produced a serious crisis of the meaning of the Christian faith and of belonging to the Church.” His remedy? “From this perspective, I have decided to create a new body, in the form of a ‘Pontifical Council,’ whose principal task will be to promote a renewed evangelization in the countries where the first proclamation of the faith has already resonated and where Churches with an ancient foundation exist but are experiencing the progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God,’ which pose a challenge to finding appropriate to propose anew the perennial truth of Christ’s Gospel.”
The Pope created the new Council by a Motu Proprio dated September 21, 2010. Therein he quoted John Paul II: “Without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations [emphasis his].” To guide and coordinate Catholic efforts to re-evangelize their countries is the object of the new Pontifical Council.
In time, no doubt, this body will have its effect in strengthening various efforts in this area already existing. But in the meantime, all of us must consider what role we will play in this New Evangelization. To do so, we need to seek the intercession and protection of the Mother of God, increasingly invoked today as the “Queen on the New Evangelization.”
Where does this title come from? On January 22, 1999, John Paul II delivered an exhortation to the Bishops of the Americas after their synod. There he said: “In the prayer composed for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, Holy Mary of Guadalupe is invoked as ‘Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization.’ In view of this, I welcome with joy the proposal of the Synod Fathers that the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Evangelizer of America, be celebrated throughout the continent on December 12. It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples (cf. Jn 2:11), will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church (cf. Acts 1:14), so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life.”
From that time on, Our Lady, especially under her title of Guadalupe, has been increasingly invoked as “Queen of the New Evangelization.” But the role of the Virgin in evangelizing did not start with nor is restricted to her most famous apparition in Mexico. Her Magnificat was the first proclamation of the Gospel; she sustained the earliest Catholics as she did her Son by her presence, prayers, and encouragement. In 40 A.D, while yet living, she appeared to the discouraged St. James the Great in Spain, assuring him that despite all appearances his work would bear great fruit. This apparition atop a pillar in Zaragoza is commemorated today in the feast and basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. It was on her feast day, October 12 that Columbus reached America. Thus, Italian-Americans, mindful of Columbus’ origins, celebrate it as Columbus Day; in much of Latin America, it is kept as the Dia de la Raza, marking origins of Latin American culture. Certainly both attributions are fitting.
From that time onward, Mary accompanied the missionaries of the Church, occasionally appearing to them or to their charges, as she did at Guadalupe. St. Martin of Tours, valiant evangelizer of rural Gaul, for example, was favored with a number of these visits. Nor did she shy away from conflict. One of these occurrences was in the small Lithuanian town of Siluva, in 1608. For decades, the town had been Calvinist; the virgin appeared to a group of children, and told them that they and their parents must return to the Catholic Faith. They did so, and the shrine at Siluva remains one of the most revered in Lithuania.
Similarly, a few years later in 1625, a statue of the Virgin was brought from Mexico to Santa Fe in the newly settled province of New Mexico. When the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 drove the Spanish and their Indian allies from the city, the statue went with them. Military leader Diego de Vargas ascribed their safe escape to Mary’s intercession, and named the statue Nuestra Señora de la Conquista (Our Lady of the Conquest). Thirteen years later, in a nearly bloodless reconquest, de Vargas led the Spanish and Indians back to Santa Fe, a feat he similarly ascribed to La Conquistadora. Until 1717, she was displayed in the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe; in that year, she moved to St. Francis Cathedral where she remains. Ever year, to celebrate the return of the Spanish, a procession with the statue is the central event of the city’s fiesta.
But familiar as Europe and the Spanish-speaking world are with the idea of the Virgin intervening in daily events to help evangelize, the most recently approved event of this kind happened near Green Bay, Wisconsin. Approved by the local Bishop in the same year that Benedict XVI launched the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, this apparition took place in 1859. Our Lady appeared to a young Belgian girl, Adele Brise, in Robinsonville (now Champion) Wisconsin. Literally encountering the Virgin on the road (although she was invisible to Adele’s two companions), Adel was complimented by the Virgin for going to Communion, though she said that she needed to make a general confession and pray for sinners, lest they be punished. But the conversation took quite another turn.
The Virgin demanded to know, “What are you doing here in idleness…while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?”
Crying, Adele replied “What more can I do, dear Lady?”
“Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”
To this, Adel said, “But how shall I teach them who know so little myself?”
“Teach them, their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.”
Adele went through various tribulations, eventually becoming a nun. There were trials and tribulations, miracles of various kinds, and the current shrine built. The point to be made here, though, is that once again, the Virgin’s interest was evangelization — in a manner appropriate to the person she visited.
Los Angeles is almost a textbook target of where the New Evangelization should be applied. The city was founded by the Most Catholic King, Carlos III, and first evangelized by companions of Bl. Junipero Serra. On January 17, 1837, the ayuntamiento, or city council, declared “the Roman Catholic apostolic religion shall prevail throughout this jurisdiction.” Catholics are 40% of the population of Los Angeles County, and many of the area’s most beautiful buildings — religious and civil — owe their origins to members of the Church. Almost every Eastern Rite is to be found here, and for that matter most varieties of Eastern Orthodoxy. Such festivals as Olvera Street’s Day of the Dead and Blessing of the Animals, the Westside’s San Gennaro, East Los Angeles’ Guadalupe Procession, and many smaller ones scattered about add color and depth to the area’s life. The many civic observances in the Cathedral speak to the continuing connection between the Archdiocese and the City.
Despite all this, however, the role the Faith plays in determining policy on the part of local leadership, of making Los Angeles a more human place, of influencing the Entertainment Industry for the better, and sundry other wonderful things that might result from both past heritage and present reality, is virtually nil. Ours is a City that cries out for evangelization, for “an authentic, full life; … truth, profound freedom, love freely given…”
The Queen of Angels Foundation intends to help in that evangelization in three ways:
- Through the use of the internet (as with this site);
- Through the personal and corporate devotion of its members;
- Through an annual procession in honor of Our Lady of the Angels, patroness of the City.
In this way, its members and friends will, seeking the guidance and help of their Queen, attempt to take their proper places in what may be the greatest adventure of the 21st century: the New Evangelization of Los Angeles and its environs!
- Evangelii Nuntiandi, Paul VI
- Ecclesia in America, John Paul II
- Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI
- Ubicumque et Semper, Benedict XVI
- The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization
- Fellowship for the New Evangelization
- Office of the New Evangelization, Diocese of Birmingham
- Office of the New Evangelization, Diocese of Salina
- Our Lady of the Pillar, Spain
- Our Lady of Siluva, Lithuania
- La Conquistadora
- Our Lady of Good Help, Wisconsin