The DREAM Act and Our Lady of Guadalupe

Yesterday was December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Millions of Mexicans and other Latinos celebrate this special day to honor the Mexican image of Mary, our Holy Mother.

As Mexicans and other Latinos will become very soon the majority of U.S. Catholics, the celebration of this feast day along with other Latino Catholic traditions will become even more manifest.

This is the case already in many communities with sizeable and even majority Latino Catholic populations, such as in Los Angeles and San Antonio to name only two.

But what I want to reflect on this special day is how the feast could be used in homilies to connect with one major social issue facing our country today.

I have often been frustrated that too many of our Catholic priests do not link the Gospels with contemporary issues as if they fear to alienate their parishioners.

Jesus did not preach in this way. He often, for example, criticized those who did not live up to God’s love of the poor and oppressed.

Priests today could use the feast of Guadalupe to note how Our Lady embraced the lowly Indian, Juan Diego, whom the Spaniards considered -- along with the other indigenous people conquered by them -- as an outcast, as the marginalized, as the “other,” and as an “illegal alien.”

And yet, Our Lady of Guadalupe embraced Juan Diego and appeared to him in the image of the indigenous to stress that he and the other conquered Indians were her children and that she wanted her church in Mexico to reflect this. She wanted to “legalize” their status and integrate them into the church.

This story from 1531 could be linked to the DREAM Act being debated now in the U.S. Congress. It would legalize the status of millions of undocumented young people who were brought by their undocumented parents into this country at a very young age. They have grown up here and are Americans in every sense except for their immigrant status.

The House of Representatives to its credit passed the DREAM Act last week but now it faces a more difficult process in the Senate.

Our pastors today and this week should call for the passage of the DREAM Act and encourage their parishioners to bring pressure to bear on their senators to pass the act.

They can use the example of Our Lady of Guadalupe embracing her “illegal” Indian children and tell their parishioners that, just like Our Lady, we all should embrace the undocumented -- many of them in our churches.

And in this case in particular, their American undocumented children. This would certainly be in the spirit of Our Lady of Guadalupe.


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