By Fr. George Welzbacher
October 5, 2008
Here in the Upper Midwest, as fall's rich colors burst into flame, there's a one-day excursion that you might want to take that combines breath-taking beauty with the blessings of a pilgrimage. If that fires up your interest, some morning soon head south on Minnesota's Highway 61, one of America's most scenic river roads, all the way south to Winona and still farther south to the bridge on Interstate 90 that links Minnesota with Wisconsin at LaCrosse. Not far from LaCrosse stands a magnificent new church, the recently dedicated Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Americas. It's ensconced high in the thickly wooded bluffs that flank the Mississippi. Allow yourselves at least a couple of hours to appreciate the many beautiful adornments of the church itself together with the surrounding buildings and the outdoor sculptures, not to mention the dramatic site, and to offer prayers to Our Lady for your own intentions. (May I recommend an additional prayer for the success of those candidates standing for political office who have credibly pledged to defend the right to life of the helpless and the innocent unborn). If you haven't bothered to bring a picnic basket there's an attractive restaurant in the Visitors' Reception Center that is open until 4 p.m., offering a menu that is reasonably priced. Then, for a second helping of all those sumptuous fall colors that add their own special magic to bluffs spectacular in themselves, bluffs, by the way, strongly reminiscent of Germany's Rhineland, though it's up to your own imagination to supply those hills with castles, it's back across the bridge to Highway 61 and north to home. Or you might choose to return via Wisconsin's State Highway 35-a route less scenic but quietly charming. With an early start in the morning you could be home by nightfall.
If, like so many Americans this past year, you had to curtail your plans for summertime travel thanks to OPEC's extortionate demands, you might consider this type of one-day outing as a richly deserved after-summer "dessert". And though your visit to the Shrine will surely linger in your memory for a long, long time, don't depend just on memory! Take along a camera! The Shrine is a photographer's dream!
* * * * *Available in the Shrine's book and gift shop is a beautifully illustrated booklet commemorating the Shrine's dedication this past July by the Shrine's founder, Archbishop Raymond Burke. The booklet contains a poem (in two sections, framing an interpolated narrative in prose) dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe and to St. Juan Diego, who before his baptism was known as Talking Eagle. The poem was written by Wendy Downey Teichert. I thought you might like to read it.
* * * * *Juan Diego
By Wendy Downey Teiehert
I.This is the Aztec, Talking Eagle,
Convert son of a conquered class,
Bound for the church at Santiago
And running to be there for early Mass;
And slowing his pace, for the birds start singing
All together and loud with praise,
Like choirs at Easter, like anthems ringing,
Like trumpets greeting the great Cortéz.
Talking Eagle stops and listens,
And stares above him, as stare he must,
Where up on the hilltop something glistens,
Something silver that is not dust,
Something that deepens in life and rhythm
And with assurance presents its claim
As he and the birds, now silent with him,
Hear him called by his Christian name;
"Juan Diego! Dearest Juan,
Where are you going, my little son?"
Juan Diego, fifty-seven,
Bows to a maiden not fifteen,
And humbly notes that the Queen of Heaven
Is dark of skin like an Aztec queen.
She, where the conquerors sneer and flounder
Sweetly uses his mother-tongue,
And light and color prevail around her
Till all the hillside is fresh and young.
"Juan Diego, dearest Juan,
Where are you going, my little son?"
"Oh, my Lady," he says, "my child,
I was on my way to early Mass."
And smiling to hear herself so styled,
She bends on him so much tenderness
That he feels no more than a pang of the fear
That would grip him otherwise, head to toe,
When she says. "I have need of a temple here.
Will you go to the bishop and tell him so?"
"If he will see me, I do not know-
I will go, I will go, since you ask me to go."
Mexico City, crowded, noisy, impatient,
"Look out there, peasant, where do you think you're going?"
He isjostled and pushed, but he finds the house of the bishop
Where they leave him standing in an empty corner for hours,
Without a word to the bishop that he is there.
They meet at last, but the bishop does not believe him.
He is kind, but what he hears is a story for children,
And Juan Diego, seeing no church in the offing,
Goes back to the hill and the Lady.
She says, "My son, what did the bishop say?"
"My Lady, " he says, "the bishop did not believe me.
And stunned by her beauty, wretchedly aware
Of all he can never hope to do for her,
Sick with confusion and certain of rejection
If he goes to the bishop again,
He says, "My Lady,
I am only a nobody, only a piece of string,
You should ask someone better to carry your message,
If he were better, the bishop would believe him."
But she says, "My son, I have at my call the great of earth
and the blessed of heaven,
But I want YOU to be the one to carry my message,
Smallest and dearest."
Aflame with you, he hears her impossible choice;
Aflame with bravery he sets out again,
Rapt in the wonder of his strange promotion.
And the bishop sees him again, and this time questions;
"How can I build a church because one man asks me?
How do I know this is our Lady speaking?
Bring me a sign that I may know it is she."
Surely wearily, back he goes again,
Out of the island-city, over the causeway,
Back to the hill and the Lady.
And sweetly obliging, she says to him, "Go home,
Come back in the morning and the bishop will have his sign.
I will give you a sign and this time he will believe you."
But he does not come in the morning; a new need comes.
The uncle who raised him turns ill with a deadly fever,
And he stays at home and nurses him all day long
While a welter of puzzles packs his anxious heart.
For Juan Bernardino is dying and begs for a priest,
And he cannot leave him to die unblessed, unshriven.
So he says, "I will bring you a priest,"
And leaves as he says it:
The longing, the Lady, the sign, and the holy promise
All dislodged from the moorings and lost,
He does not know.
He takes a different road past Tepeyac Hill,
And hopes that she will not see him.
But she does,
And she comes down the hill to meet him.
"Are you trying to evade me, my small son?"
Which sets him babbling,
"Good morning, little Lady.
I hope you have slept well."
Then, distressed and embarrassed, he keeps on trying:
It was no idle promise I gave to you,
But my uncle is ill; I am going to bring him a priest,
And when he is cared for, I will return to you."
And there in the bright air,
He feels her presence again,
As she lightens his spirit and lessens his pain,
And gently rallies him: "Am I not your mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Your uncle is well, whom you cherish so,
And you can attend to my errand now.
And he knows it is so.
She calls up flowers from the stony hilltop.
Flowers of paradise wholly new,
With jewel colors, with roses gleaming
And greenery streaming with summer dew.
He cuts and cradles them in his tilma.
Safety hidden from human view.
She ties the edges behind his shoulders:
A scent escapes on the winter breeze;
And she says good-bye with a last commission:
"Let no one see, till the bishop sees."
And Juan Diego keeps on going,
With no more conflicts to overcome,
Straight to the bishop, all blessed and knowing,
Juan Diego is almost home.
And Bishop Zumarraga
Speaking with full authority, says to him,
"Juan Diego, what do you have in your tilma?"
Down it drops with a flood of roses,
And Juan Diego in wonder sees
A strange exchange in the day, disclosing
The people falling upon their knees.
Though nothing fronting his patient eyes
Accountsfor the worship, the need to pray,
Till after a silence the bishop rises,
And gently eases the cloth away.
Then Juan Diego, like everyone, sees
His battered tilma coarsely woven,
And like the others falls to his knees,
For there she is in her instant heaven,
All faith and leaven and comforting well,
With rays resplendent, with answers given,
The shining, image from Tepeyac Hill.
There she is and is with us still
Star of the Evangels, pray for us.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, stay with us.
Saint Juan Diego, prayfor us.
* * * * *And a propos of the soaring cost of gasoline (alluded to above in my remarks about a one-day round trip.) The New York Times on September the twenty-fourth offered grounds for hope that a modest measure of relief might just be on the way. It seems that Congress' entrenched oppostion to any additional off-shore drilling is beginning to crack and crumble under the inpact of constituents' rage. Of course it's anybody's guess as to what Congress will do AFTER the elections have been held. But even a temporary acquiescance in allowing the prohiibition of off-shore drilling briefly to expire offers at least a reay of hope that common sense and our national self-interest may have a chance at last to prevail. Here is the article form the Times.
* * * * *Bill Would End Coastal Oil Drilling Ban
By: Carl Hulse
From: The New York Times
When: Wednesday September 24,2008
House Democrats are preparing a stop-gap spending measure that would eliminate a 26-year-old ban on coastal oil drilling, avoiding a showdown with Republicans over domestic enery production that could have shut down the government.
Senior Democrats said the measure would finance the government at current levels through March 6, passing major spending decisions to the next president. If approved, the spending measure may make it unnecessary for Congress to return for a lame-duck session after the November elections.
Republicans have challenged Democrats for months over their opposition to opening up more of the coastline to drilling, given rising gasoline prices. The decision to drop the drilling ban represents a Republican victory.
Eliminating the drilling restrictions will have no immediate consequences since leasing would take place through a long Interior Department process. But it will leave the future of offshore drilling to the next administration.
"That will mean, very frankly, this next election will decide what our drilling policy is going to be," said Representative David R. Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee....
Republicans hailed the decision as a major step forward on domestic energy production. "This is a huge victory for hardworking Americans and a monumental defeat for the radical left," said Representative Jeb Hensarting, the Texas Republican who is the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
Environmental groups pledged to push to reinstate the ban next year, arguing that more coastal drilling will not lower gas prices. But officials of the Sierra Club cautioned in a statement that the expiration of the ban as of Oct 1 "does temporarily leave the fate of our fragile coasts in the hands of the Minerals Management Service." The organization said it would keep watch over developments to "ensure that the Bush administration doesn't give away the store before they leave town."
* * * * *And finally, for the "Am-I-just-dreaming-or-did-something-happen-in-the-political-world-while-I-was-asleep-
last-night" department, there's this from The Wall Street Journal for September 25th.
* * * * *Notable & Quotable
Bill Clinton, speaking about Sarah Palin this past week:
"I come from Arkansas. I get why she's hot out there, why she's doing well. People look at her, and they say: 'All those kids. Something that happens in everybody's family. I'm glad she loves her daughter and she's not ashamed of her. Glad that girl's going around with her boyfriend. Glad they're going to get married .... '[Voters will think] I like that little Down-syndrome kid. One of them lives down the street. They're wonderful children. They're wonderful people. And I like the idea that this guy does those long- distance races. Stayed in the race for 500 miles with a broken arm. My kind of guy."
* * * * *And after this there was silence in heaven.