Mary of Nazareth has always had a special place in the heart of the Church. She is theotokos, the “God-bearer”; Scripture’s greatest human witness of courage, humility and grace. This is why Catholic life has honored her through the centuries in so many different ways: Our Lady of Consolation; Mother of Sorrows; Mother of Mercy; Our Lady of the New Advent; Queen of Heaven; Virgin Most Pure — and in a special way today, December 12, Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of America, one continent north and south.
All of these titles are true and richly deserved. But they can sometimes obscure the human reality of Mary’s life: a young woman of the rough Galilean hills, pregnant, with a seemingly implausible story before her marriage to Joseph, who gave birth to her child in the cold in a stable far from home and then, hunted by Herod, was forced to flee to Egypt. Mary – ourmother; the mother of the Church – had an intimate understanding of suffering, flight, homelessness and uncertainty. At Guadalupe, Mary appeared not to the rich or powerful, or even to the local bishop, but to the poor peasant Juan Diego. Her tenderness to the poor is something we need to remember this Advent, because our Christian faith is more than a set of ideas or beautiful words. It’s meant to be lived. It’s meant to transform our thinking and our actions.
Which brings us to the point: Over the past six years, the current White House has taken actions that a great many faithful Catholics regard as damaging – harmful not just for people of religious faith, but for the nation at large. In deferring the deportation of many undocumented immigrants and their families, however, President Obama has done the right thing. This action prevents the break-up of families with mixed immigration status. It also protects individuals who were brought to the United States as children, and have grown up knowing only American life and nothing of their parents’ native land.
For more than a decade the U.S. Catholic bishops have pressed repeatedly for just and sensible immigration policy reform. Each of our major political parties has faulted the other for inaction, and each – despite its posturing and alibis – bears a generous portion of the blame. Whatever the timing and motives of the current executive action might mean, deferring deportations serves the survival and human dignity of the families involved. And it may, finally, force the White House and Congress to cooperate fruitfully.
On this day that we honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of all of us who share this continent, we need to remember that the Holy Family too was once a family of immigrants and refugees. And we need to treat the undocumented among us with the mercy and justice we expect for ourselves.
+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia