Monday, December 17, 2012


David Freedman, right, kneels with his son Zachary, 9,
as they visit a sidewalk memorial for the Sandy Hook Elementary
School shooting victims in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
I can't help looking at the first and second graders I see with their parents.  In the past I noticed young children in a general way, but did not focus on them.

Until now.

The tragic murder of 20 first-graders and six adults last Friday has stunned us all, and has caused us to realize how young and innocent such children are.

Yesterday afternoon I was in downtown Los Angeles and saw the great movie, Lincoln.  The theater is part of the L.A. Live complex, and there were several thousand people walking around, some ice-skating on the annual rink, others shopping, and still others taking in the fabulous Christmas decorations.

Most of the people were families, and many with small children--and many first graders in the mix.  I noticed these young people like never before.  I even found myself counting them--I would count up to 20, say a prayer, and start counting again.  What a precious 20.

Several things struck me about these families and small children.  How small first graders really are.  How joyous their faces and their laughter.  Their innocence.  Their obvious longing for Christmas to come.  And the special way their parents were holding on to them--obviously in response to Friday's tragedy.

Several thoughts from the Bible came as well.  "Let us make man and woman in our image and likeness," God speaks in the book of Genesis.  "Let the small children come to me," Jesus tells us in the Gospels.  "Unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of God," Jesus warns us. "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father."

I doubt if my emotional and spiritual experiences being around first graders now is any different from yours.  We see them with fresh eyes; we love them ever more deeply; and we now scan their surroundings to make sure they are safe.  A new instinctive care and concern for young children is taking hold among us.  A work of the Holy Spirit.

May these 20 Little Angels, and the 6 Big Angels ask God to have mercy upon all of us, and to lead us forward with a new love and appreciation for such great gifts. 

Monday, December 10, 2012


As once again we celebrate the joyous Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is it not opportune to pray and reflect on the possibility that she be named a Special Patroness of the United States?

This suggestion in no way diminishes the importance of our primary Patroness here in our country, Our Lady under her title of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated each December 8th. 

I was privileged to serve as one of the three President—Delegates of the Special Assembly for the Americas of the Synod of Bishops which took place in the Vatican from November 16 to December 12, 1997.  Those four weeks were inspiring and opened new opportunities to explore the remarkable role of Our Lady of Guadalupe across all of the Americas, especially as she relates to the poor and marginalized of our society.  The fact that she chose to be depicted as an indigenous Indian young woman speaks volumes about God’s love for the lowest and the least among us. 

That Special Assembly concluded with the celebration of a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it was obvious that the enormous walls of that Basilica could not contain the love and devotion we all had for our Madre Morenita.  What makes Our Lady of Guadalupe so unique is that this is the only artistic portrayal of her ever given to us, her children!

 Devotion to her is not limited to those with their roots in Mexico.  She has become endeared to peoples all around the world and is celebrated in special ways in so many cultures and religious devotions.
The Fathers of the Special Assembly asked Pope John Paul II to name her as Patroness of the Americas.  Our Holy Father traveled to Mexico City and on January 22, 1999 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he solemnly proclaimed her Patroness of the Americas.

The depth and richness of our devotion to Mary, in my opinion, does not limit us to simply one expression of her many titles.  Why could we not proclaim Mary under two patronal titles:  the Immaculate Conception, and, Our Lady of Guadalupe?

As we in this country move forward with eagerness and enthusiasm to bring Jesus Christ to more of our brothers and sisters through the New Evangelization, what could be more appropriate than to link Jesus and his Mother to our overall efforts?

With our Catholic Church increasing daily with so many Hispanic members, how fitting it would be for them to witness that shared love we all have with them for Our Lady of Guadalupe!

¡Viva Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe!