On December 11, the eve of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I climbed four flights of stairs to bless the apartment of a young married couple, and to receive my reward of a fine French dinner after the blessing. The couple is expecting their first child in a month, and while the mother is Swedish Lutheran, the father was a French atheist until he submitted himself for baptism at our parish two years ago. David welcomed me into their dwelling and presented me to his wife Johanna. And there she stood, beaming and brimming with life, wonderful with child, and a black ribbon over her abdomen. I gasped slightly and exclaimed “You look like Our Lady of Guadalupe!” She didn’t know to whom I was referring. I explained how Catholics revere an image that appeared on a poor Indian’s cloak in 1531 and asked her husband to pull the image up on his computer. Johanna gazed at Our Lady of Guadalupe with joyful recognition.
While it is not given to Catholic priests to beget children, God gives them instead the capacity to bring God to earth. When he absolves sins in the name of God and calls Christ onto a parish altar, a priest should glow with divine life not unlike an expectant mother. How is it, then, that the father of lies has convinced Catholic priests that the Mass is a burden rather than a joy? How has he turned the confessional into a drudgery rather than a delight? But the glow of a mother with child reveals our own true joys. The Mother and Child is an icon that puts all reality into proper perspective. Mother and child are humanity’s greatest treasure, our greatest joy, and our greatest fascination, which is why it is the most-painted image in the history of art. The joy of Christmas is the joy of a mother and her child, so let no darkness take this joy from us.