Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day One ~ Guadalupe Novena Countdown

ALL NARRATIVES OF the 1531 Guadalupe Apparitions are traced to the Nican Mopohua, written in Nahuatl, the ancient language of the Aztecs. The original has disappeared but a copy exists from 1649. The account begins with the words, "Ten years after the seizure of the city of Mexico, war came to an end and there was peace amongst the people." 

This is a reference to the defeat of the Aztec Empire by Cortes. And so the peace is the peace of a crushed people: defeated, killed, enslaved, oppressed. Even Christianity was foisted on them. It is in this context of annihilation that the Lady appears. Mary is not just being sweet to Juan Diego in the dialogue, but rather she addresses him and involves him in her work as one who, with his people, has been utterly degraded. It is essential to understand this if the Guadalupe is not to be reduced to one more tame devotion.

In the tenth year,
in the quiet of defeat
you appeared
striding into the cemetery
of Mexico
where you uncovered your
littlest son,
who in accepting
colonial degradation
called himself
the dog's tail,
a bit of rope,
the bottom rung,
a leaf.

In his reduction
you elevated him,
your agent now,
to the chaplain of
the aggressors -
   orders from the

Stride now little girl
into our political divide
and up to the ecclesial chasms,
the air space of drones
the outer space of satellites -
   the advance men
   of wars yet to be declared.

Stride now, my Lady and Child,
into the demilitarized zones,
the no man's lands,
the Guantanamos and
Abu Ghraibs,
the deepest undergrounds
  of exploitation and

Mother in motion,
exit the outer world
of cartoon piety,
historical debate,
of scientific proof,
and stride into the inner world
where there's no golden mist,
no song of tzinizcan,
where weedy thoughts
   await the transformation
   of your sparkling
   turquoise and gold.

  • The Virgin-Guadalupe called Juan Diego her littlest son.
  • Virgencita: Juan Diego employs the diminutive in addressing the vision - the language of intimacy.
  • Chaplain to the aggressors: that would be the local Spanish bishop.
  • a leaf - commonly used as toilet paper.
  • The barefoot: Just short of slavery, Juan Diego was at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.
  • The tilma image shows Mary walking - see her left leg. Where does she need to stride today? But let's think beyond Mary wanting to correct the sex lives of people.
  • Scientific proof. The Church has allowed the tilma to be subjected to countless scientific tests to prove its authenticity. I think this is foolish. "For those who have faith no proof is necessary. For those without faith, no proof would suffice."
  • The Lady appeared first in a golden mist.
  • The tzinizcan was a beautiful song bird. We might wonder if it has gone extinct.
  • In the account of the first apparition the desert weeds glittered like precious stones.
  • When heaven opens to us, there is always beauty. 


  1. I never knew this as part of the Guadalupe story. A poor man, yes, but not someone to be seen as a degraded, lower class citizen of this newly converted land. I appreciate the straightforward approach and look for more in the days to come. I am always interested in learning new aspects and ways to approach what is considered a well known story. This makes our devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe even more beautiful. It also gives hope to all those suffering from similar feelings of degradation as Juan Diego.

  2. Father Stephen,

    Who is the author of this most amazing, contemporay prayer/poem to the Guadalupe? "Stride now, my Lady and Child, into the demilitarized zones . . .and "Stride now, little girl, into our political divide . . ." This poem makes the best argument for the power, vitality and validity of poetry that I've ever heard! Thank you--

    1. I wrote the poem. Thank you for your careful read.

  3. Oh, and "orders from the barefoot!" cannot be topped!


  4. I think Mary would want to correct the amount of abortions occurring everyday. These babies are her tiniest children, her Sons great gifts to the world and they are being killed everyday. Abortion is our modern day annihilation . I think Mary most Definetly needs to stride in this direction to guide the poor souls who choose this type of slaughter.

    1. For sure. But the sentence says "....beyond Mary wanting to correct the sex lives of people." The word BEYOND is important. There are lots of Catholics whose moral lens is no bigger than sexual issues. Don't get ahead of me. It's only day one. You'd be hard pressed to find a priest who is more articulate for the pre-born child than I.

  5. In need of transformationDecember 4, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    The message of this poem is strong and should not be dismissed. I especially find the invitation to "stride into the inner world" where we await her with our "weedy thoughts" so very direct and exactly what we need to accept. We need serious transformation to save our souls.