CHECKMATE BY THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
By Rev. Francis P. Filice
We have the tendency to view human history as if God has no part in it. This comes from the custom in our schools of discussing human affairs from a purely secular view for fear of offending people of different faiths. However, effects of the personal actions of Our Lady on our history is so clear that to ignore it is to distort reality until it appears irrational. I want to remind you that when Our Lord died on the cross (a historical reality) He gave birth to His Church, which is composed of all those who have received the Holy Spirit of God and who are grouped around their Bishops. Since we have been called to be part of that Church, and have been baptized, we are all brothers to Our Lord, brothers and sisters to each other and children of Mary, His mother.
This is a most important reality. Our earthly mothers are very limited and will eventually die, but the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin continues to nurture us and form us into images of Christ.
ST BRENDAN THE NAVIGATOR
Brandon of Ardfert was born in 484 A.D. in a small village near Tralee in County Kerry. He became a monk and was ordained a priest in 512 A.D. by Bishop Erc of Tralee. He had a very fruitful apostolic life founding several monasteries and building a Cathedral. He traveled with some of his monks to Iona, an Island near Scotland, and also to Wales.
He is a recognized saint of the Catholic Church as Brendan the Navigator, whose feast is celebrated on 16 May, and is the patron of several parishes, for example, in San Francisco of California.
His greatest claim to fame stems from a legend, first noted in the eighth century and found written in manuscripts that date back to the ninth century. He is said to have sailed in a Coracle ( a boat made of ox-skins) out into the Atlantic in search of Paradise. Some accounts say that he sailed with 60 monks but that seems unlikely in view of the size of the boats at that time in Ireland; other accounts, more reasonable, say with 14 monks.
The voyage, according to the legend, took 7 years and when he returned he told of having found a lush island far to the West.
Attempts to identify his landfalls have been fruitless; principally because during the centuries the account has been heavily overlain with improbable events that are clearly imaginary. In early days the Canary Islands were considered, later, Iceland, etc. By the eighteenth century most scholars have written off the account as purely fabulous.
However, my thesis is that there really was such a trip and that St. Brendan may well have been the first European of record to see North America.
Evidence: here I give information culled from Prescott’s “Conquest of Mexico” re-published by Henry Holt Company in 1922; Timothy Severin’s 1976 book about his trip from Ireland to Newfoundland in a Coracle; and Warren Carroll’s 1983 book about Our Lady of Guadalupe published by Christendom Press.
The Shawnee Indians of the Ohio Valley in the early times of the United States had a memory of a “white Indian” tribe on the coast near Florida who used iron tools. Other accounts by Indian tribes — especially the Toltec Indians of Mexico, tell of a white man who came in a skin boat and stayed with a tribe of Indians on the Atlantic Coast of North America. He taught them many things including agriculture. The American Indians, like all primitive Mongolians, were hunters and gatherers that traveled in relatively small communities. Because they followed game they were essentially migratory. When they enter our history during the period of exploration by Europeans in the 15th and subsequent centuries, many of the tribes had agricultural skills, growing yucca, tomatoes, squash, maize and other plants.
He also taught them that unmarried people were to live in communities and practice the strictest chastity. He taught them about the Creator who abhorred human sacrifice and punishes evil and rewards the good. He taught these communities to be under the direction of “priests” who dressed in black. There are Indian Heiroglyphics extant that show this man using instruments to practice severe penance for the people.
There is also a legend that the Shamans were very jealous and tried to get rid of this man. The method they used is so typical of the Christian world that, considering all the evidence, it is difficult not to ascribe this man as a Catholic. The Shamans had a banquet at which they got him drunk and then introduced a woman into his tent. When he woke up the next morning he announced that he had to leave. He and some of his men sailed away in a skin boat and he predicted that others like him would come who would teach them more about the Creator and what he wants of them.
The Toltec Indians migrated around North America and finally settled in what is now the State of Hidalgo in Mexico. They had this legent and they called this man “Quetzalcoatl”. In their language a Queztal is a bird and Coatl means a snake. The sign and symbol of Quetzacoatl was a feathered serpent.
The intervening centuries had clouded his memory, but they still had a priesthood that dressed in black and single people lived in communities and practiced chastity. They had strict rules against human sacrifice. However, they did build pyramids with temples on top in honor of Quetzalcoatl, whom they honored as a god.
It is easy to see the reality of a Catholic Monk behind these legends. If one were to trace a cross for an unlettered Indian who did not know the complete story; the Indian would see a serpent with wings: hence the “feathered serpent”. Also, “Quetzal” is the nearest they would be able to pronounce the word: “Christ”. The fact that the word sounds like their word for a bird is the reason for this identification. But, also, the fact is that the word “Coatl” in the Indian language of Mesoamerica, has other meanings besides “snake” and one of the principal homonyms is “Brother”.
Thus the voyager from Christian lands is remembered in the Indian way of saying “Christs’s Brother”. Since the Cross is the symbol that identifies the Catholic Monk, and even in the 10th Century the Toltecs were living in a chaste environment wholly unknown to the pagan Indians, the identification of ST. Brendan the Navigator with Quetzacoatl is undoubted.
Brendan’s voyage took place some time after 530. Some scholars say around 550
And St. Brendan died in 577 A.D.
The tribe of Indians that settled in what is now Hidalgo, had a contiuous tradition of these teachings that are clearly Christian even in the year 987. At that time they still had a priesthood that wore black and lived in community much like our monks and worshiped Quezalcoatl who despised human sacrifice. Around that year the head of that community in Tula was one “Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl” who taught that the True God was the Creator who forbad human sacrifice.
His name means : “Our Prince born in the year 1-reed”. He was the leader of the communities and taught the enlightend moral concepts of his namesake Quetzalcoatl. About that time the Toltec people merged with the Aztecs who had settled on islands in the lake of Mexico. Their religious leaders wanted to offer sacrifice to their gods and, apparently, Ce Acatl Topilitzin was driven out of Tula and then out of Chochula, where he had taken refuge. He eventually was driven out of Central Mexico and crossed the Gulf ot Campeche to the Yucatan Peninsula where he dwelt among the Mayans until he died. He left Central Mexico about the year 987 of the Christian Calendar.
There was a prophecy that he would return on a year of his name to reclaim his people.
In Palenque, an ancient city of Mesoamerica, thre are ruins of temples that ceased to be used around 800 AD, according to some archeologists. These ruins are of particular interest because they form a complex of temple buidings whose walls are adorned with carvings of the Cross. As far a we know this is the only place ourside of the Christian world where this sign is found.
Some believe these structures corroborate the story of Ce Acatl Topilitzin. Palenque is in the state of Chiapas at the lower part of the Ycatan Peninsula and is in the area of the Maya.
In the Mexican calendar the year 1519 of the Christian era was a 1 reed year.
Also, Cortez landed at what is now Vera Cruz and met the ambassafors of Montezuma on Good Friday, 1519. In honor of the death of the Savior, Cortez wore black.
All this suggested to Montezuma and his councilors that Cortez was Quetzalcoatl, returned to retake his empire and to usher in a new age. This idea paralyzed the Aztecs and after a few encounters, 600 spaniards with 10,000 Indian allies marched through Mexico, a country that could muster one million seasoned warriers, to the city built on islands in the lake of Mexico. They marched into the city and took Montezuma prisoner and thus began the amazing story of the conquest.
This could never had taken place where it not for the Quetzalcoatl legend and the prophesies of his return.
Thus you see, Brendan the Navigator was not only in all likeliehood the first Europaen of record to see North America and return to tell the story; but he was responsible for the conquest of the most powerful and well-organized Indian Country and its subsequent convesion to the Catholicv faith.
I think that we should take this story to heart because we are always being asked by God to walk in paths we do not understand and to undergo situations and trials that are incomprehensible to us. However, you can see how what seems to us as a random phenomenon is really part of God’s great Plan of the formation of the Kingdom.
The Irish Monk, Brendan, when he went in search of paradise on the cold and foggy North Atlantic, had not the slightest notion that God was planning to use his strange experience in such a remarkable and important way.
We have no possible way of understanding the Creator and his intentions; however if we have faith, trust in Him and do his will without questioning, we will see that he will use our weak efforts to do unexpectedly great things in the salvation of souls.
Thus: trust the Creator and never doubt his love for us. Do his will for love of him and He will bring us to Glory.
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PART I — Our Lady of Guadalupe
A — MEXICO
Do you know that St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673 -1716), in his book about the secrets of Mary, told us that we are now in the end times? He, and other saints, has indicated that we are now in the final battle between Good and Evil. It is no longer a real question of countries pitted against countries or ideologies against ideologies — but the confrontation of primordial evil with the Power of the Creator. You can see how, although we fight wars and seem to solve problems — the evil in the world is ever more powerful and pervasive. For example, the very evils that the Nazi system perpetrated and that were our justification for conquering Germany in WWII; we, the people of the United States, are now doing even though we destroyed the Nazi Party.
St. Louis-Marie predicted that the Lord God has willed to finally conquer the Devil and his evil empire through the Virgin Mary.
Now, this is a very big thing! Especially since the field of battle is your soul!
There is ample evidence in the historical record that she is at work right now, and very successfully too!
In the first centuries of the Church there is little recorded about the actions of the Blessed Virgin although she played a central role in the growth of the Church. The Fathers tell us that the reason is that the Church took root and grew among pagan people who worshipped goddesses ; and the Holy Spirit did not want us to be confused about Our Lady and think of her as a goddess. After all she is only a human being like us.
The first really dramatic and overt intervention by Our Lady took place in Mexico after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) was an Augustinian monk and in 1517 he nailed certain statements to the door of the Cathedral in Wittenberg (now in Germany). In those statements he challenged the Pope and the authority of the Church to speak for Our Lord and, in doing so, tore the Christian world apart. The northern parts of Europe became Protestant throwing the Christian world into a crisis so severe that, at times, it seemed that Christianity itself would not survive.
However, while the political leaders of Europe were busy rending the flanks of the Church, Our Lady began to build it up in the New World. Today an estimated 1 billion people are Catholic and half of them live in Latin America which was evangelized by Our Lady in person.
Hernando Cortez conquered Mexico in 1521. When the lands south of the Rio Grande were subdued, he went back to Spain to have his work ratified by the Spanish Crown. He left two magistrates (called “auditors”) in charge, with plenary powers , until his return.
The Spanish Crown, of course, accepted “New Spain” and rewarded Cortez by putting him in charge. The King of Spain passed a law that the indigent people (we call them “Indians”) could not be enslaved and he wanted them evangelized. To that end he appointed a Franciscan friar, Juan Zumarraga, at the head of a company of numerous priests from various orders to go to the new world and work for the conversion of the Indians. Juan Zumarraga was designated to become the first Archbishop of Mexico.
When they got there, they found their work almost impossible. The natives would have nothing to do with the Catholic Religion. The reason is very instructive for us. The Auditors left in charge (named: Matienzo and Delgadillo) proved to be rapacious predators, consumed by a lust for power. They were cruel in the extreme. When the missionaries tried to help the conquered people the Auditors attacked them violently. For example one priest, who opposed them, while saying Mass was dragged out of his Church by the two of them personally and butchered in the street. * It is obvious, I think, that what impedes the conversion of people to Christ is the bad example of we Christians.
The auditors would not allow Fr. Zumarraga to write to Spain to denounce them. He had to resort to smuggling our a letter (still in existence in the archives of Spain) hidden in a slab of bacon. Of course when the Spanish government heard the report they appointed a new Audiencia and had the original ones arrested.
After the Auditors were arrested Our Lady began to wornk..
The story is well known. She appeared to Juan Diego — one of the few Catholic converts.
He was a very poor man indeed. He was a farmer lacking land and too old to work hard. He was a widower who had no house — he lived with his uncle. He was a member of a conquered people who resented him because he had accepted the religion of their overlords. He was ignored by the Spaniards who felt superior to the conquered Indians.
It was this insignificant and helpless person who was honored by a visit by Our Lady, the Queen of Heaven.
The remarkable events of Our Lady’s intervention into the History of Mexico began on Saturday December 9, 1531. The octave of the Feast of the Immaculate conception (December 8) was observed in Mexico and Juan Diego was anxious to attend Mass In Mexico City. He had risen early the began his trip South to the Lake of Mexico on whose islands the City was built. The Indians travel with a kind of trot that allows them to cover long distances rapidly. Juan wanted to enter the City by means of the Norhern causway that began by a hill called Tepeyac.
As he followed the path over the hill, suddenly he noticed that the birds seemed to be singing in chorus. The light changed and the plants and rocks became colored. The cactuses, for example, had thorns of gold. The Native Americans, pagans of Mongolian ancestry, still tell each other about Paradise. To them Paradise is a place of beautiful colors, singing birds and beautiful flowers. So, to Juan Diego, it seemed as if he were running though Paradise.
Suddenly he met a young woman. From the earliest written account of these events: Nican Mopohua — written by a native scholarAntonio Valeriano; the young woman is described as beautiful, richly dressed but dressed as an Indian woman. Juan Diego was afraid that he had frightened her and quickly apologized (after all he was a poor Indian farm worker) and assured her that he did not mean to bother her in any way but was hurrying to Mass in the City.
But the woman told him that she had come to meet him. She introduced herself as the Queen of Heaven and asked him to do a favor for her. She asked him to go to Bishop Zumarraga and tell him that she wanted a temple built in that location where they met, in her honor. A temple, she said, where she would bestow gifs on those who honored her.
Well, Juan Diego, of course, accepted the duty, but was certain that no one would listen to him.
So he trotted to the Chuch, attended Mass and then went to the home of the Archbishop to relay the message. Naturally, the doorkeepers were reluctant to let him in to bother the busy Archbishop, but, eventually the Archbishop saw him and when he heard that Juan Diego wanted to see him he told them to bring him into his office.
Juan Diego introduced himself and told the Archbishop of his encounter with a woman who said that she was the Queen of Heaven and who asked the Archbishop to build a temple in her honor at Tepeyac.
Well, naturally the Archbishop presumed that Juan was hallucinating and thus mentally unbalanced. He very gently thanked Juan for the message and assured him that as soon as he was ready to build the temple he would notify Juan.
Juan Diego, of course, realized that the Bishop thought him unbalanced and started for home somewhat despondent. Our Lady met him, again, as he crossed the hill Tepeyac and asked what had happened.
Juan reported to Out Lady what had happened and he told her that the Archbisop reslly did not believe him. Respectfully he went on the explain that things work differently on earth than in Heaven. Here if she wants something done she must send someone important, not a poor man like himself.
However, Our Lady assured him that she wanted to do this work through him and asked him to return the next day to the Archbishop and tell him again what she wanted. Relcutantly Juan promised and the next day (10th of December 1531), after Mass, he returned to the Archbishop’s house. The servants would not let him in because they thought he was a nuisance. However, Juan stood in front ot the door until the Archbishop saw him our of his window. The Archbishop asked his secretary to tiell Juan to come in. However, the Archbishop now felt that reality therapy was the only way to handle this person. When Juan recounted what Our Lady said the evening before, the Archbishop bluntly told Juan that he would not build a temple because he had no idea who the Lady was. He suggested that Juan might have been the victim of diabolical illusions.
Naturally Juan became more and more downcast. The Archbishop, pitying Juan said: “ Look, if you see the woman again tell her that if she proves to me that she really is the Queen of Heaven, I will buid the temple she asks for.”
Juan was elated. On hiw way back home he again encounted the Lady and happily told her that it was all settled. All she had to do was convince the Archbishop that she really was the Queen of Heaven, and he would build the temple. Our lady thanked him and asked him to meet her on his was to Mass the next day and she would provide the proof needed by the Archbiship.
Relieved, Juan returned to his uncle’s house. When he got there he founnd Juan Bernadino, his uncle, seriously ill. He was so sick that Juan could not leave him the next day, All day he tended his uncle. That night, Juan Bernardino told his nephew that he though he would die. He asked Juan Diego to go to Mexico City and fetch a priest to give him the Last Sacraments. Of couse, Juan agreed and rose bfore dawn to run to the City.
Juan, of course, felt terrible. He was a comp;lete failure in everyting: being poor, homeless, dependant on his Uncle for a place to live. Rejected by his people and not accepted by the Spaniards. Now,, he had faild the Queen Of Heaven — the Mother of Jesus. He certainly felt a complete disaster.
Thus, when running to Mexico, he chose another route so that he would not have to face her. Of course, Our Lady knew everything that was happening and she met him on the way. Juan, greatly embarrassed tried to explain to her. But she calmed him down and said these Wonderful words that have changed the course of History: “Don’t be concerned. Am I not your mother? Don’t I carry you in the crossing of my arms? Have no fear, you are under my protection.”
Let those words change the course of your life.
Reassured about his uncles health, Juan found the proof that convinced the Archbishop at the top of the hill Tepeyac. At our Lady’ request he climbed to the top and found bushes of beautiful roses. Remember that the Indians think of Paradise as a place of flowers so he realized these were from Heaven and that the Archbishop would understrand that the Lady was really the Mother of God. He picked a number of the roses and, carrying them in his Tilma (a blanket-like robe worn by the Indians to cover themselves in inclement weather). Carrying them the Archbishop and opening the cloak to pour out the roses, they discovered a picture of the beautiful Lady seen by Juan Diego at Tepeyac. It is not know how the picture is produced. There have been some paints added by enthusiastic men, but the actual picure itself defies analysis. After almost 500 years it is as fresh as ever and seems to be a phomenon of the refraction of light on the suface of the cloth. Much the same, perhaps, as the iridescent colors of the wings of the butterfly.
When the Indian people heard that the Queen of Heaven had called Juan Diego “her son”, they realized that they were called to be the Children of God on an equal footing with the Spaniards. The Spaniards, in turn, learned that these were their brothers and they had to treat them with respect.
As a result of Our Lady’s words millions of Indians sought and accepted Baptism. In 1563, for example, 8 million baptisms were recorded. Whole villages would come to the priest to be baptized. There were so many that the Franciscan Missionaries used to baptize them en masse. The children in front — the prayers and the creed were recited in common and the priests would baptize without even using sacred oils because they ran out!
So we see Latin America is an essentially Catholic world today. About one half of the World’s Catholics, at the present time live in the Americas.
The sense of equality led to marriages between the various people, so Latin America, although containing many people of homogeneous ancestry, contains largely a mixed population.
At that time, an artist painted a copy of the image that had appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego and it was presented to the Pope by the Jesuits. He entrusted it to them and it is still kept in a Jesuit Church near Rome. It is different from the original, for example, because the artist depicted Our Lady as having blonde hair!