Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Sesquicentennial Mass of Celebration
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Thursday, December 12, 2019
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Guadalupe and Immaculate Conception Parish converge in one solemn moment tonight as we recall Mary’s apparition to a poor Mexican native and the establishment of this Parish named for that very Virgin who appeared to him.
The event of Guadalupe is about roses and one rose in particular. Let us unfold the tilma. As we do so, roses fall from the tilma of Juan-Diego miraculously. It was not the time of year for roses. But the bishop wanted a sign. No doubt the bishop thought it a significant challenge. “Let us see if this is really true?” he must have thought. So God provided him with a sign of roses. And from that garden arose a flower of singular significance.
A rose is a beautiful flower. The scent of only one rose can fill an entire room. The unique qualities of a rose are what make the rose legendary. We must not forget, however, that roses have thorns. I remember once visiting a rose farm in South America. Acres and acres covered with magnificent rose beds surrounded me. The owner of the farm told me that he shipped roses worldwide and that every buyer had different expectations. For example, he said, in the United States, the buyers wanted the thorns cut off.
To cut the thorns from roses is so revealing. We do not want pain. We shun the thought of having to suffer, so we cut the thorns from roses. Somehow we see no reconciliation between pain and beauty.
Thorns remind us of the pain that is so often present even in the most beautiful of occasions. Think of the sacrifices that our ancestors made to build this parish. Consider the devastation of the fire of 1910, how defeated their spirits, how overwhelmed to look upon their church destroyed. Thorns remind us that work is always necessary to bring about a good result. Thorns recall for us that suffering is part of life. We can admire the beauty, but it does not come without some pain and suffering.
Why do we cut the thorns from our roses? They should remain as a reminder of the reality of life’s challenges and how God can overcome all these obstacles. In the Book of Revelation, a glorious vision is presented to us of a woman clothed with the sun and with the moon beneath her feet. Yet, the dragon awaits to consume her child. What happens? God protects them. The dragon cannot harm her or the child.
We should not be discouraged. Roses, taking their cue from their Creator, teach us this lesson. What kind of roses do we bring to Mary? A pure heart, a soul made fragrant with God’s grace? Or, do we bring wilted roses, roses that have lost their scent, beauty disfigured by sin. God can make our souls beautiful once again with His grace, just as surely as the faithful of the parish raised up this beautiful edifice from the ashes of 1910.
My brothers and sisters, we are called to live a better life than the ones we live. There is always room for improvement, to grow a better rose. Our roses always need trimming, fertilizing, and tender care. And, yes, the thorns remain, as the reminder of our imperfections—but the reality of the rose is the beauty of God’s grace shining through our human weakness, living virtuous lives, forgiving our enemies, looking for peace and resolving our difficulties.
Juan-Diego opened his tilma before the bishop and roses fell to the ground revealing a rose of incomparable beauty, the Virgin Mary. Mary is the rose, she who was conceived without sin, the stainless mother of the Redeemer, the patroness of this church, she who is full of grace.
Mary, the rose, is our model. We want to imitate her purity, her goodness, and her fidelity to God’s will. In this way we become more perfectly the rose that blooms in winter and falls to the ground to reveal something even more beautiful. In this way, we make the song of Mary our own: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”