Back to Index

Clericalism. Portugal and Mexico. The Virgin of Guadalupe and the Virgin of Fatima.



     Although Pope John Paul II is a world traveler, his major target is Latin America, where there is the largest concentration of Catholics and where the faith has not been as eroded by rationalism as in Europe.
     The Virgin of Gualalupe in Mexico has been made the patroness of the Americas. However, the Brazilians want a Portuguese-speaking one, so Pope John Paul II is raising the Virgin of Fatima in Portugal to the same level, leaving behind the other shrines like Lourdes. He is paid his third visit there for her feast on May 13. He believes it was her intervention that saved him when, on the same date in 1981, he was the target of an assassination attempt.
     The scene at Fatima on the eve of the festival was like that at the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico, with pilgrims coming not only on foot but on their knees. Nowhere else in Europe does one see such scenes, not even at Lourdes.
     Naturally, the legend of the three children who saw the Virgin is widely received with much skepticism, but in Portugal a mentality is developing like that in Mexico,, where anyone who questions the story of the Virgin de Guadalupe, as Father Shulenberg did, is viewed as an enemy of la mexicanidad, even by atheists.
     Very conservative in his beliefs, Pope John Paul II has the old cult of saints, and has been creating new ones at an unprecedented rate. The procedure has been speeded up. The office of Devil's Advocate, who could block or delay a candidacy, has been abolished. The miracles test is consequently less rigorous. Liberal priests like the Jesuits think it should be replaced by an exemplary life test. Devotion to saints is stressed by very conservative Catholics. The habit has grown of speaking of beatification as though it made a person a saint. It does not. It makes you a blessed one, and that is as far as many went. However, it is now assumed that canonization of the blessed is automatic.
     Alejo Orvañanos has kindly sent me an article from Reforma about the Mexican cult of certain saints. Saints play a great role in the Spanish tradition. You send best wishes to a friend not on his birthday but on the feast of the saint whose name his parents gave him. Is this custom still observed in Mexico? Then there is the "saint of your devotion:" For example, I am not a Catholic, but the saint of my devotion is St. Paul, who saw the light and was willing to change his opinions and drop his prejudices. I wish some of my colleagues would adopt him as their saint.
     However, the list forwarded by Alejo Orvañanos is of saints who help you when you have "problems of love, money, or health: impotence. infertility or cruda (a slang Mexican term for drunkenness)". Whatever the problem, there is a saint who can help. According to the Mexican Conference of Bishops, there are more than 4,500 saints who are said to have performed miracles related mostly to health, money and love. Apparently these are the problems which beset most people.
     The Conference says that in Mexico, after the Virgin of Guadalupe, San Judas Tadeo is the saint most venerated in Mexico, because he performs miracles related to lost causes, health, money and love. A all order. I have taken time out from this posting to try to find out who he was. I was surprised that he is popular in the US now, but then I discovered that St. Jude is the patron of hippies, who think their cause is lost.
     Ignorance of geography is widespread. Brest is in France, not England as asserted in the story of Saint Winwaloe. There is there a statue of this monk with an erect penis. People prayed to him when suffering from impotence and during the sexual act. Some monk. Feast March 3. If on the other hand you want to resist sexual temptation, pray to Saint Agueda (feast March 8). &a If you are unhappily married, pray to Saint Gumaro (feast October 11). He married a witch and persuaded her to change her lifestyle. The taming of the shrew. If you have a hangover, pray to Saint Bibiana (feast December 2). On her grave in Rome plants grow which cure hangovers. I can't figure out how she got involved in this.
     Women looking for a husband pray to St. Anthony (feast May 5- Perhaps that is why the Cinco de Mayo is so popular in Mexico). You stand the statue on its head until he performs the miracle of finding you a husband. Later you presumably pray to Saint Gumaro. Of if you are a typical jealous woman you pray to Saint Isabel (Elizabeth; feast July 4). Your husband will come trotting back to you. Or, if you want a divorce, you pray to Saint Fabiola (feast December 27). If you want to have a baby, pray to Saint Raimundo Nonato (feast August 31).
     All this information and more can be found in the Directory of Saints, published by the Church Forum of the Archbishopric of Mexico. I suspect that Reforma, which is a liberal magazine, circulated this information to offset the clerical offensive in Mexico, where the cause will be bolstered by the creation of 27 Mexican saints, and, in addition, the Mexican Church hopes, the canonization of Juan Diego, the peasant who met the Virgin of Guadalupe.
     I wonder how the Mexican public is reacting to this struggle between clericalism and the Reforma, its enemy, who patron saint is Benito Juárez, hated by the clericals.

Ronald Hilton - 5/14/00


Webmaster