December 12th is the Feast Our Lady of Guadalupe (Patron of the Americas). In December of 1531, on a site revered by Aztecs as a shrine to the goddess Tonantzin, the Blessed Virgin appeared to an indigenous man, Juan Diego. She asked Juan to gather flowers in his cloak, and miraculously left the now famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on this cloak. The image was shown to Church authorities as proof of the Blessed virgin Mary’s visit. This Our Lady of Guadalupe image presents the Blessed Virgin Mary as she would appear if she had been of indigenous heritage in Mexico. Today, Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patron of the America’s. It is no small wonder that since 2002, the Canadian Catholic Church has dedicated December 12th the annual National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. The theme of the day of prayer for 2022 is “Healing the Earth.”
Most of us recognize the need to be good stewards of the earth as we are mandated to be in Genesis 1:28. Yet, our earth has been damaged, almost to the point of no return, by our history of colonization of lands, conquest of peoples, and commodification of the earth’s resources. I offer that the call to healing the earth, is deeply rooted in reconciliation, justice and healing of the damages that have been done to indigenous peoples throughout the world. Intergenerational trauma, and the Church’s role in such, must be examined. Then, an honest step forward to healing the entire world can be made.
Intergenerational trauma seeps into my daily life as a Catholic man. My paternal grandfather and my maternal grandmother were Mi’kmaq. This is a truth I discovered in my adult years. I am a descendent of the hidden histories that were denied whole generations of children to keep them safe. When I look into the eyes of my 7-month-old granddaughter, I find hope for intergenerational healing. We adopted her mother at 11 days old. My daughter, and now my new granddaughter, are descendants of an unknown (to us) Cree nation in Northern Ontario. When we gather as a family, my commitment to seeking truth and reconciliation is solidified for my Mi’kmaq/Cree/Yoruba/Irish/Scottish/Jamaican/Italian/Newfoundland/French… family. I firmly believe that my family’s healing is deeply connected to the correlating healing the earth needs so badly. This, for me seems possible through prayerful listening and action. We will know that truth, reconciliation, justice, and healing have been accomplished when the wisdoms of indigenous peoples form policies and commitment, by governments, to protect the earth. Both arenas of healing are needed and inextricably linked.
So, as I look into my granddaughter’s eyes, I am girded for the work. My granddaughter Aliyah (whose name means “to rise up”) represents a generation that can inherit our healing, not our traumas. As such, maybe her generation can show us how the healing of the entire world can be done.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!
A Prayer for Justice
Source of all healing, hope and transformation,
We are your people.
Be with us as we continue to rise
From, through, and for the work of justice.
As we show up,
let us lift up our voices too often silenced and unheard.
Send us your spirit of wisdom,
To guide our hearts and minds
To be open to your words being spoken and heard.
Send us your spirit of resistance and strength,
That we may speak the truth,
Even when it is challenging and hard to hear.
Shatter our fragility,
Or any reticence that could keep us from witnessing to truth,
And receiving truth with open and discerning hearts.
May we Rise Up!
Stand Up! Speak Out!
And when we are the ones with power,
And when necessary, Step down!
May we do this in the service
To the great rising of all oppressed peoples,
As we seek justice, let us be just.
So that our children can someday
Teach us the ease with which we can live
And without all that keeps us from being
A united family for each other.
We ask this in the name of the One who has Risen,
And the ones who rose
And resisted with Him throughout history.
Michael Way Skinner is a retired Coordinator of Religion, Family Life and Equity with the York Catholic District School Board. He was a contributing author to World Religions: A Canadian Catholic Perspective, and co authored There Must be a Pony in Here Somewhere (Novalis, 2020) with his wife, Christine Way Skinner. Michael is a public speaker and award-winning educator who is deeply committed to faith as a source for inclusion and justice.