“One of the new saints of the Church, canonised by Pope Francis last month in St Peter’s Square, Rome, is St Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, known as ‘Mother Lupita’. She was born in 1878 in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico. Her father was a religious store merchant, whose store was located in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan. Hence St Maria made frequent visits to this Basilica and grew in her devotion to Our Lady.
Although initially she planned to marry Gustavo Arreola, she broke off the engagement because she felt called to religious life, and believed that she was called to give assistance to the poor and the sick. In 1901 St Maria co-founded a new Congregation known as the ‘Handmaids of St Margaret Mary and the Poor’. St Maria worked as a nurse and regardless of the poverty of the patients, compassion and care for the physical and spiritual well-being of the sick was her primary concern. St Maria was named Superior General of the congregation and she taught the other sisters that only through loving and living poverty could one be truly ‘poor with the poor’. In times of dire need St Maria went off begging in order to collect money to keep the hospital going. St Maria believed only in begging for what was actually needed to run the hospital and not in asking for more than that.
When the Mexican Revolution started the Catholic Church underwent persecution, and St Maria put her own life at risk by hiding priests and the Archbishop of Guadalajara in her hospital. The last two years of St Maria’s life were lived in extreme suffering because of grave illness. She died at Guadalajara in 1963 at the age of 85. During St Maria’s lifetime, 11 foundations were founded by her in Mexico. Today her Congregation has 22 foundations in five different nations: Mexico, Peru, Iceland, Greece and Italy.
In his homily at the Canonisation Mass, Pope Francis said of St Maria, ‘Giving up a comfortable life she taught the love of poverty, which permitted greater love of the poor and infirm. She knelt on the floor of the hospital before the sick and abandoned to serve them with tenderness and compassion. And this is called ‘touching the flesh of Christ’. The poor, the abandoned, the sick, the marginalised are the flesh of Christ. And she touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this way of acting: do not be ashamed, do not be afraid, do not be repulsed by ‘touching the flesh of Christ’. Today her spiritual daughters continue to reflect God’s love in works of charity, without avoiding sacrifice and facing all obstacles with meekness, with apostolic perseverance, enduring them with courage. This new Mexican Saint invites us to love as Jesus did, and this means not being shut up in ourselves, in our own problems, our own ideas, our own interests, in this little world that does so much damage to us, but going out and caring for those who need attention, understanding, help, to bring them the warmth and nearness of God’s love.'”
– From: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”