Bernal Díaz was a conquistador in the company of the great Hernán Cortés, who wrote his eyewitness yet famously objective account of what it was exactly they saw and experienced as the relatively small group of Spaniard soldiers and adventurers made their 1519 trek from Vera Cruz inland to what we now call Mexico City. All along the way, the Spaniards, yes, claimed the territory was now under the dominion of Don Carlos, Emperor Charles V, but they also demanded that the Indians abandon their idol worship, human sacrifices with the customary partaking afterwards, and the unnatural vice. Wherever they went, they also preached the Gospel, erected a cross, and often left an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As they were nearing their goal of Mexico City, they came to a township they called Castilblanco where they were received with reluctant hospitality. Diáz remembers distinctly a place near the town temple where the Indians had piled up in a very orderly fashion more than 100,000 human skulls leftover from their sacrifices. He repeats this number so we do not think he miswrote it or was exaggerating. In another corner of the plaza neatly piled up were the rest of the bones. And they had guards on duty to protect the…trophies. That alone is chilling enough, but what makes the blood run cold is Diáz’s final line on the subject: “Similar horrible sights we saw towards the interior of the country in every township.”
Now, in these satanic rituals, not only were the victims human beings, but it was normal for the heart to be torn out of the body and offered to the idol. It is known that in 1487 the Aztecs dedicated one of their temples by cutting out the hearts of 80,000 people over four days and four nights, which means their method reduced the time of so slaughtering a victim down to fifteen seconds. 80,000 hearts. Why the heart?
It is the demonic goal to turn upside down and inside out whatever is holy and good. Why do we venerate the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Because, as Pius XII says, the physical heart of Christ is the symbol of His burning love for us. The worship of those gods made of the heart offered to an idol a symbol of the triumph of hatred over love, death over life, evil over good.
St. Mother Teresa had a short and simple prayer: “Lend me Your heart.” Satan wants the heart given away so that the owner has it no more. The saints want the heart of their Beloved lent to them so that both He and they can have it, so that His love can fire their hearts.
Inside each one of us, Mexican or not, is that same human nature which was so grossly disfigured in the pre-Christian Mexican religion. And so each one of us, Mexican or not, should fall on our knees before Our Lady of Guadalupe and beg her to lend us her heart. That heart of love—maternal, gentle, sweet—draws out love where there was only hatred before, inspires kindness where there was only cruelty, enkindles hopeful prayer where there was only the cry of death.
See in St. Juan Diego what happens when we do, when she lends us her heart. Life becomes simple in its focus on her, on Christ, on eternity. Prayer becomes constant. Conversions abound as we speak of our faith and the joy we take in it. And the one savage in sin becomes civilized by grace.
And when she lends us her heart, we need to surrender our heart, lend her our heart—an exchange, if you will—so that what in us is yet unpurified may be refined in her, what is base in us may be ennobled in her, and what is despondent in us may be consoled in her. Her maternal heart embraces all her children without exception, and she calls them all to the right worship of her Son, the one true God, through Whom all things live. Then will the borrowing of her heart and the lending of our own make our hearts indistinguishable, fused into one by the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Given 12/12/22 at St. Michael’s