Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th)
Chances are, if you don’t speak Spanish or if you’re not of Mexican heritage, you may think that Our Lady of Guadalupe and her corresponding feast day have little to do with you. But you couldn’t be more wrong. Mary, in whatever guise she may choose to appear, belongs to all of us. We can no more say that Our Lady of Guadalupe was solely for the people of Mexico than we can state that the Blessed Virgin Mary somehow belongs exclusively to Catholics! From that moment on the Cross, when Jesus said to His beloved Apostle, John, “Behold, your mother,” Mary became our Mother, the mother of all humanity.1
Whenever Mary has appeared2 it has always been to tell people about the Way, the Truth, and the Life – about, Jesus, her Son.3 Her message is consistently both timeless and universal, one of love and compassion; she promises her help and protection to all mankind. Mary is honoured and venerated because she bore Christ into the world over 2000 years ago – she is Jesus’ Mother. But she continues to be loved because, through her faithful example, heartfelt words, and unfailing intercession, millions have found salvation, have come to know of Christ’s redeeming love. She is our Mother. Indeed, there is something to be gleaned from every visit our Blessed Mother has made to us here on earth. Regardless of where we live or what language we speak, Our Lady of Guadalupe has something to say to us today and in every generation.
Our Blessed Mother’s appearance to a humble peasant by the name of Juan Diego demonstrates the delicate care and concern that Mary has for each one of us. She wasn’t merely a visitor, but came as one like him, similar in dress, language, and features.4 Revealing herself as a poor, pregnant girl – wearing the simple attire of the native people – Mary shows us that no one is insignificant, that no one escapes her notice and attention. She identifies with and is present to the most vulnerable in the world – to the poor, the sick and suffering, to mothers, and especially to children and unborn babies.
Through the eyes of Jesus, our Heavenly Mother sees the worth and dignity of each and every soul. We are the adopted children that have been entrusted to her care. She understands the hostile world in which we live, as she herself had to bring her child, Jesus – God’s own Son – into the world under the harshest of conditions and in utter poverty. Yet, as a babe, Jesus knew none of this. In Mary’s sweet embrace, He was loved and comforted. The very same arms that held the Christ Child want to envelop us and draw us in, to care for and console us in times of need.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is so powerful because it invites us to contemplate a mother’s love, a sure sign of hope in a world desperately in need of it. After his miraculous encounter, St. Juan Diego was blessed to carry this image on his cloak or tilma, where it would remain close to his heart. But the miracle wasn’t just for him. It was for all to see. Amazingly, it is still visible after all these years and can be seen at the church built on the spot where the miracle took place. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most popular pilgrimage site in the world, visited by more than 18 million people every year. What is it that draws them? Proof that nothing is impossible for God. Flowers can bloom in the winter, a simple peasant can become a great saint, and a young virgin from Nazareth can become the Mother of God.
What happened in Mexico wasn’t an isolated event. More importantly, Mary’s role in God’s plan of salvation isn’t finished. She continues to reveal herself in multiple and miraculous ways in order to draw us into the mystery of her life, a life steeped in God’s grace and love from the very beginning. She was “the first human creature…permitted to discover Christ,”5 and now she wants to help us discover Him, too. We can be sure that her motherhood “in the order of grace…will last without interruption until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect.”6 Yes, Mary does speak our language. It is the language of God’s love – a love that knows no bounds for His children.
“Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.” (Words of Our Lady to Juan Diego)7
– Kelley Holy
1 John 19:27
2 While it is difficult to state the precise number of approved Marian apparitions (as there are discrepancies between various websites and different levels of ecclesial approval exist), generally between 7 and 16 have been fully approved by the Vatican. For more information, go to www.miraclehunter.com.
3 Cf. Timothy Cardinal Dolan, The Gospel in the Digital Age, blog.archny.org, November 20, 2013.
5 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 62.
6 Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater, 17.
7 For more information on Our Lady of Guadalupe, check out www.sancta.org