Our Lady of Guadalupe is on the move and I’m so glad. She crossed my path around mid-December as I waited in a college chapel for my freshman daughter to be done with finals and come on home for winter break. There was a small alcove there dedicated to her, and as I read her story, I felt a glow of peace, and I wrote her out a little prayer, putting my daughter under her protection at school. At my son’s school, Mary has another title, ‘Queen of the Summit’, and that’s how I address her in my prayers for him, along with ‘Mary’ and ‘Mom’. It’s nice that we have so many images and titles for Mary, so many ways in to touch that motherly protection. After all, we all need a mother, working out the details for us, her hands manifesting the providence of God in our lives here on the ground.
The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is something I had read at some point, but I never really took in the reality of it, the straight-up miracles that continue to flow through this appearance. The short version is that in December of 1531, Mary appeared to a man named Juan Diego on a hillside, and she directed him to go to the Bishop to request that a church be built right on that spot. He refused, needing proof of Mary’s appearance, and when Juan returned, she granted him that sign, making roses grow at a time and place they shouldn’t. Juan gathered up the roses, and Mary helped him arrange them under his tilma, a garment made of coarse cactus fibers. When Juan returned to the Bishop and unfurled his tilma, the roses fell to the floor and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on the garment. You can still see the tilma today at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, right where Mary first appeared to Juan Diego, an image whose origin and durability science cannot explain. There’s so much more you can read about the miraculous nature of this image, and I hope you will, but the re-introduction of her story in that alcove was just the beginning for me.
In the weeks following, I found images of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the strangest places. There was a rose petal attached to a card with her name in a conference room in one of the schools in which I teach. A very secular author I follow tweeted out her picture. Patty Griffin’s version of the hymn ‘Virgen de Guadalupe’ popped on my Spotify.
I try to pay attention to these kinds of things when they happen; it seemed clear that Mary was making herself known to me under this title for a reason, and I wanted to know why. As the church and our country explode with abuse, hypocrisy, and outright heresy, it didn’t escape my notice that Our Lady of Guadalupe is known as the Patroness of the Americas. Pope John Paul II gave her that title in 2002, a time in which we as a nation desperately needed a mother’s protection and guidance, but it seems we need her now more than ever.
Today, our leaders are calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). As a church and as a nation, we reward power and we ignore the powerless. We’re lied to and manipulated, and the challenging words of Jesus are left on the sidelines by those who ought to know better. We rise to the defense of the privileged. We call them martyrs, and we forget the ones who are desperate and struggling on a daily basis. We identify most with those who look like us, and we wall ourselves off in isolation from the rest. We compromise a basic sense of morality and trade it for an edge in a game we can’t win. Our church loses sight of its mission, to be salt and light, and instead defends perpetrators of abuse and pretends on a daily basis that everything is as it should be. It’s not. And our Mother sees.
In these dark days, as she’s making herself known to me, I’m drawing close to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. In her endurance, strength, and creativity, she’s brought countless people to her Son over the centuries on this continent we all share. She humbly magnifies His message and she brings peace to turbulent places. Oh Lord, we need her now more than ever. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.