One of the most famous and loved of the approved Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary is Our Lady of Guadalupe. “The Patron of the Americas” (so named by Pope St. John Paul II) appeared near the City of Mexico to Saint Juan Diego.
Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego in the course of four days on four separate occasions—from December 9th to December 12th, 1531. These apparitions to the humble, simple, child-like Juan Diego would radically transform the face of the earth and the Catholic world. In fact, within 30 years—from 1531- 1561 close to 5 million Mexicans would be converted to Catholicism! This monumental miracle of massive conversions has never been equaled in the history of the world, in the history of Catholicism.
Juan Diego, living with his elderly uncle Juan Bernardino, would travel on foot frequently to the City of Mexico for the following important reasons: 1) To continue his formation in the Catholic faith (Juan Diego was an adult convert); 2) To attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; 3) To receive the Sacraments.
What a great model for adult Catholics today! Adult Catholics urgently need to build upon their catechetical formation. To attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is essential. And of paramount importance, in fact it is indispensable, the frequent, fervent and worthy reception of the Sacraments, especially Confession and the most Holy Eucharist.
This brief reflection will not center so much on the happenings, the appearances of Our Blessed Mother and the person of Saint Juan Diego (much has already been written on these all-important topics); rather, we would like to accentuate and highlight the extraordinary fruits that have blossomed and flourished as a result of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our loving Mother, coming to visit us. In truth, the abundant fruits of her appearance and presence cannot be measured in their magnitude and far-reaching extension.
Let us abound in thanksgiving to Jesus, the Son of Mary, for having sent His Heavenly Mother to us, showering us with a deluge of graces and blessings.
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE’S TREASURE BOX
1. MARY’S TENDER AND LOVING MOTHERHOOD. To Saint Juan Diego, and to each and every one of us, Mary calls herself Mother. Saint Therese of Lisieux stated: “Mary is Queen, but more than Queen, Mary is Mother.” Saint Augustine with flaring eloquence asserts: “Put all the love of all the Mothers of all times and places together, the love of Mary for each and every one of us is much greater.”
2. MARY HEALS! The great dilemma of Juan Diego as he hurried along heading to Mexico City to fetch a priest was the health of his elderly uncle, Juan Bernardine. Mary appears to Juan Diego and reassures him not to worry about his uncle, and she heals him immediately. So we can turn to Mary in our illnesses, as well as the illnesses and infirmities of our loved ones, and entrust these sicknesses to her. Among the many titles given to Mary is “Health of the sick.”
3. MARY TELLS US NOT TO WORRY. Our Lady of Guadalupe told Juan Diego not to worry, that he, Juan Diego, was in the crossing of her arms, in her shadow, and in the opening of her garment (tilma). How many of us have worries, fears, doubts and many anxieties! Mary wants us to entrust our cares to her maternal care and protection. As we pray in the Memorare: “Never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided….” Right now: let us cast our cares, worries, fears and anxieties in the Heart of Mary. She will never forget us!
4. MARY AND THE CHURCH. Then there is the ecclesial aspect of the Appearances of Our Lady of Guadalupe. With great insistence and determination, Our Lady commanded Juan Diego to inform the Bishop Juan Zumarraga that she wanted a Church to be built where she had appeared to him. Another clear message of Our Lady of Guadalupe is ecclesial. Mary is the Mother of God; she is the Mother of the Church, and she is the Mother of each and every one of us. Mary loves the Catholic Church and she encourages us all to attend Church, love the Church, pray for the Church, and to be precious, living stones in the structure of the Church. The Second Vatican Council proclaimed Mary as “Mother of the Church. (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium Chapter VIII)
5. MARY AND HOLY MASS AND HOLY COMMUNION. Furthermore, Mary as Mother of the Church desires most ardently that we attend Mass frequently and participate in Holy Mass fully, actively and consciously. By this is meant, to be well-prepared to receive the Sacred Body and Blood of Her Son, Jesus in Holy Communion. Mary always leads us to Jesus. Her last recorded words in Sacred Scripture, in the context of the Wedding Feast of Cana, were: “Do whatever He tells you.” (Jn. 2:5)
6. MARY AND CONFESSION. In the present Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe many Masses are celebrated every day. Still more, during the course of the day, from the opening of the Basilica until its close in the evening, there are confessors attending lines of pilgrim people, reconciling their souls and their lives to God through a Sacramental Confession.
7. MARY AND CONVERSION OF SOULS TO CHRIST. In the history of the world never has there ever been recorded such a massive conversion in numbers to the Catholic faith as resulted from the Apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As mentioned in the opening comments, it is calculated that in the short span of 30 years close to 5 million people in Mexico were converted to the Catholic faith! The numbers literally stagger the imagination! Now it is the country with the highest number of Spanish-speaking Catholics in the world! Thanks to Jesus who sent His loving Mother to Mexico in 1531!
8. OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE AND THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT. Of critical importance in the modern world is the presence, power and purpose of Our Lady of Guadalupe as an icon against the greatest moral evil of our times: the reality of abortion. The black ribbon around her waist points to the fact of her pregnancy. She is carrying the baby Jesus in her womb—Jesus who is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. The Pro-Life Movement has adopted Our Lady of Guadalupe as their patron against the onslaught and murder of innocent babies!
9. OUR LADY AS MISSIONARY, EVANGELIST AND STAR OF EVANGELIZATION (POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II). One of the most frequent and visited pilgrimages for Pope St. John Paul II was Mexico, most especially the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This great pontiff had in mind that massive conversion of Mexico and the present need for evangelization. Our Lady was proclaimed as the Patroness of the Americas and the New Star of Evangelization. May Our Lady of Guadalupe motivate all of us to leave our comfort-zone and do our part to drop the nets into the deep (Duc et altum) and haul in an abundant catch of fish, an abundant harvest of souls. “The harvest is rich but the laborers are few.” (Mt. 9:37)
10. OUR LADY CARES FOR ALL, BUT ESPECIALLY FOR THE POOR, ELDERLY AND ABANDONED OF SOCIETY. Our Lady of Guadalupe showed tender care for the elderly and almost-dying Juan Bernardino. She desired that the Basilica be built, first for the Sacraments and to house the Eucharistic Presence of her Son in the tabernacle, and second, so that all (not just a select few) could come to her with their problems and she would be there to help all in their needs. Mary is the universal Mother, but she has a very special love for the poor, the elderly, the sick, the marginalized, the abandoned, the depressed and those who seem to have lost all hope. She is that shining star in the midst of the dark clouds, storms and tempests in life. Indeed, Our Lady of Guadalupe, as in the prayer the Hail Holy Queen, is: “Our life, our sweetness and our hope!”
In conclusion, our humble little literary exposition is simply an invitation for all of us to get to know, love, pray to, and entrust our lives, fears and cares to Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Read up on Our Lady of Guadalupe. Make a pilgrimage, if possible, to her Basilica in Mexico. Purchase a beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and enthrone it in your homes. Invite many, starting with your family, to pray the Rosary in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Never forget the words that she addressed to Saint Juan Diego as well as to you and to me: “My little one, do not worry. I have you in the very crossing of my arms”, that is to say: you are hidden in the very depths of my Immaculate Heart. Let us find our sure refuge in two places: the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!