On December 12 the Church in the United States will be celebrating the optional memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.
As Catholics, we should know that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s apparition on December 9, 1531 to Saint Juan Diego, an Indian convert to Catholicism from the Chichimeacan tribe (not Aztec as it is commonly believed), has great significance for the new evangelization.
The apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Tepeyac, Mexico ushers in a period in Church history that can be rightly called a “Marian Age.” Before La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima, and the multitude of other Marian events recorded throughout the world in the last 400 years, there was the Phenomenon of Guadalupe. Guadalupe is not just a “Mexican thing.” Properly understood, it is a paradigm for the mission of the Church into the future. The full meaning of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to unfold in history.
The apparition of the Virgin Mary as an expecting mother with the Christ child in utero speaks volumes to today’s post Roe v. Wade generation of the fundamental value of human life from conception to natural death. This message helps us understand that the civilization of love that Catholics are called to build has to be grounded in a fundamental respect for human life from conception.
The miraculous image left by God of the Virgin Mary imprinted on Juan Diego’s tilma (“cloak”) may be understood in the key of The Visitation (Luke 1:39-56). Mary goes in haste to her cousin Elizabeth bringing the Christ-child in utero and thereby introduces Christ to his people for the first time. In a similar way, the apparition of the Blessed Mother at Tepeyac introduces Christ to his people in the New World.
Contrary to the anti-Catholic narrative presented in public school systems all over the world, and unfortunately in many Catholic schools, Christianity in Latin America is not a result of European colonization. History shows that Christianity was rejected en masse by the indigenous people of Mexico and Latin America until the Phenomenon of Guadalupe and the flood of miraculous Marian events all over Latin America that followed it. This is not to say that there were no forced conversions, but rather, that in spite of these forced conversions, the indigenous people of Latin America embraced Christianity as a result of the intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Mother appears as the morena (“the brown one”). Her facial features display a young woman as a product of two races and two civilizations – European and American. The symbolic language communicated by the image on the tilma – the so-called Náhuatl Codex – however, is completely indigenous and could only be interpreted by St. Juan Diego and the native community. This made the message conveyed by the Blessed Mother a message that was totally indigenous and of the native culture.
The Phenomenon of Guadalupe presents a new Pentecost in the New World. Over a period of seven years following the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, eight million natives of Mexico converted to Catholicism – a staggering number that works out to be 95,238 souls per month.
Christianity did not destroy the pre-Colombian religions of Mexico and Latin America; it purified them and united them to a reality that transcends culture and nation. Human sacrifice was purified of its horrific violence against the dignity of the human person and united to the one true and perpetual sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The cults centering around fear and death were transformed into a culture of life that awakened in the native people the intrinsic value of individual lives and humanity’s vocation to love.
In his book, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Civilization of Love, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson, writes, “the first apparition [of Guadalupe] makes poignantly clear the Virgin Mary’s universal role as mother and her desire to bring all people closer to God through her loving intercession.”
As we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, let us thank God for giving us such a splendid mother, who leaves the company of angels to help humanity find its way to her son – Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!