Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe

+JMJ+

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and because I love her I wanted to write about her.

Just three days ago we celebrated the feast of St. Juan Diego, the peasant indigenous man Our Lady appeared to in Mexico on December 9, 1531. If you are not familiar with the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady I would sincerely encourage all of you to look into it. It was a few days after she first appeared to him, on December 12, that she performed a beautiful miracle and used him as a messenger so that her words and her request for a church to be built on that site would become known to the world. 

I won't go into detail, but for those of you that know the story we are now left with a gorgeous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe she imprinted on his tilma (a type of common cloak back then). The icon hangs at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It has been scientifically tested and analyzed, but is clearly a miracle and is perfectly in tact nearly 500 years later. Her appearance before Juan Diego and the icon that proved to unbelievers that she exists are rightly attributed with ending the bloody human sacrifice of the Aztecs and the conversion of millions of natives in the next ten years. The significance and depth of Our Lady of Guadalupe is seemingly endless, so I do hope all of you will continue to research this Marian apparition.

Under this Marian title the Virgin Mary has been declared the Patroness of the Americas, Empress/Queen of Latin America, and Protectress of the Unborn. What powerful titles - and given for good reason! So what does this mean for us today? And what does it have to do with my vocation?

Well, first of all, Our Lady of Guadalupe is revered by many because of her complexion. She appeared as a mestizo, which people of varying ethnic groups could relate to. In this way the people of Latin America and all minorities are certainly not forgotten by the Blessed Virgin; she appeared on Mount Tepeyac specifically for them. The hope, peace, and guidance she provided for people during a time of bloody war conquests and sacrificial practices is unquestionable and relevant still. Not only that, but she appeared as the Mother of God - meaning she appeared before Juan Diego with child. We know this because of the black belt tied around her waist, which signified pregnancy to the native people there. Because of this, she is our Protectress of the Unborn and someone surely all mothers and/or prayer warriors for unborn children relate to. 

In other words, I think it would be difficult for anyone not to find at least one thing about Our Lady of Guadalupe that they can relate to or find still relevant in today's world. Nothing about her message or apparition is outdated. Nothing about who she was and what she represents to people is irrelevant, even in today's very secular society.  Mary can always be found leading us to Christ, reflecting His light...even when backs are turned on God. In fact, many Mexicans that no longer attend the Catholic Church still hold a fierce devotion to her and consider themselves "Guadalupanos" even if they neglect or disregard the other aspects of their religion. What a powerful, influential woman who knows what is good for us if we will only listen!

Our Lady of Guadalupe painting at Marytown in Libertyville, IL
(where Michael and I got engaged)

You may be curious as to why I decided to ramble on and on about Our Lady today, but it is because I recognize the role she played in developing my devotion to Mary in general over the past year or so. When I began praying to Mary every day (see my previous post, Fiat) I was living in a poor Mexican American neighborhood in Chicago as I completed a year of volunteer service. Our Lady of Guadalupe was everywhere - on t-shirts, street murals, in the 3 Catholic churches of that neighborhood, and undoubtedly in the hearts of many devoted Guadalupanos.

I began wearing a necklace of Our Lady of Guadalupe and I prayed to her many times for safety, the protection of the unborn, and many other requests. While she is not solely the Marian title I developed a relationship with, she was certainly there every step of the way. Even as I prayed to Mary under various other titles, she is the one that remained constant. Whenever I stood outside on our balcony and looked to my right, there she was - a massive mural painted down the street, reminding me she was there to pray for me. There was even a huge painting of her just inside the Marytown Adoration Chapel where Michael proposed marriage and I said yes. Who knows where I'd be now if she hadn't been there to always point me toward Christ in such an important period of discernment?

I look forward to learning more from Our Lady of Guadalupe and continue to trust in her prayers. Thankfully, my year in that Chicago neighborhood allowed me to leave with quite the collection of Our Lady of Guadalupe votive candles (easily found by the cleaning supplies in the local grocery stores for little more than a dollar). So if anyone has a prayer request for Our Lady, let me know and I'll light a candle for you. 

+Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros+

"Oh, Immaculate Virgin Mother! Hear our prayers and present them before your son Jesus. Grant us peace, justice, and prosperity to your people. We fully give ourselves to you and promise to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and His church. Virgin of Guadalupe, have compassion with us, bless our families and always guide us to your son. Free us from the evils, that we may share our happiness, peace, and glory that can only come from your son Jesus...Amen."
-English version of the prayer on one of my votive candles

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