Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the story of which is close to the heart of all Catholics, especially those of Mexican descent. In 1531, Juan Diego, a poor Aztec Indian who had converted to Catholicism, encountered the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City. She spoke to him with a request to have a church built in her honor. “I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother's Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace."
A series of miracles ensued, highlighted by the presence of full bloom Castilian roses at that location, that finally convinced the bishop that Juan Diego had indeed been visited by the Blessed Mother herself. The church was built in her honor, and that Basilica in Mexico City has become the most important shrine to our Blessed Mother, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe in all the American continents.
Numerous prayers, novenas, and special customs to venerate Our Lady of Guadalupe have been part of the ongoing story of these miracles. One such prayer is shown below.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mystical Rose, make intercession for the Holy Church, protect the Sovereign Pontiff, help all those who invoke thee in their necessities, and since thou art the ever Virgin Mary, and Mother of the True God, obtain for us from thy most holy Son the grace of keeping our faith, of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life, of burning charity, and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen.
For me, the power of this story is the trust and obedience that both Juan Diego and Mary herself demonstrated when they were asked to be a conduit of God’s love by saying yes to a heavenly request. In today’s Gospel (the same one from the feast of the Immaculate Conception), the angel Gabriel invites Mary to become the God-bearer for all the world, for all time—a most awesome and overwhelming message to a young girl! But Mary (and Juan Diego fifteen centuries later) have faith and trust in God’s promises. As the prayer above notes, we ask Mary today for God’s grace to “keep our faith”, to continue to have hope in these days of anxiety, and to continue to live a life of active and intentional charity for the world around us. This prayer has never had more currency than in our world today.
Larry Bommarito is Program Manager for the Institute for Biosecurity in the College for Public Health and Social Justice.