Our Lady of Guadalupe
The first time I visited Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Shrine in Mexico I was 18 – that was almost thirty years ago. I’m not even sure how many times I stood beneath her gaze in that sacred place, but I’ve never gotten much past the words she spoke to Juan Diego,
“Am I not here who am your mother?”
Words that I needed to hear back then, and very often ever since. Words that I found even greater meaning and comfort in preparing for this reflection.
Skimming through the visions chapter in my copy of Francis Johnston’s “The Wonder of Guadalupe,” I revisited the story focusing from the point of view of the person who brought her to us, Juan Diego.
What stood out above all was his sincere earnest in wanting to fulfill the noble Lady’s request, especially withstanding the opposition and ridicule he faced in doing so. He didn’t give up after the first try taking the heavenly request to the bishop, who understandably considered the peasant’s tale with caution.
How quickly have I given in to discouragement when what I understood to be God’s will didn’t match up with how others perceived my attempts to fulfill it? How often have I let doubts based on human reactions cloud what has been a clear divine inspiration?
Still, when Juan Diego came upon the Lady returning home neither did he hesitate to ask her no “entrust this message to someone of importance, someone well-known and respected, so that your wish will be accomplished… For I am only a lowly peasant and you, my Lady, have sent me to a place where I have no standing. Forgive me if I have disappointed you for having failed in my mission.”
Our Lady must have been comforting in the way that only a mother can, because after her reassurance that the mission was entrusted to him, he went straight back to the bishop the next day.
Can I hear Mary’s reassurance with the ears of my heart? What missionary message is she sure she needs me to share? Am I able to put on blinders of faith to tune out all distractions and criticism from others trying to deter me?
The bishop seems like a man of genuine faith in his own right as, sending Juan Diego away a second time, he has shown his openness to God’s action not specifying the sign from Heaven he asks for. He just needed something to convince him more than this new believer’s word.
Mary’s receptivity to the bishop’s request is followed by her reassurance to Juan Diego, “I shall richly reward you for the worry, work and trouble you have undertaken on my behalf.”
How have I felt Mary lift burdens from my shoulders? In what ways has she consoled me during the difficult carrying of whatever cross or entrusted mission given to me?
There is some difference of understanding on what exactly caused Juan Diego’s delay in going for the sign the next day – whether his uncle’s illness was natural or the result of an attack. Nonetheless the morning of December 12, Juan Diego’s childlike innocence seems apparent to me in that he valued his uncle’s reception of the last sacraments more than any heavenly vision or task he had received.
Am I able to trust that God’s will will never supersede the immediate need of someone in my care here and now? Do I believe that, even if by weakness and lack of trustful surrender, my intentions to be faithful are sincere, I will still fulfill his will even if it appears that I am not? How strong is my sense of surrender to God’s providence?
“Please forgive me and be patient with me,” he pleads to the kind woman.
“Listen and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son…,” she responds. “Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”
Listen and let it penetrate your heart…
Inserting my own name in place of “son,” what troubles, illnesses, vexations, anxieties or pains is Our Lady wanting to free me from? How is she wanting to be my mother? What does she offer to protect me from? What weariness to refresh me in the face of? What fears to hide me from and hold me through? Is there anything else you need, she asks.
In my own life, Mary has and continues to work miracles – and in particular under this devotion to her as Our Lady of Guadalupe. She has taken her sweet time, but looking back it was always perfect…
I attribute so many answered prayers – monumental and minute requests – to her intercession. Not among the least of those being that I was brought to my home in Wisconsin from my beloved Michigan through the husband she interceded for.
It wasn’t until a few years after I’d moved that I even discovered the deep devotion to Mary in this state – site of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States (Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, WI) and the beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse.
Whether you have a strong devotion to her already or don’t know much about Our Lady of Guadalupe, I encourage and invite you to dive in – let her lead you to where and what encounter she holds out for you to receive… but be assured that she wants to meet you, to ask something of you and promises to walk alongside you the entire way…
A way that might not be easy, like that Way her son walked through Jerusalem – but that she will be with you, always. “Am I not here who am your mother?”