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Americas: Our Lady of Guadelupe

“Listen. Put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightened you, the thing that afflicted you is nothing: Do not let it disturb you. . . . Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more?” —Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, 1513, Nican Mopohua

One of the images of Mary that continues to inspire devotion throughout the Americas is Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast we celebrate today. In this passage, CAC friend and author Mirabai Starr writes about the transformation that Our Lady of Guadalupe brought to Mexico and the world:

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to the Indian Juan Diego [1474–1548] only a few short years after Hernán Cortés conquered Mexico for Spain. The conquistadors had initially presented themselves as friends. The Aztecs believed that Cortés was Quetzalcoatl, the divine savior figure who, legend had promised, would return one day when they needed him most, and so they welcomed him and his entourage with joy. Once the Spaniards had insinuated themselves among the indigenous people, however, they proceeded to destroy them. In a concerted act of genocide and enslavement, the conquistadors swiftly eradicated an ancient culture. . . .

Into this bloody mix of violent cultures, Our Lady of Guadalupe extended the hand of mercy, comfort, and protection. . . . She drew everyone—European and indigenous—under her blanket of love. . . .

Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe are found throughout Mexico, Central and South America, and the southwestern United States. . . . Roadside grottos every few miles hold her image nestled in rock and concrete, a tall glass candle perpetually burning at her feet. She is emblazoned on tee shirts and tattooed onto biceps. She is borrowed to advertise taxi companies and hardware stores, women’s circles and bikers’ gangs. . . . She extends her unconditional love to all who reach for her merciful hand—believers and atheists, Latinos and Anglos, women and men—and they love her back, with equal intensity.

In a world struggling against senseless violence and growing economic disparity, Our Lady of Guadalupe offers a distinctly feminine antidote to the poisons of poverty and war. Where society demands competition, Guadalupe teaches cooperation. In place of consumerism, she models compassionate service. She is not the whitewashed Virgin of the institutional Church. She is the radical, powerful, engaged Mother of the People.

Our Lady is not merely a sociopolitical symbol, however. People of all faiths call her Mother. In times of deeply personal grief, they turn to her for comfort. They turn to her for insight. They turn to her for a reminder of what matters most, what endures when all else seems to be lost, what grace may yet be available when we meet fear with love.

Source: Richard Rohr CAC

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