Light and Life – July-Aug 2020, Vol 73, No 4 – A Publication of the Western Dominican Province
On Saturday, December 9, 1531, as dawn was breaking and the sun was coming over the hills, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin was going to Tlatelolco for divine worship when he encountered a beautiful Lady of unearthly grandeur whose clothing was as radiant as the sun.1 She stood in a glowing halo as though before the sun, with the stars on her mantle, the moon beneath her feet, and an angel holding up her tunic. Her hair and skin reflected the appearance of the local Indian people. She spoke in the native language of Juan Diego as she addressed him affectionately, “Juanito, Juan Dieguito!”
With gentleness and courtesy, the Lady — Our Lady of Guadalupe — reveals things about God and herself to Juan Diego and also makes some requests of him. Along with asking Juan Diego to speak to the bishop on her behalf, she also requests that a church be built.
Regarding the Lord, she says to Juan Diego, “I will show Him, I will exalt Him, and make Him manifest.” Further, in revealing her special role as Mother, she tells Juan Diego, “I will give Him to the people in all my personal love, in my compassion, in my help, in my protection: because I am truly your merciful Mother, yours, and all the people who live united in this land and of all the other people of different ancestries, those who love me, those who seek me, those who trust in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their complaints, and heal all their sorrows, hardships and sufferings.”
So begins an intimate relationship with Our Lady of Guadalupe and her people—those who look to her as Mother. Which child doesn’t want this kind of a promise from their mother? It is no wonder that the peoples of Mexico and the Americas have looked to Our Lady of Guadalupe for guidance, help and protection for almost 500 years?
In her conversations with Juan Diego, she reveals more about herself and the Lord whom she serves, “Know and understand that I am the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live.” In her simple greeting, Our Lady reveals three things to Juan Diego and to us: 1) that she is the ever Virgin Mary, 2) that she is appropriately called the Mother of God, and 3) that God is the One through whom all things live.
It is curious that she says “ever Virgin Mary” because we know that she appeared to Juan Diego with a black bow around her waist signifying that she was with child. In this way, the Blessed Virgin makes clear that she conceived Jesus in her womb through the power of the Holy Spirit, and that even after giving birth to him, never had marital relations with a man.2
Regarding her role as Mother of God, the Holy Scriptures reveal to us that Mary of Nazareth was chosen by God to be the Mother of his Son.3 Thus, because the Son’s human nature was assumed by his divine Person at the very beginning of conception, we can say that God was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary.4
As the Eternal Word assumed our human flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit, because the dignity of Jesus’ humanity could not be tainted by original sin,5 it would seem that his Mother must also be preserved from any sin. It is not widely known that when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego it was on the actual Feast of the Immaculate Conception.6 This is not coincidental: the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception in the womb of her mother, that is, that she was conceived without the stain of original sin. Therefore, Mother and Child were both conceived without any sin. There can be no doubt that Our Lady of Guadalupe had the explicit intention of us linking herself with the Immaculate Conception.
In addition, as Our Lady says that she is the Mother of the true God through whom all things live, we are reminded of the words of Holy Scripture: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race.” (John 1:1-4)
So, when Our Lady of Guadalupe pleads with us to take to heart her question, “Am I not your Mother?” she wants us to know that she is also God’s Mother. Moreover, she wants us to have the same confidence, security, trust, and love for her that the Baby Jesus had! Truly we can call her Our Mother: we can bring anything to her and trust that she will always look over us.
Accordingly, just how are we to reach out to Our Lady in our time of need? How do we call upon our Mother? St. Louis de Montfort speaks of the marks of authentic devotion to Our Lady. First he says, “True devotion to Our Lady is interior, that is, it comes from within the mind and the heart and follows from the esteem in which we hold her, the high regard we have for her greatness, and the love we bear her.”7 He also says that we must trust her, that is, we must have confidence in her like a child has for its loving Mother.8 This means that we can look to her for help always, everywhere and for everything. St. Louis also says that true devotion to Our Lady is holy, constant, and disinterested; that is, it leads us away from sin and toward the virtues of Mary; it strengthens us in our desire to do good and prevents us from giving up our devotional practices too early; and it inspires us to seek God alone in his Blessed Mother and not be overly concerned for ourselves.9
St. Louis also recommends enrolling in the Rosary Confraternity and praying with attention, devotion and reverence the mysteries of the Rosary.10 To be a member of the Rosary Confraternity, one is required to: 1) pray at least three rosaries (five decades each) per week (this does not bind under sin), 2) have your name officially inscribed in the register of the Rosary Confraternity (If you live on the West Coast of USA, register at rosarycenter.org, or fill out a form and mail it to us), and 3) pray for the intentions of all the other members of the Rosary Confraternity worldwide, living and deceased.
Why should we join the Confraternity and why is the Rosary considered so essential?
The Rosary Confraternity is a spiritual association of the Catholic Church, under the care and guidance of the Dominican Order11, whose members honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and place themselves under her protection by the praying of the Rosary. Members gain the special protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and share in the prayers and works of many hundreds of thousands of Confraternity members throughout the world (even after death), in the prayers, Masses and apostolic works of the entire Order of Preachers, and in the numerous indulgences granted to the Confraternity.
When we pray the Rosary, we are assured of the presence and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary; the Rosary is the means by which she attaches souls to herself.12 Further, because she is our Mother, there is nothing that we should keep from her; thus, we can bring to her our weaknesses, daily faults, and even the worst of our sins, including whatever is impure or unseemly.13
The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe reminds us of what it means to be under Our Lady’s protection. When Juan Diego’s uncle became very ill and he had to go to Tlatelolco to find a priest to hear his uncle’s confession, he went around the hill toward the east in order to arrive quickly in Mexico City, and thus avoid being detained by Our Lady. But, she, of course, intercepted him and said, “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not in my care?”
As children of God who hope for eternal life in heaven once our earthly life is finished, we look to a real Mother whose earthly life was entirely dedicated to looking after her Child — and who for eternity continues in her role as our Mother. Like she did with Juan Diego, who was stressed and worried, she sought him out, met him where he was, and assured him that she was his Mother, declaring her love, care and protection.
In seeking out Juan Diego—and all of us—Our Lady of Guadalupe reveals her role in bringing us to her Son, Jesus; this is the essential task that she still strives to fulfill as his Mother. In his letter to the Mexican people, Pope St. Paul VI said, “In the first place, she exhorts us to make Christ the center and summit of our whole Christian life.”14 Thus, true devotion to Our Lady “reaches its fullness and its most rightful expression when it is a path to the Lord and directs all its love toward him.”15
In the annual celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th, the Church in her wisdom, uses intercessions in the breviary, the official prayer of the Church, prayed by millions of priests, religious and laity throughout the world, that reveal Our Lady’s role as Mother of the Church and thus our Mother. Accordingly, knowing that God sent us the Blessed Virgin Mary to console us in our sorrow and to lead us to himself, we confidently pray each year, “Grant us her love, help, and protection.” In addition, in this time of civil unrest and racial inequality, as “Mary is the gate through which the true Light shone over the earth,” we seek, by the Light of her Son, justice for the oppressed, and peace and prosperity for all people—in our hearts, in our families and in our world. As God changed the barren landscape of Tepeyac into a fragrant garden of Castilian roses through Our Lady, may he transform us through our Mother that we may bear fruit as Christians.
1. From a Report by Don Antonio Valeriano, Nican Mopohua, 12th ed., 3-19, 21.
2. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-III.28.3.
3. Cf. Luke 1:30-32
4. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.35.4.
5. Ibid, II-III.28.1.
6. Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, A Handbook on Guadalupe, New Bedford, MA, 1997, p. 3.
7. St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, Bay Shore, NY: Montfort Publications, 2010, #106.
8. Ibid, #107.
9. Ibid, #’s 108-110.
10. Ibid, #116.
11. Cf. Pope Leo XIII, Ubi Primum, “On the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary”, 1898.
12. In Sinu Jesu, Angelico Press: Kettering, OH, 2016, p. 96.
13. Ibid, p. 110.
14. Pope St. Paul VI, “Message of Pope Paul VI to the Mexican People,” L’Osservatore Romano, October 18, 1970.
To All those who look to the Rosary Center for support & prayers,
We take our ministry very seriously here at the Rosary Center. If ever you have a request for prayers, please send them to us through our website (look for “Prayer Request” at rosarycenter.org) or via U.S. Mail. I keep a basket at the foot of the altar that is filled with your petitions. Every day I bring these to the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask her to intercede on your behalf to Our Lord. Please know that your petitions, for good health—especially safety from the corona virus, increased faith, family concerns, financial needs, etc., are included in my daily Mass and Rosary.
—Fr. Joseph OP, Director