I had finally decided to contact the vocation director of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception on December 12, 1993. It had been a battle for me to do it. There seemed to be so many doors that would be closed if I decided to look into a religious vocation. But, that night, looking at a photo of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was given the courage to go ahead and write a letter.
An unexpected celebration
December 12 fell on a Sunday that year. Normally, it's the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but the Sunday of Advent has a higher ranking, so the feast was not celebrated in most churches in the United States. However, without realizing what a special grace I was receiving, I was able to attend a Mass celebrating the feast.
On Saturday night, December 11, I went to a Mass that was celebrated in a small parish by the bishop of the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese of Florida. As bishop, he had the option of celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He was there to give a young woman the Sacrament of Confirmation.
This small parish ministered to migrant farm workers -- many of whom were Mexican. I sat in the back, but found myself surrounded by big families singing joyfully and loudly without songbooks. I was impressed by their devotion to Our Lady. She means a lot to these people, for she gave them something particularly special: a miraculous image of herself imprinted (in a way that no one has been able to duplicate) on the front of a simple garment of an Indian that had converted to the Catholic faith. The garment is known as a "tilma," and it's made of cactus fiber that normally decays in a few years, but this tilma has lasted for almost 500 years.
Our Lady's encouragement
Besides the image, she spoke words of encouragement to them through the Indian whose name was Juan Diego -- her little "Juanito." She asked for a sanctuary to be built at the place where she spoke to him. She continued, "Here, I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help, and my protection to the people." She said this in 1531 -- a long time ago -- but to the Mexican people this woman came and has never left them.
Her next two sentences are particularly telling: "I am your merciful Mother, the merciful Mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities, and misfortunes."
The Virgin Mary was indeed a merciful mother to Juan, for his uncle was very sick, and she obtained his miraculous cure -- even appearing to the uncle.
Mary crushes the serpent
She used no force, but she obtained the conversion of millions of Aztecs to the Catholic faith. She stopped the human sacrifices to their god, the "Stone Serpent." As Mary is often shown, she crushed the serpent's head without even looking.
When she appeared to Juan's uncle, she said her name. Many believe he pronounced it coatlaxopeuh. We would pronounce this word quatlasupe, which sounds similar to the Spanish word Guadalupe. The "Coa" means serpent, "tla" is like "the," and "xopeuh" means to crush or stamp out. It would appear Our Lady referred to herself as the one "who crushes the serpent," fulfilling the Scripture in Genesis. (See Genesis 3:15.)
At that time, at least 20,000 men, women, and children a year were offered in sacrifice to the Aztec gods. Our Lady was able to stop these sacrifices by her presence, her image, her message, and most importantly, her prayers.
Our Lady of Guadalupe was there to alleviate the sorrow of her people then, and she is here to help us in our sorrows today as the Patroness of the Americas. The ancient serpent, the Dragon of the Book of Revelation, still prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls. (See Rev 12-13.) And just as she was victorious almost 500 years ago, she is still changing hearts, that we, in the Americas, may follow her Son.
As Our Lady of Guadalupe helped me to overcome my fears about contacting the Marians, she can help you if you have fears about doing things for God. Bring your intentions to her Immaculate Heart.
May Our Lady of Guadalupe comfort our seniors.
Our Merciful Mother wants us to be secure and loved in our golden years. May seniors who need care and attention receive it through the love of relatives or others who are called to minister to them.
May Our Lady of Guadalupe guide our youth.
Mary is concerned about the many bad influences that surround our youth. She wants to be a part of their lives to help them make good decisions that will help them to know and serve the true God. She wants to see them do the works God has planned for them from all eternity.