Pope Benedict XVI prays in front of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Miraflores College in León, Mexico, March 24.
The appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the humble Mexican layman Juan Diego in 1531 marked one of the most significant events in world history and a new moment in Catholic devotion. Millions flocked to view the miraculous image on St. Juan Diego’s tilma, or cloak, which is now displayed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this month, all mothers can draw from Mary’s strength, for she is a powerful intercessor, changing both hearts and history.
It is for good reason that Our Lady of Guadalupe is called the Empress or Patroness of the Americas. Her appearance resulted in the baptism of an estimated 8 million indigenous people and the establishment of a Catholic culture that undergirds Latin America to this day. This event changed the course of history, not with war or law or politics, but with these consoling words: “Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?”
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this month, all mothers can draw from Mary’s strength, for she is a powerful intercessor, changing both hearts and history. Although greeting cards and roses are sweet sentiments, and moms receive them happily, there is much more to motherhood.
Mary, as we know, was meek and humble, but she was also strong and active as she fulfilled God’s will. If her Magnificat prayer was printed on a modern Mother’s Day card, people would surely take note: “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly … the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). With these words, Mary says that the incarnation of Jesus will turn the world upside down, forever changing the historical order. And this is also what happened with the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
With simple words and loving care, Mary chose Juan Diego as her messenger, even as he expressed his own unworthiness. Like a good mother, she lifted up her weak “child” and sent him on a mission he feared to tell the bishop of Mexico that the Blessed Virgin had a message for him. She overcame the bishop’s reluctance with an undeniable miracle. Through strong, feminine insistence, she won the hearts of all, both the lowly and the mighty alike, bringing them together as only a mother can.
This continues to be the mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe to gather all the people of our hemisphere under her loving care, not just to dwell in safety, but to set out in united faith, hope and charity within a secularized culture that is often hostile to the Christian message. This image of Mary is one that the Knights of Columbus has chosen to evangelize our culture. Last August, blessed images of Our Lady of Guadalupe were sent throughout the Order’s jurisdictions for K of C units and parishes to hold prayer vigils in her name. Later this year, the Order’s Aug. 5 Guadalupe Festival will invite 100,000 people from various backgrounds in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a day of unity, celebration and prayer. Only a mother could gather so many in this way.
On this Mother’s Day, we should remember just how powerful a mother’s love can be. Our mothers may not produce miraculous images or prophesy as Mary did in her Magnificat, but they live out the Blessed Mother’s mission when they work for fairness, justice and peace within their families and communities. Before God’s “Word became flesh,” a woman needed to speak her “yes.” In a similar way, mothers have much more power and influence than they sometimes realize the power to seek the will of God and speak the truth. We are blessed to honor these mothers more than one day a year.
BRIAN CAULFIELD is the editor of Fathers for Good, an initiative for men by the Knights of Columbus.