By Brian Caulfield
(Communications Specialist for the Knights of Columbus and editor of Fathers for Good)
In recent days, when people asked me what a Marian Congress was, not knowing too much about it myself, I would say: “Come, and see.”
Witness a Miracle - Become a Guadalupano
Now I realize I should have said also, come and listen, learn, experience and have your heart and mind opened to the most significant religious event of the Western hemisphere. Come and encounter the truth of God through the witness of his Mother, through the image left on the tilma of a humble Indian man that still can be seen on display in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Come and witness a miracle. Come and become a Guadalupano!
As one presenter at the Congress said, the image on the tilma is unique in all the world. Every other time Mary has appeared, she delivered messages and performed miracles (the healings at Lourdes, the miracle of the sun at Fatima). Yet in Guadalupe, she left an image of herself – God himself has imprinted the image of the Virgin for all to see.
Think about that.
As another presenter noted, the face of the Virgin of Guadalupe is like no other face. It is called “mestiza” – mixed race – and it is really the mixture of all races, of all mankind. Every face is found in the serene and loving look of “the mother of humanity.”
As a reporter, writer and editor for 30 years – most of them in New York City – I have seen many events, heard many stories, and lived through a number of tragedies, including the horror of 9/11. Yet I had never before in my life experienced in heart and mind the message of these past three days of the Marian Congress. The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of immense, of ultimate, news value. I am amazed that everyone does not know about the image and the message.
Why do only 15 million pilgrims travel to Guadalupe each year? Why have I never gone myself?
Message for Our Time
After three days, many lectures, art presentations, slide shows and studies of the image, the one message I bring away from the Marian Congress is LOVE.
Love not as we usually think of love, perhaps, or as we see it presented in our popular culture. The love of Guadalupe is the love of a mother for a son, the love of God for his own creation, of mankind in his own image, the love you feel when you see a woman carrying a child – in her womb or in her arms – the love that comes from discovering the truth of another person, who loves you too in a pure and innocent way.
A love that is filled with emotion, yet lifts emotion to the contemplation of something more than the self, a love that leads upward and outward. Indeed, the love expressed at Guadalupe goes far beyond its time and place – far beyond 1531, Mexico City or the hill of Tepeyac.
The Image is the Message
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is more than a religious artifact. It is a historical fact. It is not only an object of faith, it is an object of science that has been put through rigorous analysis and still has scientists of many fields wondering. Why have the fibers of the tilma not unraveled after nearly five centuries, when such material routinely lasts only a few decades? How was the image produced, since there are no brush marks? Why have the colors not faded? What are the figures in the eyes?
Anyone who through doubt or anger or temptation to faith, says to God, “Show me!” – that person has only to look to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Anyone who has seen, and understood, must pass on the word, the message. The message of Guadalupe is one for our own times. It is a message of love in a world that is confused yet obsessed with love; a message of hope in a world that doesn’t know what it should hope for; a message of self-giving charity in a world that too often gives only to get.
Msgr. Eduardo Chavez said many times that the Knights of Columbus are the modern-day Juan Diegos, bringing the message of Guadalupe to the world. I am proud to work for the Order that has such a mission, and pray that the message will be received, and that many more will set out in the spirit of Juan Diego to tell the world