She just wants us to know that she's our mother
Just hours after I met my now-husband for the first time, he took me to the Basilica that enshrines the tilma imprinted with the image heaven has given us of the Virgin. We’ve since entrusted her with our marriage, our children, our very selves.
Visiting Our Lady at La Villa in Mexico City — the most visited Catholic shrine in the world — is a uniquely prayerful experience that never grows old. Seeing the wrinkled faces and hobbled limbs of elderly devotos as they approach their Morenita, walking for yards on their knees, or the tiny babies being brought to her by joyful young couples — really, the sheer number of devotees — gives the place a solemnity that the simple 1970s architecture does not.
Just as Mary would want it, her image is somewhat overshadowed by the furnishings of the basilica itself: the main altar and sanctuary, and the Masses celebrated there almost one right after another. The image of Our Lady hangs above and to the right of the main altar, in a placement similar to that of marian statues in an ordinary church. A broad hallway leads below and behind the altar for those who are ready to spend some moments just with her — well, just with her and the hundreds of her other children who are also eager for their Mother’s listening ear.
Being jostled by humanity as airport-style conveyor belts pass you in front of the sacred image (back and forth as many times as you like) doesn’t automatically lend itself to quiet, interior recollection. And yet, there at her feet, knowing that a flesh-and-blood artist didn’t create this image — that she herself caused it to be there on this very cloth and there it has stayed since 1531, visited and honored by generation after generation — you can’t help but feel her closeness, that she’s with you here on earth or you’re with her there in heaven or some mix of the two.
The main message of Our Lady of Guadalupe — given to a sweet, shy Juan Diego who, at one point in their few days of conversations, thought that if he just went via another path, he would be able to avoid her so as to take care of his dying uncle — is wonderfully simple: Am I not here, I who am your mother?
This time, she doesn’t ask for special consecrations or prayers; she has no sobering visions to show us. Her message is unqualified, uncomplicated consolation. I’m here and I’m your mother.
What else could I possibly need?
Our Lady of Guadalupe — whom Juan Diego would have recognized as pregnant — shows Mary living out her second fiat, the one she gave at the foot of the cross, accepting John, and all of us, as her children.
Listen, my son, to what I tell you now.
Do not let anything worry or afflict you;
Do not fear illness nor any troublesome happening nor pain.
Am I not here, I who am your Mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not your life and health?
Are you not in my embrace and in my prayers?
What else do you need?
[The Knights of Columbus have released a full-length documentary on the Virgin of Guadalupe, which will be broadcast tonight, December 12, over Salt and Light TV, at 9PM Eastern. Check here for details. —Ed.]
Kathleen Hattrupis Aleteia’s senior editor.