Friday, December 10, 2021

Mother Mary, Guadalupe, and “Guadalupanalia”

<--- pic 1 (see below)

I have made three pilgrimages to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe: in January 1999 (at the closing of the "Synod on America"); in July 2002 (for the canonization of Saint Juan Diego); and in March 2003 (with students on a mission trip, working with the Missionaries of Charity in Mexico City). The events of these three journeys would require a whole book to recount (and perhaps I should write that book). Two of my trips corresponded with two of the five pilgrimages that Saint John Paul II made during his pontificate. 

But I treasure, above all, the personal encounters with Mary in her "house" — she was always there "for me," somehow, whether I was relatively alone in the early morning hours or at a Sunday Mass packed in like a sardine with a multitude of pilgrims. The closest I can come to conveying my "sense" of her "presence" is to liken it (obviously it's not the same, it's not substantial) to the impression that surprises one — from time to time — at Mass or in times of silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There are those moments in front of the Eucharist when our hearts are struck by the reality that Jesus is "present for me." Perhaps this is nothing more (in my case, at least) than a pious emotion, but at Guadalupe I have come away with the (surprising) sense of her loving maternal gaze upon me, her probing of my heart, her closeness to me "wherever I am," with no need to pretend or try to fool myself — Mary seems to say, "I love you, tell me the truth, we'll get through it, I know all your pain and I want to help you to heal." The iconography of the image on the tilma indicates clearly that Mary is pregnant (e.g. the black ribbon). What we might easily miss was crystal clear to the Mexica indigenous peoples: Mary brings Jesus, she gives us Jesus.

Mary's maternal love is a kind of "inherent factor" in the grace that enables us to encounter Jesus and recognize Him as our Lord and Savior. She is united with the Spirit who "came upon her" in the moment of the Incarnation, and she accompanies the Spirit with her maternal love in our own rebirth in Christ and growth as children of the Father, little brothers and sisters of Jesus who also call Mary our Mother just as Jesus did (and still does). Mary is the "Mother of God" — the mother of the Person of the Son according to His humanity, of the Word made flesh in her womb. Her heart has plenty of room for all of us.

But at the Shrine of Tepeyac, any "sense of complexity" we may feel about the dogmatic and theological explications of Mary's role in our lives gives place to the vivid impact of her very real (and very practical) concern for us (this, at least, was my impression — for me vivid, striking, unforgettable unless I were to forget my own self). In any case, she is a wonderful, tender, and consoling mother, but she is also a strong and persistent woman and she has no intention of giving up on us, or on any of her children.

Here I want to place some pictures of "little things" I brought back from these visits, ways that we have celebrated this feast here as a family and as a church community, and some of the small signs that help me remember that Jesus and Mary are close to me, that God's love carries me, and that the "sorrows" that I can never entirely escape are seen and understood and are being transformed by a greater love...

Here are the notes explaining the pictures: 

[1] Above (embedded with the text) a ceramic holy water font with La Guadalupana as she is generally depicted in statue form. We've had it for a long time. The remaining pictures are below. 

[2] Statue of Juan Diego with his tilma, which I think I got at the Basilica's gift shop some twenty years ago. 

[3] This postcard photographic reproduction of the image is among the icons at my bedside. The Church has always used "media" to help us "stay connected with" Jesus, Mary, and the saints. I put an image of La Guadalupana anywhere that I spend a significant amount of time, because it reminds me that she sees me and loves me. 

[4] Next to Mary on my little "icon space" is a small, hand-painted holy water font with Mexican design, which I probably bought at a shop or from a market. 

[5] Yes, it's a Guadalupe bed spread! We don't use it, actually (that's an old picture), because it's too nice, but we really ought to find a place to hang it. I bought this from a street vendor who said (if I remember correctly) that it was hand made. In any case, it's well made. It's beautiful.

[6] This is the "big" image that can be framed and enshrined as the focal point of a room — they sell these in the Basilica gift shop, but ours was actually a gift of some Hispanic religious sisters who were my students many years ago. The Queen of America is Queen of our home, and she has always presided over our dining room, as... 

[7] the digital art presentation of that wall shows. Whatever chaos of our lives piles up on that bookshelf, the Madrecita is never overwhelmed by it. 

[8] Here are some memories: pictures from our family meal on December 12, 2011 — i.e. ten years ago. So much has changed in this decade. Look at all five of those kids fitting so easily around the table! 

[9] You can see the fun food along with the then-11-year-old Lucia, who is getting married next July (I still have to write about that). And there's... 

[10] Jojo who has grown so much without losing any of her sense of fun. She's five years old in this picture. Today, at 15, she's the last one we are "still raising" and sometimes we feel a little old to have a teenager, but she is a lovely girl and brings us lots of joy. 

[11] The kids are watching Mommy as she prepares to serve the "fried ice cream" (which, as I remember, was really good!😋). 

[12] Now we dial it back even further, to the previous decade, with a picture from 2004 taken at the parish fiesta with little Agnese, John Paul, Lucia, and Teresa (in Mommy's arms). Jojo would join us two years later. This is life, people. They grow up fast, but it's a beautiful sacrifice to endure change as they grow up and you "grow" (as persons) with them. There's a bit of "dying" in every change, but also a "renewal" that's a sign, that helps us journey on the path to our ultimate fulfillment. The Mother of Jesus understands this like no one else, and she will help us. 

[13] Here is the Fiesta statue in our parish today. Our Hispanic parishioners prepare terrific food in the parish hall every year. We haven't attended recently, but I suspect will be back in a few years (God willing) when granddaughter Maria says, "Papa and Nana, come to the Fiesta." How could we possibly refuse?😊