When I was a high school student at St. Bernard School, I had the good fortune to travel on a school trip to Mexico where we visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I remember feeling awestruck as I entered the building, reading the inscription above me, "¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre?" ("Am I not here, I who am your mother?") I will never forget the amazement I felt when I beheld the tilma that Juan Diego unfolded to his bishop in 1531.
As the story goes, Our Lady had presented herself to Juan Diego twice, asking him to go to his bishop and request him to build a shrine in her honor. After two rebuffs from the bishop, Juan Diego decided to travel a different route when he went to get a priest for his dying uncle, hoping to avoid meeting Our Lady for the third time.
Of course, we all know that Our Lady met Juan Diego on his new path, telling him that he should have faith in her and that his uncle would recover. It was then that she uttered her famous quote above. Relying on his renewed faith in Our Lady, Juan Diego returned to his bishop and unfolded his tilma, which now overflowed with beautiful flowers and was covered with a breathtaking portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Juan Diego’s uncle was healed, and the shrine was built, and millions of inhabitants of South and Central America became Catholics. In 2002 Juan Diego was canonized, St. Juan Diego.
While there are many parts of this story that I love, I believe that it is Our Lady’s simple reassurance, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” that means the most to me. In her simplicity, Mary reminds us, that she loves us as a mother, and that she is always with us. When I think of my mom, I feel immense, unconditional love and I know that there is nothing she would not do to help and support me. As a mother myself, I too know that love, and likewise, would go to any lengths to provide for and protect my children. How wonderful for each of us to know that we have this love coming to us from Our Lady every day, all the time.
A couple years ago, I was asked by Sister Mary Jude, director of our Hispanic Ministry, if I would be a lector for the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass held in the Cathedral of St. Patrick. It was the most beautiful celebration of Our Lady that I have ever seen. The children were dressed in their finest, a mariachi band played, and dancers glided down the aisle. The celebration was one of love and so much hope. With so many young people in attendance, I walked away with such excitement for our church’s future.
While a celebration of that magnitude will not be taking place at the Cathedral this year, Sister Mary Jude has reported that smaller scale celebrations will take place at some of our parishes. I hope that on December 12, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we all take a moment to say a prayer to Our Lady and thank her for her motherly love and also remind ourselves, that we have nothing to fear, because she is always with us.
As the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal, “One Faith, One Family” comes to a close, I would ask each of us to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for this year. Even amidst the challenges and stress of this difficult time, we each have been blessed in different ways. It is helpful to take the time to think about our blessings.
For those of you who have received monetary blessings and have not yet given to the ACA, please consider contacting the Development Office at (860) 886-1928 or go online to NorwichDioceseDevelopment.org to make your 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal donation. In doing so, you will help not only our Hispanic Ministry, but all our ministries provide spiritual, physical, economic and emotional help to those in need during this pandemic. Thank you very much.
By Mary Ellen Mahoney