WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Our Lady of Guadalupe is “the mother of all mothers — a loving bridge between worlds and peoples who unifies through her maternal embrace,” the U.S. bishops’ migration chairman said in a statement issued on the Dec. 12 Marian feast.
In choosing to appear to St. Juan Diego, an Indigenous man of a “modest station in life” in Mexico, “she reveals to us that the love of God transcends boundaries, natural and manmade, for the salvation of all” said Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration.
Our Lady of Guadalupe was first declared “Patroness of the Americas” by Pope Pius XII in 1946, a title later reaffirmed by St. John Paul II in 1999. Canonized in 2002, Juan Diego is the first Catholic saint indigenous to the Americas.
“As Catholics, we affirm and defend an unconditional respect for human life and dignity, no matter the circumstance,” Bishop Seitz said in his statement. “Recent policy proposals that would undermine respect for the sanctity of human life, including that of the humble migrant seeking asylum at our border, remind us of the perils of our own culture, in which hope and unity collide with an abundance of fear and division, often yielding indifference to our shared humanity.”
Especially in Advent, the season “of preparing to welcome Christ and contemplating his own family’s journey,” the bishop continued, “we know that much remains to be done in our country to support families, especially the poor, and to more readily welcome new life and the stranger among us, in whom God reveals himself.”
In 1531, Mary appeared four times to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill near what is now Mexico City, asking for a church to be built in her honor on that site. The first time Mary appeared to Juan Diego he was on his way to Mass. He was stopped by the appearance of a brown-skinned woman bathed in light and speaking in his Indigenous tongue of Nahaut. After her third appearance, and at her bidding, St. Juan Diego visited Bishop Juan de Zumarraga but he doubted the story of the apparitions.
St. Juan Diego saw Mary again Dec. 12, now the official feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She arranged roses in his tilma, or cloak, which he then took to the bishop. When he opened his cloak, the roses tumbled out. And the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously traced on the cloak, which still exists today on display at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
In Mexico, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a national holiday. One of the biggest U.S. celebrations takes place in the Archdiocese of Chicago at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois. Local news reports said that an estimated 200,000 were expected to gather at the shrine from Dec. 11 to Dec. 12.
In his statement, Bishop Seitz included a prayer: “Our Lady of Guadalupe, help us to walk with confidence, to imitate your unwavering trust in the will of God, to love beyond boundaries, and to accept the demands of solidarity. Intercede for us, your children, and guide us in our pursuit of peace and justice, that through our commitment to protecting human life on Earth we may find ourselves better prepared to inherit the gift of everlasting life in heaven.”