Over the desk in the President’s office of Ave Maria University is an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and today, throughout the world and very particularly in the Americas, we celebrate a feast day commemorating her miraculous appearance in Tepeyac, Mexico in 1531.
In every office I have occupied during my career following the year I spent volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in Mexico – offices in diverse places ranging from state government to the White House to the private sector to academia (as you can tell I can’t keep a job!) – I have displayed this sacred image to remind me of her tender messages to the Mexican peasant Juan Diego. The colorful image of a pregnant Mary held aloft by an angel that was miraculously displayed on his simple cloak defies explanation. The fact that this garment consists of cheap cactus fiber and has been perfectly preserved for nearly 500 years simply adds to the mystery.
After Mass this morning I took this photo of a statue that adorns the façade of our University’s Oratory – it, too, looks like Our Lady of Guadalupe, except that Mary is wearing a crown. Can anyone who knows the history of our Oratory explain this to me?
Anyway, during Mass I prayed in thanksgiving for the memorable early morning of December 12, 1989 when in the darkness before dawn, hundreds of Mexicans living near the Fathers’ seminary in Colonia Murua streamed to our church to sing “mañanitas” to the Virgin, a traditional Mexican birthday song, which in part translates as “Wake up my dearest, wake up, see now that the day has dawned, now the little birds are singing, the moon has finally set.”
Once assembled in the church sanctuary, and as light crawled across the chilly desert and lit the faces of the little children as they gathered like little birds and sang “La Guadalupana” and other customary songs, I remember being deeply moved by their simple, sincere devotion to and steadfast love of Our Lady. Many of these families had walked more than an hour to get to us.
I suspect some Ave Maria students made their own pilgrimage to Immokalee in the wee hours this morning to join the legions of Mexican farmworker families at the small Catholic church situated in the heart of their poor community (Immokalee is only 10 minutes by car from our campus). I know a group of students went last year and they, too, were moved by the faith and fervor of these Mexicans and their friends.
I close this post with a quote from Mary on the occasion of her appearance to Juan Diego because we all need to hear her words today. She said:
Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.