Today the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a day that is of special significance to many communities, particularly Americans of Mexican heritage. On this day we celebrate the appearance of Mary to a humble Mexican man, Juan Diego.
The Church recognizes a number of appearances by Mary over the years. In all of those appearances, the message has been essentially the same: Conversion, Faith and Prayer. Turn to Jesus…have faith in Jesus.. and pray, pray, pray.
Mary’s appearances are never about her. Rather, Mary always emphasizes a return to Christ, a genuine personal conversion. And, in the various appearances reported, Mary often spoke of the importance of prayer.
Many people today react to the idea of Marian apparitions with some embarrassment or suspicion. And it is certainly the case that belief in apparitions is not a matter of faith or morals, so the Church doesn’t require that people believe in them.
But the truth is the God continually reaches out to each of us, sometimes dramatically and sometimes in simple ways. Our God is a self-communicating God who continually speaks to us. Is it so strange that one of the vehicles God would use to communicate with us is Mary, whom he chose to be the mother of Christ?
Throughout the history of Christianity, believers have always had a strong need to experience Mary in the midst of their daily life. At no other time is this truer than in times of affliction and need. It is no surprise, therefore, that many Marian apparitions are connected with people who are experiencing some kind of crisis in their own lives, in the lives of their local community or in the world at large.
Whatever else today’s feast is, it is a reminder to us to be open to the possibility of God speaking to us in many ways, including through Mary.