By Genevieve Jordan Laskey
On a December morning in 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared in Mexico to Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican farmer. During that first sacred encounter and in several more apparitions over the next few days, Mary spoke to Juan Diego in his native, Aztec language and asked him to petition the bishop to build a church. She instructed him to bring roses to the bishop, and when he opened his cloak to drop the flowers before the bishop’s feet, all those present were stunned to see Our Lady’s image painted on his cloak.
Why did Mary appear to Juan Diego rather than to the bishop himself, or someone else who was more powerful? Mary’s action is a sign of solidarity with those who might not be considered the most prestigious or powerful by society’s standards. She shows that even a humble farmer, for example, has important contributions to make.
On Monday, December 12, Catholics across the country have been encouraged by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to mark the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe by praying in solidarity with migrants and refugees everywhere. As the patron of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe gives us a model for how we too might reach out to and welcome those who seek better lives here in our land. This message continues to be relevant for us today, when, according to the UN Refugee Agency, 65.3 million people have been displaced from their homes by violent conflict. Of this number, 40.8 million are displaced within their own countries, and 21.3 million are refugees.
Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast takes place during the season of Advent, when we recall how Mary journeyed to Bethlehem with Joseph and gave birth to Jesus in a manger. Throughout Advent, and especially on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we ask for Mary’s intercession for the safety and well-being of her fellow travelers — especially migrants and refugees — and we pray that her witness inspires us to stand in greater solidarity with them.
Copyright 2016 Genevieve Jordan Laskey
About the author: Genevieve Jordan Laskey is a resource development specialist for Catholic Relief Services, working with their US Operations department to develop tools for prayer, Catholic formation and action with a global perspective, for use by Catholic communities in the United States.