What Our Lady of Guadalupe Taught Me About Brokenness

One afternoon, I was browsing in our local Catholic bookstore when I spotted a tall, beautiful yard statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the shelf. For a long time, I had wanted a statue of Mary to put in our front yard. I had heard miraculous stories of homes that Mary had protected, and I felt a kinship with neighbors whenever I saw a statue of Our Lady in front of a house.

I had looked at many statues, but hadn’t found the right one yet—until now. My children were with me when I saw Our Lady of Guadalupe, and we all decided that she was absolutely lovely and just perfect for our yard.

We brought her home, and I lovingly placed her on the front porch. The next day was windy. When I found her that afternoon, Our Lady was face down on the cement, broken pieces scattered around her.

My toddler son and I gathered the shards and mournfully brought Mary inside. Yard statues should be stronger than this! I thought. We tried for a long time to glue her back together, but the damage could not be fixed. The hollow statue had broken at the tip, leaving a crevice too small for my fingers to fit through to push the pieces back into place.

 

I brought Our Lady back to the store, explained what happened, and asked if there were any way this yard statue could be replaced. That’s when I found out that she was not a yard statue at all. In my zeal for finding one, I had mistakenly assumed that Our Lady of Guadalupe belonged outside. But in reality, she was too fragile for that.

Back home with me went the broken, but still beautiful, indoor statue. Our toddler, quite taken with Mary despite her cracked aureole, asked to hold her. Since the damage was already done (and there were no sharp edges), I allowed him to take her into his arms.

All that day, he carried her around the house with him wherever he went. At dinner time, he sat her on the table next to him, smiled at her, and offered her a bite of everything he ate.

“I’m sure Mary is very grateful for your tortilla chip,” I told him with a laugh. I imagine the Blessed Mother shared our family’s mirth while this small boy stole our hearts with his genuine attentiveness and care for her.

Shortly after dinner, this child carried Mary into the living room and accidentally dropped her on the wood floor. Our shoulders fell as we saw that another large piece had broken off. Now there’s really no more hope for her, I thought.

As I looked more carefully at the statue, though, I realized that maybe it wasn’t completely hopeless. The large chunk that had broken when our little one dropped it had made a bigger space inside. Now that the statue had broken more, my fingers had more room to hold the pieces from the hollow interior when I glued them into place. Maybe, just maybe, it could be fixed this time.

I brought the statue into the dining room, took out the heavy-duty glue, and set to work. Fifteen minutes later, Our Lady of Guadalupe was back together again, with just a few cracks hinting at her falls.

“Can I hold her now?” the happy toddler asked, eager to have Our Lady in his arms again.

“Not yet. We have to let her dry,” I told him. He went off to play, and I looked at Mary.

As I looked, I began to understand more clearly the lesson that God had given me through her. It dawned on me that Our Lady, broken and restored, was a symbol of how God works in my life.

How many times have I made a mistake that left me feeling broken? And how many times have I wondered how God could allow things to happen that broke me even more—things that made me feel like there was no hope left for ever being whole again?

But those times when I am most broken are not signs that things are hopeless. In fact, the very brokenness that brings me to my knees creates the space where God can move. The more broken I am, the more room God has where He can work to make me whole again.

I needed this lesson. But the toddler didn’t. With his childlike heart, he already knew what to do. He wasn’t worried about the broken pieces. He just wanted to hold onto Mary and to love her. As a result, even though it seemed like he damaged her, he actually made it possible for us to restore her again.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says in Matthew 18:3.

One way to fulfill Jesus’ words and become like a little child is to live the lesson Our Lady of Guadalupe taught me: Let go of worrying about how the broken pieces of life will fit together again. Instead, simply hold onto to Mary and love her. Then, God will have room to take the shattered shards that seemed hopeless, and from the hollow He can make me whole.

image: Our Lady of Guadalupe by Wonderlane via Flickr / (CC BY 2.0)

Maura Roan McKeegan

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Maura Roan McKeegan is the author of a series of children's picture books about biblical typology, including: The End of the Fiery Sword: Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary; Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb: Jonah and Jesus, and, most recently, Building the Way to Heaven: The Tower of Babel and Pentecost (Emmaus Road Publishing; available spring 2018). Her articles have appeared in publications such as Catholic Digest, The Civilized Reader, Franciscan Way, Guideposts, and Lay Witness.

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