In 2009, then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the basilica in Mexico City to see Our Lady of Guadalupe. After laying a bouquet before the miraculous tilma of St. Juan Diego, she stood examining the spectacular image of the pregnant Virgin.
“Who painted it?” the Secretary asked Msgr. Diego Monroy, standing at her side.
The priest paused before he replied.
“God,” he said.
Mrs. Clinton left the basilica and flew to Texas, there to receive the Margaret Sanger Award: the highest honor bestowed by Planned Parenthood.
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Perhaps more than ever before, the world needs to remember this painting and Who painted it. Like the love of the Sacred Heart, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a miracle of love that endures to this day—a painting that has not faded, cracked, or crumbled for nearly five hundred years; nor has the cactus fiber canvas deteriorated. No chemist or scientist has been able to identify the paint, nor artist been able to find any evidence of brush stroke or human execution. But it is no mystery who painted it. It was God. Again, the world needs to remember Our Lady of Guadalupe whose image was painted by the hand of heaven and beg for her rescue from sin, ignorance, and death—for it is she, and only she, who can and will win deliverance for her little ones if they would only turn to her.
The Devil, as Pope Francis said, has never forgiven Mexico for loving Our Lady of Guadalupe. That dark spirit infiltrates the spiritual voids of society found in much of the Americas to cause the Mother of God, our mother, to be forgotten. For example, in recent decades, a cult has risen amidst certain drug cartels who devote themselves to Santa Muerte or Holy Death. With a barren skull replacing the beautiful face that might have been the Virgin of Guadalupe, Santa Muerte is a farce of Mexico’s blessed image of Guadalupe.
The Legend of St Thomas
There is a legend that provides some context that is, if not altogether true, truthful. When Christ commanded His apostles to baptize all nations, some were miraculously borne to nations across the corners of the world. After converting the Indies, St. Thomas was said to be sent in this wondrous way to Mexico, where he found a native people glutted in the horrors of human sacrifice. Thomas abolished bloodshed and baptized the Aztecs as a priestly power, as wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove, and teacher of the rites of worship. When spirited away, Thomas was memorialized in Aztec myth as Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, the Twin. The prophets foretold his return.
When Hernán Cortés beached at Mexico on Good Friday, 1519, the Aztecs, led by Emperor Moctezuma, believed the bearded man marching their shore was Quetzalcoatl, whom they had betrayed, come back from across the sea. As interactions increased, the Spanish priests remarked on the mysterious Christian echoes in the native rituals, such as fasting, oblation, and the cruciform symbol. The sign of heaven was present, and Mexico would be washed clean of blood yet again.
When Mary Embraced the Americas
In 1531, a little over a decade after the introduction of Christianity to the Mesoamerican people, Our Lady of Guadalupe completed the legendary work of St. Thomas and the historical work of the the Franciscans, appearing to her little son Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill where a shrine to the mother goddess of the Aztecs had previously stood. Her manifestation and majesty put an end to the Aztec bloodshed at last with the unprecedented conversion of millions. Now, nearly half a millennium later, the Lady of Death, in a weird instance of historical relapse and a stark sign of the times, has supplanted the Lady of Life while becoming the beloved children of Mary back to the darkness.
It is a sign of the times when people seek to fulfill their lives through death. But it is never too late. With God, through Our Lady, nothing is impossible. Though the circumstances surrounding the beautiful Lady of Guadalupe are unspeakably miraculous and heartwarming, the one miracle out of them all—the one that brought millions of people into the arms of their Mother—was the miracle that Christ had a Mother and all men and women call upon that very mother of Our Lord.
This is our hope, in any dark time: we have God whose great love caused Him to send His Son to take on our nature in order to redeem it; to be born of a woman in time to become fully God and fully man. As if He wanted to show how tremendous of a love He had for us, that woman who bore the God Incarnate, the woman that all generations shall always hail as blessed, was then made our own mother, our own protectress, our very intercessor who models the inexplicable love of God for His children. As Christ called his disciples friends, now Mary calls us her children and acts as a mother for all.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe occurs during this second week of Advent and that hardly seems to be a coincidence. Advent is a time when we prepare ourselves to behold the Word of God incarnated as the Christ-Child. Christ came and bore to us a light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. And nurturing that Infant Christ is his mother, the same woman who appeared St. Juan Diego over 1500 years later to bear witness to Light of Christ.
Before Juan Diego was a Mother. She was the Mother who spoke to them in their native tongue; a Mother who led them with affection and reassurance to the Truth. This is the Mother who bears a real witness that Christ is the light that gives life and even the present darkness of our age fails to overcome it.
Until this Lady, Our Lady, is remembered, humanity will be immured in the winter of his discontent. But, even now, the memory of her can be stirred, remembering who it was that brought the glory of summer roses to a wintry world. Despite the darkness, the Lady of Guadalupe remains the Protectress of the Americas and, as she did so long ago, will never cease to bring forth the Word into the World.