Saturday, December 12, 2009

December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feastday of Our Lady of Guadalupe which celebrates the occurence of a series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the poor Indian peasant, Juan Diego, in the year 1531 just outside Mexico City. On the last visit, she left a miraculous image of herself on the humble cloak--or tilma--of Juan Diego, an image that is still visible today. Here is a link to a website that tells the whole story, as well as amazing scientific facts about the image on the tilma of Juan Diego.

This Feastday is extremely important to Catholics of Latin American heritage. Devotion to OLG is also strong in other places such the Philippines. Just this morning, I arrived at our local parish for my usual Saturday morning men's group meeting, and the parking lot was packed with cars at 6:30 A.M.--it was a Mass for the Spanish speaking community for today's feastday. We had our meeting in a small side chapel, but we could hear the celebration going on next door in the main church--joyful singing, clapping and lots of cool mariachi music.

Many years ago, I was extremely blessed to be able to visit the basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and see the image close up, although I didn't appreciate it at the time. This was before my religious conversion and I was visiting the city as a tourist solely to have a good time and to see the many sights, the visit to the basilica (at the time) being just a side trip. I distinctly remember, however, reprobate heathen though I was at the time, being deeply impressed and affected. I can't help thinking now that God used this visit to eventually bring me close to him. There are other episodes in my earlier life that, in retrospect, also seem to have blessed me and prepared me (such when I first saw Pope John Paul II on Guam--but that's another story).

One thing that often annoys me is to see Our Lady's beautiful image in places that don't seem to give her honor. If you see it on a gang-banger's car or t-shirt or tatooed on his back or arm, you can't help but wonder how much of the religious significance of the image is impressed on the wearer. It's a fact that the image is in the minds of many of my fellow Mexican-Americans is as much (or more) a cultural icon as it it is religious.

I say it annoys me rather than angers me because I also know that there is a lot religious ignorance and at the same time good intention involved here. If these particular folks (most of them young men and women) weren't brought up with a good religious education, whose fault is that? Shouldn't those of us who know and love the Faith be doing more to bring the fullness of the truths of that Faith to those who desperately need to hear it?
UPTATE: The blog Whispers in the Logia has uploaded videos of several Guadalupe celebrations going on around the country. You can view the site here.


  1. My friend, Amie, had a HUGE tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe on her back and I remember thinking (when I first saw it), "Wow, I wouldn't have thought of Amie as a gangster."

    Its unfortunate that's what I thought of at first... associating the image with the gangsters I remember seeing in Palmdale.

    I remember hearing the story in church when I was little but it wasn't until Rod told it to me again that I really latched onto it.

    Amie, by the way, isn't a gangster. I've since learned that since she left Borders, she became a teacher and teaches underprivileged children somewhere in the world. I can't remember where.

    And, being a young Catholic, she decided to express her faith by way of tattoo. Its interesting, to say the least.

  2. That IS interesting, and your friend seems like an interesting and good person who gives of herself to the less fortunate. Other people besides gang-bangers, of course, sport Our Lady's image. I had a cousin (also not a gang menber) who had a huge OLG tattoo on his back as well. This fellow (whom I knew quite well, as we were infamous drinking buddies back in the day. In fact he eventually drank himself to death), I can confidently say, did not practice any religion and had no idea who OLG was. He said he just thought it looked cool and that he was proud of his Mexican heritage. I've known many others that use similar reasoning.

    While a poor reason is better than a bad one, I think it's safe to say that neither of these reasons are why God provided this miracle. While there's nothing inherently wrong with having the OLG image on tattoos, window decals (and, like your friend, doing it out of apparently genuine religious sentiment), my generalization was aimed at those whose lifestyles are by all indications a repudiation of what Mary calls us to-- to obey and imitate her Son.

    One last comment: I very often see Our Lady's imaged paired up on t-shirt or tattoo with the slogan "La Vida Loca." For those who don't know, "La Vida Loca" (Spanish for "the crazy life") is barrio talk (where I grew up) for embracing and living a life of partying, violence and otherwise recklessly living for the moment. My whole point was that one can not live both of these messages at once; however if someone is ignorant of their Faith, we want to make sure we're not the ones that permitted them to wind up that way, or to allow them to stay that way. One way is arguably better than the alternative.

    Thanks for your insights "Ahtee" :)