Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Reflection 2021
Luz Marina Díaz, PhD
Though today’s Gospel does not include the biblical narrative about Mary visiting Elizabeth, when celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Visitation comes to mind because it has similar elements to the story of Our lady of Guadalupe’s apparition to Juan Diego. In both narratives, Mary is the One who visits, the One who appears, the One who comes to meet to care, to stand in solidarity. But the similarity in the stories goes beyond the fact that Mary is the initiator of the encounters.
In the Visitation story, Mary, pregnant, visits her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant, and stays with her until she gives birth to her son John. In the book, Truly Our Sister: Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints, the theologian Elizabeth Johnson speaks of Mary and Elizabeth as friends, “two pregnant prophetesses full of the Holy Spirit shouting, with joy, warnings, and hopes for the future.” Concerning the Magnificat, Johnson emphasizes the optimism that the canticle represents: God has favored her, and “just as the Spirit engulfed Mary with her shadow, inspiring her joy and strength, so too does the Spirit pour out rich and abundant grace on us every day so that we may follow our own call.” The panorama expands in the second verse of the Magnificat with praise to God’s mercy with all the poor.
Magnificat’s message of solidarity with the marginalized, the oppressed, and the poor is, in my opinion, the essence of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Visitation to Juan Diego. Guadalupe, morena, indigenous, also pregnant, as indicated by the black ribbon of her Aztec dress and bulging belly, appears to a poor indigenous man, Juan Diego, and speaks to him in his language. In 1531, when the Spanish conquistadors had subjugated the Aztecs, imposing on their Spanish language and culture, Mary as an indigenous empress, appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous man, to stand in solidarity with the oppressed. At that moment, the indigenous who felt crushed, not human, were raised by Mary. And that is why Our Lady of Guadalupe is not only revered in Mexico but is the patron saint of Latin Americans and immigrants, refugees, and the undocumented in the United States of America.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Mother of God, appearing to Juan Diego and looking like him and, like many others, rejected by a socially dominant group. This deep identification of Guadalupe with the minority makes the artist, Katie Jo Suddaby, sees Guadalupe in the migrants arrested by the Immigration and Customs agents (ICE). In a statement to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Katie said that she was watching migrants being arrested on television. She noticed how migrant men and women looked away in shame from the glare of television cameras. She saw in that gesture the same motion that the Virgin of Guadalupe has in traditional images. Painting Guadalupe in that position, assuming the suffering of the refugees, was her immediate response. When painting the Virgin of Guadalupe as another detainee, Katie’s message was to proclaim the spirit of God, the fingerprints of God, in people who have nothing and who need help.
The Unholy Escort
Katie Jo Suddaby
The central theme of Magnificat and Guadalupe story is in tune with the Old Testament’s prophetic tradition, John the Baptism ethical prophecy in today’s gospel, Jesus’ teachings and the Catholic Church’s social teaching. It is also in tune with Katie’s prophetic painting and the Xavier community’s theme as an approach to our Advent, Close to Home. Close to home remind us of the corporal work of mercy, sheltering the homeless and providing a safety sanctuary for all, striving to create and to become a safe place for others.
May we offer ourselves as a sanctuary for anyone in need of one—glorifying, with our actions, the One whose love, freely given, is our sanctuary, our home.