When Blessed John Paul II made his first papal pilgrimage to Mexico in 1979, he stood below the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at her basilica in Mexico City and said simply, “Hail Mary.”
Twenty years later, John Paul II made a homecoming to that shrine in Mexico, and again stood near the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as he issued the post-synodal exhortation Ecclesia in America (“The Church in America”), outlining a plan for renewing the faith in America through the New Evangelization. As he called for a new Pentecost in the Church throughout North and South America, Blessed John Paul II stood near the protective mantle of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the mother of God, the mother of the Church – the mother of us all.
As a pilgrim, the Holy Father followed in the footsteps of millions of Americans who over the past five centuries have come to Mary’s shrine in Mexico to honor the Queen of the Americas who leads us to her Son, the King of Heaven. Those pilgrims, from popes to peasants, recognize Our Lady of Guadalupe as the woman whose “yes” made possible Jesus’ incarnation, who was present at his first miracle and at the foot of the Cross, who witnessed the risen Christ and who was with the Apostles at the first Pentecost when the Church was born. Those who kneel to pray before that image of Our Lady of Guadalupe venerate her as a mother who is always with them and helps lead them to know and love her Son.
In 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Saint Juan Diego as a pregnant native woman, speaking his language, and relating to him through her humility and poverty, bringing him a message of love and hope in Christ her Son that would inspire millions of Aztecs to become Catholic. Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image which miraculously appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak remains on display at her shrine in Mexico City, and in the homes and hearts of millions of men and women throughout the hemisphere. It is no wonder that in 1945, Pope Pius XII designated Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of the Americas.
Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the model of what our faith should be. Like us, Mary was a human being who had to struggle to hear and accept God’s word and to grasp the mysterious ways in which God works. When God called her, she said “yes.” Mary brought Jesus to the world more than 2,000 years ago, and she shows us the way to Jesus today.
Our Lady of Guadalupe can lead today’s pilgrims on that path to conversion and communion in Christ, and solidarity with the poor and forgotten — that blueprint for America that Blessed John Paul II presented to us in 1999 for the New Evangelization. In 1531 and today, Our Lady of Guadalupe shows us the way to Jesus, and we know that on that pilgrimage we never walk alone.