“Today I come as a missionary of mercy and of peace but also as a son who wishes to pay homage to his Mother, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, and place himself under Her watchful care.”
– Pope Francis, Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 13th February 2016
The Blessed Virgin Mary is Queen of Heaven but She is, above all, a Mother – Mother of the Lord, but also Mother of each and every one of us, Her spiritual motherhood being at the express command of Her Son whilst He was upon the Cross: addressing Saint John, the Lord said – “Woman, behold Thy son. Son, behold thy Mother”. The person of Saint John represents each of us.
Like all mothers, the Blessed Virgin loves those little touches of devotion which children tend to offer; a bunch of flowers, for example, an expression of love, or a hug. And in Mexico yesterday, Pope Francis, on behalf of all of us, offered such an expression of devotion when he crowned the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The story of the image dates back to the year 1531, when Juan Diego was crossing Tepeyac Hill in what is now Mexico City. On the hill, he saw a beautiful Lady, an ethereal Lady, who commended him to tell the Bishop what he had seen there. Bishop Zumarraga, being told the story, demanded a miraculous sign. Returning to the Lady, Juan Diego told Her what the Bishop had said. The Lady commended him him to gather the roses growing there (in December) and place them in his cloak (or ‘wilma’) and take them to the Bishop.
Juan Diego did as he was told and upon opening out his tilma before the Bishop, the roses fell to the floor – and there, upon the rough fabric of the cloak, was a miraculous image of the Lady as Juan Diego had seen Her. Now, more than five hundred years later, science is still unable to explain how the image was imprinted upon the cloak, or even why the cloak – made of cactus fibre – has not fallen apart. There are many mysteries concerning this image; in recent years, for example, it has been discovered that the eyes of the image contain what seems to be a reflection of the people in the room at the moment the image appeared on the cloak, in the presence of the Bishop.
For the indigenous people of Mexico, the image is a story – a Woman, clearly a Virgin but also clearly pregnant; and carrying God within Her. A holy Woman, close to the Blessed Trinity of the Christian Church. A Woman of prayer. Mother of God. This image changed the course of the history of those people and their country – a place of human sacrifice on the scale of a production line. Within ten years, millions had been converted to Christianity. To this day, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is deeply revered.
And last night, in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pope Francis led the congregation in a ceremony of Coronation of the Image, placing upon Her had a crown of gold.
I began by noting that mothers love those little signs of affection offered by their children – and the Mother of God is no different in this respect. As a result of this act of Coronation, Our Lady of Guadalupe will return that kindness and devotion, for the Saints tell us that She is never outdone in generosity; this Coronation will bring enormous blessings, at a time and a place of Her choosing, and in the manner in which She determines best for souls. But this She will do, in response to the act of love of Pope Francis, on behalf of all of us.
Blessed are You, O Lord, God of heaven and earth, who, in Your mercy and justice, cast down the proud and exalt the humble.
In the wondrous designs of Your providence, You have offered a perfect model in the Incarnate Word and in the Virgin Mother: Your Son, who voluntarily humbled Himself, even to death on the Cross, shines in eternal glory and sits at Your right hand as King of kings and Lord of lords.
And the Virgin, who desired to call Herself Your handmaid, who was chosen as Mother of the Redeemer and true Mother of the living, and now, lifted up above the choirs of Angels, gloriously reigns beside Her Son, interceding for all men, the advocate of grace and Queen of mercy.
Look with kindness, O Lord, on these Your servants who, in placing a royal diadem upon the image of the Mother of Your Son, recognise in Your Son the King of the universe, and invoke, as Queen, the Virgin.
Grant that, in following their example, we too might consecrate ourselves to Your service, and make ourselves available to others, fulfilling the law of charity, thus triumphing over selfishness, and in generously giving we might lead our brothers and sisters to You.
Grant that, seeking humility on earth, we might one day be lifted to the heights of heaven, where You yourself will place on the heads of your faithful the crown of life.
Through Christ our Lord.