Our Merciful Mother — Our Lady of Guadalupe

Originally written for: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2016/02/carmeilte-sisters-discovering-god-in-our-silence/

In every approved Marian apparition, Our Lady has a specific mission. Each one reveals a determined and specific message—a unique and necessary goal. In the Anáhuac Valley of Mexico, on a barren hill called Tepeyac, Our Lady of Guadalupe came as a “merciful Mother,” a healer and restorer of all who are broken in body and in spirit. It is an amazing thought to consider that the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars” would place her feet upon the bloodstained sod of a nation’s festering woundedness. Yet, that is precisely what she did and continues to do for our broken humanity.

Our Lady did not stand aloof from the disease, death and despair which assailed the people of Mexico. She did not seek to keep her radiant garments clean and free from the filth of our sins. She did not stand indignantly afar, nor did she wash her hands of us in our brokenness and helplessness. She did not hesitate to delve into the blood-drenched sod of a people’s idolatry. Nor does she hold back from my own idolatry, from all those altars of my heart wherein in I place myself and so many other false gods as the center of my worship.

She came to a nation who was once invincible, yet now a broken and broken-hearted people. And she called herself “your Merciful Mother.” In calling herself thus, our Lady reveals her message of compassion and her solidarity with all of that which is weak, broken and humbled within us. She spares nothing of herself in coming to us: neither her garments nor her skin are spared in this extravagant gesture of love toward her children—a tender embrace wherein we are caught up in the crossing of her arms and in the folds of her mantle. It is here, in her very bosom, where she gathers up all of the scattered fragments of our lives into a single unity in love. In this tender exchange every heart finds solace, strength and renewed hope. Yes, even the most sinful and dejected heart can lay claim to the merciful love of this noble Queen. Thank God! Thank God!

This role of gathering up the broken humanity of Christ has been Mary’s from the beginning. Christ took unto himself the brokenness of all humanity at the Incarnation. As Mary held the vulnerable little body of the Infant Jesus in Bethlehem, our own vulnerable humanity participated and continues to participate in that embrace. The fragmented Body of Christ was the tangible reality of the Eucharist, blessed, broken and given for us, as well as the reality of every broken member of His Mystical Body. These fragments are each of us and all of that which causes us to isolate ourselves from God and from each other. And Mary walks amid this brokenness gathering us into the folds of her mantle, in the crossing of her arms.

It is precisely from this place of embrace, from the very heart of our Lady into which she gathers us up, that Christ receives the offering of our lives. In Mary’s embrace and sure protection, our lives are touched and ennobled with the sweetness of her virtue. Simply to be in her presence is to absorb the fragrance of her pure love for God. In lingering with Mary we take on the luster that radiates from her Immaculate Heart. Mary is the object of God’s overflowing love. Heaven’s entire treasury of grace is continually poured over her. And anyone who comes near her cannot help but get soaked by the torrent which is continually flowing upon her and through her. What a great cause for joy! This thought is a continual source of hope for me. Since even while there is so little merit in me, I need only stand beside our Lady and all will be made well. She will restore me to Christ.

May the “woman clothed with the sun” be for every heart the sweet star of hope leading the way through darkness into light.

Our Lady of Guadalupe: An “Organizer” in the Order of Grace

“Climb, my son the littlest, to the top of the hill. There where you saw me and I gave you orders, you will find different flowers. Cut them, gather them, and assemble them. Then, come and bring them before my presence.”

“Immediately he started cutting them. He gathered them all and placed them in his tilma… He immediately went down the hill and brought the different roses which he had cut to the Lady from heaven, who, as she saw them, took them with her hand and again placed them back in the tilma, saying:

“My son the littlest, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign which you will take to the bishop…”

I find great joy and comfort in this beautiful scene of our Lady taking the flowers from Juan Diego’s tilma and organizing them, because I know that this is what she does for us as well. As I consider Juan Diego running to gather up the roses into his tilma and then returning to our Lady, I place myself in his stead. Juan Diego with his bundle of heavenly roses mixed and smashed within his tilma reminds me of myself as I approach our Lady and her Divine Son.

This image of our Lady of Guadalupe, receiving and arranging the flowers gathered in Juan Diego’s tilma, gives a striking insight into her role in our life. Here Juan Diego approaches her just after having carried out her directives with all enthusiasm. As he opens his tilma to show her its contents, Juan Diego is also opening his heart to her whom he calls his “dear little Mistress, Lady, Queen, and dear little girl.” She on her part welcomes his offering, receives it, touches it with her hands and discretely arranges them. How characteristic of a genuine Lady, in the order of nature and grace.

I am comforted by the fact that as she gazes upon the offering and receives it with joy, she tenderly arranges the flowers with all graciousness. It seems that she is ever engaged in helping her children to set their lives in order in just this way – that is, in God’s perfect order. How good she is at doing this for her beloved children. For it is often the case that no matter how ardently we set out to accomplish God’s will, our spiritual nearsightedness, somehow convolutes our sense of order and direction in carrying out the good that God is truly asking of us. She is always there to receive the gifts of our lives. We, like Juan Diego, go about gathering up the fruits of our labors. At day’s end we approach the altar and open our arms, thus exposing the tilma of our own hearts. Sometimes the flowers are lovely and plentiful. But at other times are a jumbled mixture of weeds, thorns and a few wild flowers. Yet our Queen receives them all, and before presenting them to our heavenly Father, she discretely rearranges them. In her touch they take on her own sweet fragrance and beauty. And the disordered bundle of our works is put into right order.

How good she is at reorganizing my disorderedness into God’s order. She understands that I am all too good at making a mess of God’s good order. In the many things I set out to do, I often confuse them according to my own faulty prioritizing skills. Left to myself, I gather up the good things of God into a disordered mess by my resistance to grace or sheer lack of understanding. But thank God for Mary. Blessed Mother is not only good at re-ordering the chaos I make of my life, but with her touch she softens this little hard heart, making it fit to receive the life-giving seed of God’s Word. She brings her own sweetness to it, thereby making it a lovely and acceptable “offering of pleasing fragrance” to God.

Where Mary is, all is made lovely; all is well-ordered. She is beautiful. She is wholly in God’s order of grace, wholly in His image and likeness. May we continually open before her the roughly woven tilma of our lives, that she may lovingly receive the offering, touch it with her hands and place it back restored and beautiful for the Bridegroom to rejoice in it.

By Sister Ines, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles