By Sister Laetitia Therese, O.C.D.
It was December 12. I had recently become absolutely convinced that Our Lord was calling me to religious life, but as I drove to school that morning, I prayed about my family. What was going to happen to them? Didn’t they need me nearby? How was I going to be able to leave them?
Later in the morning, I opened Tomie dePaola’s The Lady of Guadalupe, to read to my third-grade students. I had remembered its vivid illustrations and charming re-telling of the story from my own grade school years and had picked it up from the library. I hadn’t had a chance to re-read it before sharing it with my students and as I did so the words veritably lifted off the pages. “Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not in the crossing of my arms? Are not your concerns my concerns? Do not worry about your [family].” I knew Our Lady of Guadalupe was speaking directly to me. She was reminding me I was her child, and she was taking care of me, as she had always done. I did not need to worry about my family. I just needed to keep my eyes fixed on God and follow Him and she would take care of my family. I barely managed to finish reading without bursting into tears. (What a surprise that would have been to my unsuspecting third graders!) A deep peace settled over me and a confidence. From that time, I was truly able to surrender my family in trust. And Our Lady moved swiftly on her promise. Within a year of entering the convent, my dad entered the Church after “thirty-four years of discernment (marriage to my mom)”, and my brother was married to a wonderful, holy woman. And Our Lady’s work did not end there. There are multiple stories of miracles and healings that have taken place in my family since that time. And these are only the visible ones. I am certain it is through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe that these blessings have come.
I love the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe for so many reasons. The story of the image and its survival and all the research on the tilma, on which her image is preserved, is fascinating. The meaning of the different symbols is incredibly rich. Above all, I love who she is to me. Our Lady of Guadalupe is “Our Lady of the Trenches.” Perhaps to some Our Lady might seem aloof. She stands above and apart from humanity. Her clothing is pristine, and she herself is immaculate. How can she relate to my pitiable condition? Our Lady of Guadalupe completely proves this thought to be false. She comes to the battlefield and enters in. She is not afraid to get her clothes dirty. She came to a people amidst the most desperate of circumstances. They were ravaged by violence and disease and their entire world was being turned upside down. Rates of depression and suicide were very high. Our Lady wasn’t afraid of all this. She came right in the middle of this misery to be a sign of hope and lead the hurting and broken people to her Son. She reminds me that no situation is beyond the mercy of God.
At our motherhouse, the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Alhambra, we have a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in our chapel. I love being able to visit her there to thank her for her faithfulness and to offer to her all the special intentions that have been recommended to me, especially those situations which seem most impossible. I know that she will take my poor prayers and re-arrange them as she did the roses in St. Juan Diego’s tilma. Then, she will present them to her Son. I trust that even though we might not always see the effect of our prayers, she is intimately working with her Son to bring about the greatest good for all of us. ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! (Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!) ¡Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)