December 12th is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and it is a very special day in our home. This feast day is significant to many throughout the world, but it is especially important to Mexican-Catholics because of the rich history of Our Lady and her apparition in Mexico. So one might be wondering why this day holds such significance to a little Korean-American family like ours living in Texas.
For whatever reason, Our Blessed Mother has chosen to follow our family around for many years under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of All the Americas
It was the year 1531, when a poor Aztec Indian named Juan Diego, was walking through the Tepayac hill country in Mexico. He encountered a beautiful lady surrounded by a bright light and she spoke to him in his native tongue. She revealed herself to him as the Mother of the true God, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, and gave Juan Diego a specific mission to go to the bishop and request that a church be built in her honor.
A miracle took place when Juan Diego stood before the bishop, a cascade of beautiful roses falling from his poncho-like tilma. The bishop and his advisors fell to their knees. On his tilma was a perfect image of the Virgin Mary—the image of Santa Maria de Guadalupe. The bishop believed that Juan Diego had a true encounter with the mother of Jesus and approved her request. Since then, millions of Aztecs converted to Catholicism. Not only was the apparition a miracle, but the image on the tilma has been studied over the years and has proven to be a miracle itself. It can be seen today in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Mexico.
A Mother’s Love
Growing up in middle school, I had a Mexican-Catholic best friend. At the time, I had a very tumultuous relationship with my own family and had almost no relationship with them aside from living under the same roof. So my best friend’s family lovingly and graciously “adopted” me. I would spend multiple days and nights at her house, go on family vacations with them, and call her parents “mom and dad.” They would jokingly say that they had adopted the Korean girl whenever they introduced me to strangers, and I was fully immersed in their family life.
Meanwhile, Our Lady of Guadalupe was working on my husband, Paul, to convert him back to Christ. She would reveal herself to him through the smell of roses and through the powerful prayer of the Rosary. When he was discerning religious life, she was there in a thirty-foot mural on the outside of the friary he lived in, assuring him of her prayers every day that he passed it. Her image would follow him around through several important life stages, always reminding him of her Son’s love and mercy. Our Lady of Guadalupe became very near and dear to Paul’s heart.
“My little son, there are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen.”
An Unexpected Encounter
When Paul and I began dating, I started learning more about Catholicism. I appreciated how his Faith had beautifully impacted his life. One night, on December 12th, we went out on a date and went to a cupcake bakery. The employee serving us had a tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe on her arm. Paul made a comment about how it was coincidentally her feast day, and that led to an interesting conversation about her. He told me the story of Saint Juan Diego, the miracle of the tilma, and the conversion of millions of people because of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I found it all fascinating, but I was also looking at him like he was crazy.
You see, at the time, I knew nothing about Mother Mary. I was born and raised in a hardcore Protestant family. Speaking about the Mother of Jesus was unheard of. Honoring her in any way was considered blasphemous. So when Paul started sharing about her, it made me feel very uncomfortable.
I also had a very rough relationship with my own mother. She had unexpectedly left our family one night and then my parents got divorced. It was a very traumatic experience that left me with feelings of abandonment and betrayal. I didn’t understand how a mother could leave her children and it put fears into my own future as a potential mother.
“My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother’s Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace.”
My First Prayer
So that night, on December 12th, Paul asked me, “Have you ever just said a prayer to Mother Mary?” I was thinking, Absolutely not! Is that even okay?
He asked me if I would like to try. I had no idea what to say. He told me to tell her anything you would say to the best of mothers. So I said a very honest and simple prayer: “Mary, I don’t know what to say to you or how to feel about you. I don’t even have a relationship with my own mother right now and I feel so disconnected. But I know you’re the Mother of Jesus and I think that’s beautiful.”
Immediately, I felt immense peace, love, and comfort. She told me, “I am your Mother. I have always been your Mother. And I’ve been praying for you and loving you before you even knew me.” Much like the words she said to Saint Juan Diego.
This very first prayer that I ever prayed to Our Blessed Mother was the first step in my relationship with her. It played a big role in my conversion to Catholicism and it also began the work of me finally forgiving my own mother and restoring my relationship with her.
“Let not your heart be disturbed. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?”
Coming Full Circle
A couple years later, Paul and I were married and pregnant with our first child. I was nervous about being a mother because of my past and all the pain I had worked through surrounding motherhood. My doctor told us we were expecting a baby girl and her due date was December 12th.
We were shocked to hear that date but I knew that there was a very slim chance that babies are born on their actual due dates. In fact, it happens in only about 5 percent of pregnancies. So nine days before December 12th, we prayed a novena to Our Lady. And sure enough, our daughter was born on her due date, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the day I became a mother.
Much like my childhood friend’s family “adopted” me as their own, I feel like Our Lady of Guadalupe has truly adopted our family. She has always been a figure of peace, joy, and maternal love in our home. We attribute so many blessings and answered prayers to her intercession. And we are forever grateful to call her Mother.
How has Our Lady shown her maternal love for you? What would you like to ask her to pray for you?