By Fr. Troy Richmond
Each year, as the 12th of December draws near, thousands of pilgrims make their way to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to venerate the miraculous image left on the tilma of St. Juan Diego in the year 1531. Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness not only of Mexico, but of all of the Americas, continues to draw the hearts of believers under the mantle of her motherly care and protection to a deeper knowledge and love of her Son, Jesus the Lord.
The summer following my first year of theology at Mundelein Major Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., I participated in a Spanish language immersion program at CIRIMEX language school in Guadalajara, Mexico. While there I had the opportunity to embark on a weekend-long pilgrimage to the hills of Tepeyac (just outside of Mexico City) where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego and asked that a church be built there to give honor to Our Lady and her Son.
Many miracles took place during my pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady. The food, spices and water of Mexico had not necessarily agreed with my stomach and the typical traveler’s illness had set in during my stay in Mexico. Gratefully, due to a small miracle of Our Lady, I had very few issues of this sort during my day of pilgrimage and prayer at the basilica honoring her name. Later in the afternoon, to take advantage of the plenary indulgence for making a pilgrimage to this renowned and holy basilica during the Jubilee Year of 2000, I found myself waiting in line to go to confession. The sign on the confessional door noted that the priest hearing confessions was fluent in Italian, Spanish and English. However, as I knelt down in the dark confessional, I discovered that the Padre knew not a word of English. I miraculously made a decent confession in a language other than my native tongue.
The greatest miracle of all that day came to light as, during the Mass, I was blown away by the universality of the Church. Men, women and children of all cultures, languages and ways of life came together in the celebration of the Mass, where we are reminded that through our participation in Christ’s body and blood we become members of the one body of Christ.
Although nearly 500 years have passed since Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego on the hillside of Tepeyac, her miraculous image summons us, as a Church, to live as hopeful and joyful witnesses of the Gospel. As we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe this Dec. 12, let us follow Our Lady’s lead, reaching out to those in our midst with the message of the Gospel, leading all to encounter Jesus the Living Lord.
(Fr. Richmond is pastor of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish, Muscatine.)