Why “Patroness of the Unborn”?
Of all the many manifestations of Mary’s loving presence among us throughout the centuries, in this apparition alone does she appear to us in the manner of a pregnant mother. She holds within her the unborn Christ, proclaiming the sanctity and blessedness of life within the womb. Her reverence and tenderness communicate to us the joy and awe with which we must approach each embryonic life.
Since 1973, with the American Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade which gave legal protection to the monstrous sin of abortion, and gave a major global impetus to legalising abortion, a parallel shedding of innocent blood has taken place. The unborn innocent victim is brutally tortured in that very place he was placed by God for his protection and development.
Today we find ourselves in the midst of an even more enormous and dramatic conflict between good and evil, the “culture of life” and the “culture of death.” Just as Our Lady of Guadalupe intervened in Mexico and freed the nation from the grip of witchcraft and human sacrifice, so can she too “crush the serpent’s head” here in South Africa – and under the title of “Protectress of the Unborn,” help free our country from the culture of death!
Let us not cease in crying out for her protection on behalf of our pre-born brothers and sisters. Only by imitating Our Lady’s respect for life from the moment of conception can we hope to inherit Life itself. Under her gentle direction we find not only shelter and rest, but confidence and strength to go forth to battle the evil of abortion in our land. Full of confidence in her power to obtain great victories from God, let us turn to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
A Brief Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe
On 12 December 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary spoke to a humble Mexican native in his own Nahuatl tongue. The exact sound that met the Mexican’s ears was “Juanito, Juan Diegito.” It was an endearing expression that a fond mother would use for her child. English would render it: “Dear little Juan.”
She motioned Juan to come closer. Advancing a step or two he sank to his knees, overwhelmed by the loveliness of the vision. The beautiful lady requested that a shrine be built and dedicated to her on the Hill of Tepeyac. Speaking to him in the native language, Our Lady called herself “of Guadalupe,” a Spanish name meaning the one “who crushes the serpent.”
Sadly, the bishop refused to believe that the Mother of God would appear to a poor, illiterate Mexican like Juan. Juan returned to the place of the apparition where Our Lady again appeared. She told him to return the next morning when she would give him a sign that would convince the bishop of the truth of her appearance and her request.
The following morning Our Lady told Juan to go to the top of the hill and gather Castilian roses that he would find there. Although he knew that only cactus grew there, he obeyed, and his simple faith was rewarded by the sight of beautiful roses growing where she had told him they would be.
He gathered them and showed them to Our Lady who rearranged them for him, placing them in his cloak or “tilma.” Juan returned to the bishop. As he opened his tilma, the roses fell to the floor. All who were present were startled to see an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe clearly imprinted on the tilma.
Today this image is still preserved on Juan Diego’s tilma, which hangs over the main altar in the basilica at the foot of Tepeyac Hill just outside of Mexico City.
In the image, Our Lady is pregnant, carrying the Son of God in her womb. Her head is bowed in homage, indicating that she is not a goddess, but rather the one who bears and at the same time worships the one true God.
The Serpent’s Head Is Crushed
When Mary first appeared to Blessed Juan Diego, Mexico had been in the hands of Christian leaders for only a short time. Human sacrifice, where the blood of innocents was often spilled to appease the thirsty demons of the old rite, was still practiced. The Aztec priests executed annually at least 50,000 inhabitants of the land — men, women and children — in human sacrifices to their gods. In 1487, just in a single four-day ceremony for the dedication of a new temple in Tenochtitlan, some 80,000 captives were killed in human sacrifice. The same practices, which in most cases included the cannibalism of the victims’ limbs, were common also in earlier Mesoamerican cultures, with widespread Olmec, Toltec and Mayan human sacrificing rituals.
Children were said to be frequent victims, in part because they were considered pure and unspoiled. The early Mexican historian Ixtlilxochitl estimated that one out of every five children in Mexico were sacrificed. Into this cavern of darkness and ignorance, our Lady of Guadalupe brought a message of maternal compassion:
“I am the merciful Mother, the Mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate their suffering, necessities, and misfortunes.”
By 1541, just ten years after the apparitions, there were ten million Indians who had been converted from paganism. Before Our Lady’s coming the missionaries were able to pour the saving waters of Baptism upon the heads of only one million natives, and most of these were orphaned children, victims of war, whom the loving missionaries had adopted and educated. Such a mass conversion was an unprecedented phenomenon, the likes of which had never been witnessed in any country of the world.
How much our nation needs her message of compassion! Let us together pray for the assistance and protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her face radiates the very light of God, while her example reveals authentic femininity. She shows unparalleled compassion to the poor and defenceless, but unyielding power and triumph over the evil one and his cohorts.