From Freder1ck, at Deep Furrows:
At one point in my life in 1987-88, Mary kept me Christian. Not Catholic, but Christian. It was a watershed year for me. I was between colleges and living in l'Arche in Washington, DC. I didn't arrive in DC with Marian devotion, and yet I was aware that it's something taught by the Catholic Church. A devout friend was no help. He said things like Jesus loves His mother, so we should too. Or to approach Jesus, we must go through the pure heart of Mary. He had a sentimental look in his eye and he insisted without giving adequate reasons.
I found myself drawn to the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where I saw such epithets as "to Jesus through Mary" which puzzled me. I saw everything jammed in there together: the giant Miraculous Medals, the almost psychedelic dome mosaics of Creation and the Apocalypse, the lovely chapels of the Protective Mantle of Mary (Byzantine) and Our Lady of Guadalupe. One day, I saw a Mexican man take a rose from the altar, make the sign of the cross on the crucifix there and make the sign of the cross on his daughter; and then he gave her the rose. I was especially drawn the the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose undulating walls are entirely covered in mosaic - from the opening to the central image of Mary as she appeared there.
I also remember the small wooden statue of Mary outside the Blessed Sacrament chapel. Here, without gold or ornament, Mary stands proclaiming fiat voluntas tua - thy will be done. It never fails to remind me of the first line of Adrienne von Speyr's Handmaid of the Lord: «As a sheaf of grain is tied together in the middle and spreads out at either end, so Mary's life is bound together by her assent.»
At some point in this year of my life - I don't remember the place, the day, the hour - but I remember it distinctly. Perhaps it was early in my time there, before I went on the retreat in Quebec led by Jean Vanier. I was wondering about Jesus and whether it all really happened. The one thing I couldn't get out of my head was the visit of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She appeared to Juan Diego to tell him: «Am I not here, I who am your mother?» It was evident to me that while conservative and liberal Catholics had written books about Our Lady of Guadalupe, she was more than either of their concepts of her. The skeptic may dismiss a priori any miracles such as this one, but to one who is open and doesn't presume to turn away from anything that claims a reason beyond what can be observed in a laboratory - to one who doesn't set a limit on what can happen, then, Our Lady of Guadalupe doesn't easily reduce to formulas of power and shamanism. To me, it's clear that Our Lady of Guadalupe did appear to Juan Diego.
Something happened. Just as the day following a street festival, the police tell one story and the rioters tell another. You may not know who is more credible, but it's evident that some altercation happened.
I've never gone to Mexico City to see the tilma left by Mary. But the tilma has come to me 2 or 3 times. Once was two years ago at St. Meinrad's abbey during CL Spiritual Exercises. The most recent was at a parish which was hosting an archdiocesan penance service. In both of these cases, it was a missionary image, a full-size photograph of the image sent out to inspire prayer.
And then last week, I was struggling at work - which is crazy to me because it's a great job and it really pushes me to flourish - and the words came into my mind again: «Am I not here, I who am your mother?» I reached in my desk drawer and put the card with Our Lady of Guadalupe on it in front of my computer speaker.
Let me return to the title of this post, to fill in the gaps a bit for those who have not had the experience that I have had:
«The saints, that is, the witnesses, those among us who block us from reducing Christ to our measure: we see them, we touch them. Who didn't feel powerfully moved in seeing Cleuza speak yesterday?»Julián Carrón: Spiritual Exercises of Communion and Liberation 2008.
Carrón here speaks of saints in the absolutely broadest terms: those who are in communion with Christ. He doesn't speak only of canonized saints, or saints in heaven, but all saints especially those we all are drawn to, those among us who lead us by living a deeper, more radical, and broader affection for Jesus who is Christ.
Nonetheless, when I read again today what Fr. Carrón says here about the saints, I thought immediately of Our Lady and her role in my life. Jesus suffers a thousand competing reductions in the common mentality: Jesus the revolutionary, Jesus the hippie, and the various Jesuses of South Park, the Simpsons, and Family Guy. With all these counterfeits, abstractions, and reductions jumping around, it can be difficult to see Jesus as a person. Mary changed that for me. Mary is the sign of Jesus's humanity.
-- the above brilliance is all Fred's