The Blessed Mother has so many wonderful titles – enough to fill a year’s calendar! Many Catholics may have their personal favorite titles for her. I’m partial to Mary, Star of the Sea and Our Lady of Knock and of Victory. 11 years ago, rather dramatic circumstances led me to be devoted to her under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
It was a Wednesday evening in early December and I was driving on Route 66 in Northern Virginia near Christendom College, where I worked after graduating. I had put in over 100 hours the previous week and was too exhausted to be driving. My car radio and CD player were out of commission so I was trying my hardest to stay awake sans music. The next thing I knew, I was jolted awake by the impact of my vehicle colliding with another car. I will never know how I got across 4 lanes of fast-moving traffic to the shoulder of that ever-busy highway. My Guardian Angel must have taken the wheel for me.
The gentleman I struck, a military veteran named George who was on his way to a VFW meeting with his sweet wife, was convinced I was intoxicated based on the erratic behavior of my vehicle before it struck his. Fortunately, they were driving a Lexus SUV, which was hardly damaged by the impact and kept them safe. My little Civic did not fare so well and was off its front axle among other injuries, but it had kept me safe. When the State Trooper arrived, he gravely assessed my car’s condition and then surveyed the shoulder where huge cement barrier walls were lined up as part of ongoing construction work. I’ll never forget his expression as he turned to me and said: “You should not be alive right now. If you hadn’t hit their car, you would have ended up hitting one of these. You should not be alive. You are extremely lucky.”
Of course, luck had nothing to do with it. I will never forget the realization that I could easily have died on Route 66 that night. It was both a chilling and heartwarming realization. The former because it made me appreciate how quickly our lives can be extinguished. The latter because it literally warmed my heart and soul to consider God’s generous protection of me. I knew that He was responsible for the preservation of my life that night. Then I remembered what day it was and knew that Our Lady of Guadalupe must have had a hand in it as well. Ever since then, I’ve had a small statue or image of her in my car to remind me of her intercession that cold winter’s night. I will always be grateful for her maternal intercession that evening and always.
This year I met a wonderful woman who has a very special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Rosa Flores was the first national journalist I worked with regarding the situation in our diocese. I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter, kinder person with whom to work! Her concern for our diocese was only exceeded by her respect for our Church and our faith, which she shares. She also has an amazing story about how Our Lady of Guadalupe influenced her career in journalism. Even Rosa’s full name is a beautiful testament to “Virgencita,” as Our Lady of Guadalupe is called in Spanish, since it reminds us of the Castilian roses that bloomed on Tepeyac Hill in December of 1531. Thank you, Rosa, for being a beautiful witness to the Catholic faith and a true friend to the people you assist through your earnest journalistic efforts.
When we consider the miracle of Guadalupe, the primary figures we think of are Mary and St. Juan Diego, whose feast was this past Sunday. Yet there is another crucial character in this story: Bishop Juan de Zumarraga. I must admit that my view of him used to be pretty one-dimensional… I thought of him as the stubborn bishop who refused to believe Juan Diego until miraculous roses cascaded from an even more miraculous tilma. Then I read about Bishop Juan and realized that his life story is very complex. My initial assessment of him was rather harsh given that I knew nothing of the many challenges he faced and overcame during his life. Based on what I know of him now, it wouldn’t surprise me if he is an undeclared saint who completes the heavenly trio of Guadalupe. Perhaps he can intercede for the bishops of the United States – many of whom are truly obstinate!
How unbelievably generous God was to give us not only a loving Savior, but also a Blessed Mother! Thank you, Virgencita, for your powerful intercession and your beautiful, encouraging words:
“I am your merciful mother, the merciful 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, and of those who have confidence in me.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us and for your Son’s Church!