December 12 marks the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn and the Americas. It is fitting that her feast falls squarely during the observance of Advent. Mary appeared as a pregnant woman to Juan Diego, an Aztec man, in Mexico in the year 1531. The Aztec civilization had a long history of human sacrifice, including at times even children [i]. Mary, appearing in her pregnant state then was and is today a direct contradiction and tangible hope to that and our current culture’s anti-life mentality.
“The apparitions and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe underline both the infinite transcendence of God and his unceasing mercy toward all men without boundary. At the very beginning of the first apparition, Our Lady of Guadalupe immediately identifies herself to St. Juan Diego with these words: “I am the perfect and ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the God of truth through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near us, the Lord of heaven and earth”. The Blessed Virgin Mary [then] declares the intention of her apparition: “I want very much to have a little house built here for me, in which I will show him [God], I will exalt him and make him manifest.
“I will give him to the people in all my personal love, in my compassion, in my help, in my protection: because I am truly your merciful Mother, yours and all the people who live united in this land and of all other people of different ancestries, my lovers, who love me, those who seek me, those who trust in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their complaints and heal all their sorrows, hardships and sufferings.” [ii]
Mary appears as Our Lady of Guadalupe with a message of prayer, love and compassion. She embodies hope for the Americas just as in Advent we recognize that the pregnant Madonna carrying the Christ Child is hope for mankind. Advent is about waiting and preparing for the birth of Christ. Any expectant mother knows the excitement and anxious feeling of waiting and preparing for her beloved child, but the waiting of the Madonna was different in that her Son was a gift not just to her family or her small community as He grew and His gifts and talents were developed and utilized to the benefit of all around Him. Mary’s baby, Jesus, was a gift to all of mankind, those previously born and those not yet born, because without Him salvation of the human race would not have been. And so, as we commemorate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe during this Advent season, we see easily the connection between these two important liturgical observances.
One unique way to observe Advent is to use the time, among other preparations, to ponder the maternity of the Blessed Mother and the value of life from its earliest beginnings in the womb. Doing this, we will remember anew that while there was only one Savior of the world in the Divine Christ Child, who was both God and man, every person is a gift. Every life has potential and God does not make mistakes – every child is wanted and loved by Him, even if rejected by his own mother and father.
As we continue to ponder Mary’s maternity we think about how she found herself in difficult circumstances. She was unmarried at the time of her pregnancy. She was young. Certainly it was an embarrassing situation for her to have thought of what Joseph must have thought of her upon hearing the news of her being with child and him knowing he was not the father. What thoughts went through her head? I’m no theologian but I surmise that certainly she suffered and perhaps she even wondered if Joseph had plans to cancel their impending marriage, which scholars tell us he considered until an angel told him not to be afraid to take her as his wife. Mary teaches us then, through example, to trust God and not be afraid.
Another thought to ponder during the Advent season and near the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe comes from Archbishop Raymond Burke :
“Contemporary western culture manifests a growing rebellion against God and his Law written upon every human heart and revealed in his Church. The most innocent and defenseless of our brothers and sisters, the unborn, are daily murdered in the womb, and their murder is sanctioned by the laws and decisions of courts of law. More and more, those whose lives are burdened by advanced years, serious illness or special needs are under threat of so-called “mercy killing” or euthanasia by governments in which those in power decide for whom the right to life will be respected or for whom it will not, without regard for the law of God which demands the ultimate respect for every innocent human life, from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death, without boundary or exception…
“… We must not only be obedient to the moral law, but we must also give an account of our obedience, be ready to defend the truth of the divine moral law in the many contexts in which it is daily under attack and actually violated.” [iii]
And so, another way in which we can combine the celebration of Advent with the celebration of the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe is to look for ways in our own lives, in our own circles of acquaintances and friends, that we can defend the truth of the divine moral law which includes the pro-life message. Just as Mary, in her “fiat” to God said “yes” to life in love and trust, despite an uncertain future, we must say and help others say our own personal “fiats” to God in the ways in which we are called to serve Him. We can be quiet witnesses, demonstrating through our lives as we lovingly tend to our children and their needs. We can also speak up, in letters to the editor or in conversation.
Following are some more practical suggestions to incorporate into our lives, during this Advent season and beyond, which renew our dedication to the eternal truth that all human life has worth. Doing some or many of these activities may serve to help us remember the story and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Mary in her maternity and experience an especially fruitful Advent:
1. We can spiritually ‘adopt’ an unborn child
The prayer below was created by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He encouraged the “adoption” of a particular unborn child which is done by praying for one particular unknown child for nine months or beyond.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion.” [iv]
The idea is that during one’s earthly life, this spiritually adopted child will be known only to God but in heaven it is hoped that the one who “adopts” the child spiritually by praying will know him and spend eternal happiness in that knowledge.
2. We can reach out to a pregnant mom
Offering assistance to a mother in our community is another way to be pro-life and follow Mary’s example of serving others in love. We can watch a pregnant mother’s other children for a couple hours while she Christmas shops or ask her if she would like us to pick up a few things for her at the grocery store. We may even offer to fix dinner or simply pop over with a batch of cookies.
3. We can remember our local pregnancy help center
Can we knit booties? Tie blankets? Can we spare enough for the purchase of a few packs of diapers? Do we have an hour to offer to help sort clothes or tidy up or do miscellaneous tasks, whatever needs to be done?
4. We can teach our children the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and do a few crafts to make it fun
We can read a simple account of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego to our children. The little Saint Joseph picture books have a title on the topic [v], and the book on the subject by Tomie De Paola [vi] is wonderful. We can offer our youngest children coloring pages of the event [vii] . We can help them make a paper bag tilma [viii] or piñata [ix] as we share the story. This website gives instructions on how to make a simple tin ornament to commemorate the season. We can download an image of the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the internet and decoupage it on a piece of stiff cardboard, light wood or preformed ornament from the craft store… and decorate it with paint, ribbons or glitter to make a decoration for the Christmas tree. Last, this website offers ideas from Mexico, and this one is full of other Advent ideas to share with your children.
5. We can pray
We can pray the rosary, attend Mass, start a novena, or just ask God to help us grow in wisdom, love and understanding. Here’s a great prayer:
Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe
Remember, O most gracious Virgin of Guadalupe, that in your apparitions on Mount Tepeyac you promised to show pity and compassion to all who, loving and trusting you, seek your help and protection.
Accordingly, listen now to our supplications and grant us consolation and relief. We are full of hope that, relying on your help, nothing can trouble or affect us. As you have remained with us through your admirable image, so now obtain for us the graces we need. Amen. [x]
6. Additional ideas
Forty Days for Life has a few more suggestions, which are specifically and directly pro-life, and can at least be started, if not completed during Advent [xi] :
- Peacefully pray at an abortion clinic.
- Commit to a weekly hour in prayer at an Adoration chapel, praying for conversion of hearts.
- Write letters to congressmen, both state and federal, on legislation concerning life issues.
- Write letters to the editor about life issues.
- Educate ourselves. Subscribe to Pro-Life newsletters and read Pro-Life books.
- Arrange for a Pro-Life speaker to do a presentation at our church or civic group.
- Find out the name of an abortionist in town and pray daily for his/her change of heart. Pray for the abortion workers, too.
- Use Pro-Life checks. (Contact Promise Checks, 1-800-977-6647)
- Go to yard sales and buy baby clothes and maternity clothes and donate them to our local Pregnancy Resource Center.
- Plan a Pro-Life Sunday at your church. Have literature and “Precious Feet” available.
- Start a Respect Life group at our church.
- Surround ourselves with like – minded friends and start a phone chain for acting on upcoming legislation.
- Talk with friends. We can educate our friends who are confused or undecided about the abortion issue. Most people are unaware of the facts.
- Financially support one of the many worthy Pro-Life groups and centers.
- Visit www.priestsforlife.org for more ideas.
In these ways we can mark the season with prayer and good works, truly beginning to live the message of love, hope and life that Jesus Christ brought to the world that very first Christmas.
Theresa Thomas is the co-author Stories for the Homeschool Heart (Bezalel Books, 2010 & winner of About.com Best Catholic Book of 2010), Family Columnist at Today’s Catholic News and a Contributing Writer for Integrated Catholic Life.
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