“Our gods of wealth, pleasure, and independence demand so much blood in exchange for their poisonous gifts.”
Tomorrow we commemorate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our Lady has appeared many times to many different people in many different parts of the world. But, of all the many apparitions, in one alone does she appear as a pregnant mother. In the revered miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Mother contains within her womb the Christ child – the Incarnate Word.
In 1999, St. Pope John Paul II gave a great gift to the Catholic Church and the pro-life movement when he formally declared Our Lady of Guadalupe Patroness of the Americas, the Empress of Latin America, and the Protectress of Unborn Children. He also designated December 12 – the day of Our Lady’s last appearance to Juan Diego, and the same day he unfurled his humble cloak, imprinted with the miraculous image of Our Lady, before the astonished eyes of his bishop – as her feast day.
“Under her motherly care I place … the innocent lives of children, especially those who are in danger of not being born,” John Paul II said in a homily during his apostolic visit to Mexico in January of 1999. “I entrust the cause of life to her loving protection: may no Mexican dare to harm the precious and sacred gift of life in its mother’s womb!” Sadly, the violent crime against the dignity of human life returned to Mexico in 2007 when abortion was decriminalized in the Federal State. Since its inauguration, over 150,000 children have been sacrificed in the name of choice and freedom.
Before John Paul II’s declaration, Fr. Paul Marx had already selected Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness for Human Life International. This was an “obvious” choice, Fr. Marx wrote. “Her reverence and tenderness communicate to us the joy and awe with which we must approach each nascent life.” Fr. Marx directly attributed the astonishing growth of HLI to the miraculous intervention of Our Lady.
A humble instrument
When Our Lady first appeared to Juan Diego in 1531, the Aztec culture was still steeped in bloodthirsty paganism. While the Christian Spanish conquistadors had overthrown the Aztec empire just a few years before, the Aztec religion remained dominant. Human sacrifice, once practiced on an industrial scale but curtailed at the command of the conquistadors, was still conducted behind the Spaniards’ backs.
According to Aztec scholars, at the height of their empire, the Aztecs sacrificed tens of thousands of victims every single year. Children were routinely among the victims. The testimony of European eye-witnesses is so horrifying that one hesitates even to quote their words. “They strike open the wretched Indian’s chest with flint knives and hastily tear out the palpitating heart which, with the blood, they present to the idols,” wrote conquistador Bernal Diaz. Then they would cannibalize their victims.
Our Lady, however, had different plans for this continent and its peoples. Of all the many people she could have chosen to carry out this plan, she selected a poor, uneducated peasant. This is Mary’s way. Think of Loudres, of Fatima, of Banneaux. In each case Mary bypassed the rich and the powerful, and hand-picked the poor and the lowly – often mere children.
As the archangel Gabriel once appeared to the poor, young, unknown wife of a carpenter in a tiny town in Nazareth with a mission of cosmic significance, so Mary appeared to Juan Diego, entrusting to this humble instrument a mission that would, in less than a decade, convert millions of souls to the worship of her Son, and end the scourge of human sacrifice.
How different was the new religion from the old, and how different Mary’s maternal and loving message from that of the blood-lust of the Aztec gods! “No longer,” wrote Fr. Marx in the late 90s, “did the people need to cower in abject terror before the bloodthirsty gods who demanded the death of their children – the destruction of their families. They found refuge beneath the gracious protection of a gentle Mother.”
Mary spoke comforting and compassionate words to Juan Diego. “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” she asked Diego, when she met him as he hurried to find a priest for his dying uncle, who was miraculously cured, as she promised. “I am the merciful Mother,” she said, “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.”
The bloodthirsty gods of the 21st century
How great is our need for the comforting, maternal hand of Our Lady of Guadalupe now! For in our age, the bloodthirsty spirits of the Aztec gods have arisen anew. Yes, the gods have taken new shapes and new names, but the blood-lust is the same.
“In ever greater numbers,” wrote Fr. Marx, “society sacrifices our young and aged at demonic altars, hurrying them to destruction through abortion, sex education, prostitution, pornography, infanticide and euthanasia; foolishly believing that just a little more contraception, just one additional population control program, and we will be blessed with the happiness and peace that we so desire.”
We shudder as we read the descriptions of the Aztec sacrifices. And yet, every day sacrifices of equal barbarity are conducted in every major city in every Western country, with the full endorsement of the law, and even paid for by our tax dollars. Accounts of Aztec parents voluntarily delivering their children to the knives of the priests curdle our blood – and yet so many mothers and fathers do the exact same now.
Would Bernal Diaz have been any less horrified by this coldly clinic testimony of late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart, describing how he conducts his late abortions? He tries, he says, “to take the fetus out either foot or skull first, whatever end I can get to first,” then grasps “the portion that you can get a hold of” at which point he “dismember[s] the shoulder or the hip or whatever it would be.” “Is the fetus still alive?” someone asks Carhart at this point. “Yes,” Carhart responds coolly. “I know that the fetus is alive during the process most of the time because I can see the fetal heartbeat on the ultrasound.”
Trust in Our Lady
Like Juan Diego, we now live in a world in which child sacrifice is embedded deeply in the substructures of our culture. Our gods of wealth, pleasure, and independence demand so much blood in exchange for their poisonous gifts. And like Juan Diego, we may be tempted to wonder what we can possibly do to make a difference, to assume that the case is hopeless. Are we not too weak, too uneducated, too far from the centers of power, too few? We will remain faithful, sure, but we cannot possibly hope to win this fight. The odds are against us. The age of miracles is past.
Fr. Marx addressed this fear. Our Lady of Guadalupe, he said, is the solution. Turn to her. “In contemplating her simplicity we find the strength to emulate her faith,” he said, “and proceed with confidence in the knowledge that God will overcome the seemingly insurmountable barriers looming over the world today.”
It is quite true that we cannot hope to win this fight. But if, like Juan Diego, we submit ourselves humbly to our Lady, and to ask her to use us as her humble instruments, miracles will happen! “Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?” says Our Lady to us, as she said to Juan Diego. “Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.”
We Christians are called to be leaven in the very heart of society. We cannot rest content because we feel there is little we can do to change the course of everyday life and entrenched anti-life mindsets. God will multiply enormously the effect of our small offering of work, prayer, and initiatives.
Let us, like Juan Diego, obey our Blessed Mother in the little things, as well as the big. And let us rely, not upon our own strength, but upon the strength of she who – against all human odds – converted an entire continent to the love of her Son in the space of a few short years. What she accomplished once, she can accomplish again.
“Queen of Apostles accept our complete readiness to work for the restoration and fulfillment of your Son’s kingdom. May we not withhold anything at all in helping bring his salvific Will to fruition. May we be completely dedicated to the cause of the Gospel and of ultimate peace in the world. May our struggle be firmly grounded on justice, and be a stimulus for reciprocal charity among men and women and all nations.” –– St. Pope John Paul II, January 27, 1979
Our Lady of Guadalupe: pray for us!