The most effective missionary in the history of the Catholic Church has to be the Blessed Virgin Mary. At a time when the powers of Europe were attempting to form a new religion in the Protestant Reformation and many people considered the Catholic Church to be a thing of the past, the Church was in fact experiencing an explosion of conversions that may have even surpassed the early work of the Apostles. Through the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, millions of Mexicans were inspired to embrace Jesus Christ.
This does not mean, however, that the dynamism of the image painted by God was only intended for the Mexican people of the 16th Century. I have come to believe that this incredible image has layers of potential which can both guide and inspire us in 21st Century America.
Our Lady of Guadalupe has the power to awe us with her beauty and serenity, and she has the power to inform authentic evangelization. In terms of her beauty, gazing upon this image gives us access into the depths of Marian devotion, that gentle receptive posture towards God which is the hallmark of true devotion and authentic discipleship. In terms of evangelization, in this one image we see the whole gamut of the Catholic imagination; an imagination which takes everything that is good, true, and beautiful, and shows how it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
As we gaze upon this image and enter into conversation with la virgencita, we learn the interior openness needed for authentic missionary dialogue. As our Lady took the symbols and images of the Aztec religions in order to proclaim Jesus Christ, so to must we point to those elements of the culture which can help contemporary audiences to embrace Jesus Christ. Instead of condemnation and a posture of being a “culture warrior,” we must let our Lady teach us the gentle art of persuasion which is the fruit of authentic love and friendship.
That is why I want to invite all people to open their hearts to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Let us hang this incredible image within our homes and places of work, subtly proclaiming to the world our love for both the Blessed Virgin Mary and her incredible power to transform hearts.