Two important feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary take place during the Season of Advent: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, on December 12th. Closely related to both feasts is the December 9th Memorial of Saint Juan Diego, (the messenger of Our Lady of Guadalupe).
The Immaculate Conception: On December 8th, we recall and celebrate how God preserved the Virgin Mary, from the very moment of her conception, from every stain of sin. In a mysterious and wonderful way, God permitted our Blessed Mother to receive, in anticipation, the grace of eternal salvation which her Divine Son would win for all mankind by His Passion and Death. In this way, the Virgin Mary was prepared to receive and fulfill her call to be the Mother of God; the Virgin Mary’s heart was totally pure from her conception and thus her womb was the fitting vessel in which God the Son could be received into the world. The purity of her heart is a sign to us of how our hearts must become pure, with the help of God’s grace, in order that we may welcome our Lord ever more fully into our lives and be ready to meet Him at His Final Coming.
Saint Juan Diego: On December 9, 1531, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at that time in the Spanish Empire, Juan Diego, a native was on his way to his parish church for the celebration of the feast, when Mary appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, and asked him to be her messenger in carrying out a special mission of love on behalf of his people and all the peoples of the American continent.
The mission was to have Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, O.F.M., First Bishop of Mexico, build a chapel on Tepeyac Hill, in which she might show to all peoples God’s mercy and love in her Divine Son. She announced her name as the Perfect Virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe. God imprinted the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan Diego’s cactus-cloth mantle in which he gathered roses. There is no human explanation of how the image is imprinted. The cactus-cloth mantle which should have disintegrated within thirty to forty years remains intact today, so that we can still gaze upon the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe who is, by a very special title, our mother in America.
Our Lady of Guadalupe: We celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th, the day which marks both her last appearance to Saint Juan Diego, with the miracle of the roses and of the sacred image, and her appearance to Juan Bernardino. In a very special way, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe uncovers for us what the Coming of our Lord means for us in America. It is our Blessed Mother who teaches us how immeasurably God loves us, treasures every human life, without exception or boundary. She draws us to Jesus Christ, her Divine Son, so that, through our union of heart with His Sacred Heart, we may know directly in our lives, especially through the Holy Eucharist, the love of God and become, with her, bearers of God’s love to all our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable and those in most need.
In a special way, may our celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the title under which the Blessed Virgin Mary is the patroness of our nation, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, inspire in us a new enthusiasm and a new energy to be the heralds of God’s mercy and love to all our brothers and sisters.