Mother Mary holds place in many hearts

By Helena Rodriguez: Local Columnist

When Pope John Paul II was buried in April, his simple coffin had an engraved cross and letter “M” for Mary. John Paul II held a special devotion to the Virgin Mary, declaring her “Patroness of the Americas.”

Since the Virgin Mary, also known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, was first believed to have appeared to an Indian boy, Juan Diego, in Mexico City in 1531, this Biblical maternal figure has evolved into a religious and pop culture icon who has not been without controversy, from reports of tortillas bearing her image to a controversial Da Vinci Code book, which challenges the biblical accounts of her historic role.

Like Pope John Paul II, whom I greatly admired, Our Lady of Guadalupe holds a special place in my heart, too. In fact, my car license plate reads “Luke128,” the scripture in which the archangel Gabriel appears to her and says, “Hail full of grace!” Many forget that had this young virgin not said yes to God, there would be no Jesus.

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be observed on Monday, marking 474 years since the mother of God reportedly appeared on the mountain of Tepeyac and left her sacred image on a tilma, which is said to have withstood a bomb explosion.

Since then, all kinds of “Marion sightings” as they are called, have been reported around the globe, some believable, some not. As for me, I witnessed her presence in the 1980s when a huge Our Lady of Guadalupe fiesta was held in Clovis and a rainbow of the Mexican flag colors appeared in the sky on that clear day.

My love for Our Lady of Guadalupe grew even more when I lived in Abilene, Texas, and a friend, Debra Vasquez, gave me a book to read and invited me to the mañanitas at 5 a.m. where a special mass and singing was held.

Every year during the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I enjoy watching the special programming, which the Spanish TV channels devote to this feast and I wonder why the English media pay little attention.

A friend told me this is a Mexican culture thing, but I don’t believe that. Pope John Paul II declared Mary patroness of all the Americas and during Hurricane Katrina, CNN news anchor Soledad O’Brien reported that many homes in the New Orleans area had statues of the Virgin Mary in the front yard, many of which were not even chipped while entire structures behind them were destroyed. I’m sure many of the New Orleans’ Catholics are not Hispanic.

I talked to a woman, Tomasa Gonzalez, who told me about her recent “Marion sighting,” it’s a warm, inspirational story that offered her family hope during a time of sorrow.

According to Tomasa, they were visiting her nephew, Chris Leal, who was terminally ill in an Abilene hospice. She scolded her niece’s daughter for playing with her cell phone and snatched it from her after the girl snapped a photo with it. When Tomasa looked at the call phone photo, she immediately saw the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a wall near Chris’ bed. But she dismissed the incident until the next day when she asked others to look at it and they immediately saw the image too.

There are countless other stories like this. In fact, in 1988, ABC TV’s “20/20” did a documentary when hundreds of people reported a Marion sighting in Lubbock.

So believe what you will. As for me, I believe this biblical woman, the second Eve, known as the “Mystical City of God,” designated as “she who will crush the serpent’s head” is making her presence known.

Don’t be fooled into thinking she’s an Aztec pagan goddess as many who are threatened by her try to say and don’t think Catholics worship her. Not true.

Tele-evangelist Pat Robertson says we pay too much attention to her, I respond with this saying: “Know Mary, Know Jesus, No Mary, No Jesus!”

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: