I feel so fortunate to have a devotion to Mary Jesus’ mother. We got our first look at Jesus' incredible powers came when Jesus performed a public miracle because his mother asked. He said it was not his time yet, but his mother asked for help. And he could not resist his mother’s request. That fact alone should encourage us to seek her assistance when we need to approach Jesus for help.
Throughout history, Mary has visited humankind at sites around the world. At least 13 apparitions of Mary have been recorded. My favorite aspect of those visits is that her physical appearance always reflects the local culture.
The two most dramatic examples of this are Our Lady of La Vang in Vietnam and Our Lady of Guadalupe. She appeared in Vietnam, when Catholics were being persecuted and killed, as a stunningly beautiful Vietnamese woman with the child Jesus. In the sixteenth century, Mary appeared in Mexico, and her face had the appearance of an indigenous maiden. The meaning of that is instantly evident; Mary is one of us – all of us!
Her appearance as an indigenous, dark-skinned woman is something all of us should embrace at this moment when race relations are so much on our minds. Millions of Mexicans, Latin Americans, and U.S. Hispanics can see themselves in her face. Her complexion is mestiza (i.e., mixed races), just like so many of them. Her face is their face. All people of color can realize how much she and Jesus value them through her appearance. The work of artist Yolanda Lopez (seen above) is tantalizing as she portrays Our Lady of Guadalupe performing everyday activities such as sowing and running.
Mary is a sign of divine presence in history, and the beauty of what she tells us in her visits is that God loves all people. Prejudice in our society—and in the Church— is real. Cherishing the indigenous, dark-skinned face of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a good step in forming a welcoming heart for all people.