INTERVIEWING MEXICAN PRIESTS IN MACAU – Importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Mexicans

– Jasmin Yiu

The Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) has invited Msgr Eduardo Chávez PhD, Postulator of the Cause of Canonization of Saint Juan Diego, to present a talk on “The mother who brings the source of life,” explaining the details and message behind the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. O Clarim had the opportunity to talk to two Mexican priests – Fr José Angel and Fr Mejia – in Macau about the importance of the apparition to the Mexican and the people of Latin America.

What significance does Our Lady of Guadalupe have as patroness of Latin America?

Fr Angel: Our Lady of Guadalupe is a very important image of Our Lady to Mexicans. Aside from what it says in Revelation 12:1-2: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child,” she also has the face of a Mexican. Therefore the indigents see her as Our Lady of their own. Also, [from the image,] they also know that Mary exceeds all human [gods], because the traditional gods that they used to worship (sun and moon) appeared all on Our Lady of Guadalupe. The way she stepped on the moon, for them means she is higher than these gods. Therefore the indigents accepted the Catholic faith very quickly after seeing this image. Moreover, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only apparition where Mary is pregnant, and her womb bears the source of life, which made the indigents realize the source of life is God.

Fr Mejia: Who is Our Lady of Guadalupe? First of all, I think we have to understand [that] Mary is the mother of Jesus, and the historical situation is very important to understand. The Spaniards had just arrived in Latin America, bringing the faith – Christianity – to the new world. But then it was very difficult for them to evangelize. And the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe symbolizes a very important way of incarnating the message of Jesus in the new world with the new people. Mary is not a face of a European lady, neither that of a Mediterranean woman. Hers is a mixture of an indigent and a foreigner. And the way she presented herself is not like a powerful [figure], who will destroy patriotic religion or culture, but a tender mother, who talks to these new people about Jesus. In the New World they have their own way of transmitting culture, and in the apparition, the way she appears is with symbols. Juan Diego understood immediately these symbols. So at that time, after the apparition, thousands of indigents accepted the faith because of the way she presented herself. She is not a God, but she is a mother – mother of Jesus, and our mother. The apparition of Mary helps us to understand the way she presented herself and transmit the same Gospel of Jesus – of Love, of forgiveness, of reconciliation. So that’s why, not only for Mexicans, but for the whole Latin America, Mary is the mother of Jesus and our mother, we feel her motherly love.

You have mentioned this is a very special figure of Our Lady, but is there any influence of Our Lady of Guadalupe in your own life or experience?

Fr Mejia: We grow up in the experience of knowing who is Our Lady of Guadalupe, through our family. There are two important things [in Our Lady]: tenderness and service. First, the tender love. She is a mother and she cares. That’s the way she presents herself to Juan Diego. She told him “you are worried because your uncle is sick, but I’m here, I’m your mother. I care for you and your relatives.” That sentence is very strong for every Mexican, to feel that the mother of Jesus is my mother, and she takes care of me, and she loves me tenderly. The other aspect is, Mary is always very humble who goes to serve other people, and I saw this in my grandmother, my mother and many other Mexican women. They don’t have to say what they are doing, but serving others in silence. Like my grandmother, I remembered I was sick one time and I was sleeping at home to rest for the recovery. I heard her leaving the house, and I followed. She was preparing something and went to the neighbor to look after the sick and the elderly, and she never said this thing to others. But I saw this as a service of a mother to others.

From your own personal experience, how do you pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe?

Fr Angel: When I was still a child, there was a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the whole family would say the rosary in front of the statue every night, and we would sing the song “La Guadalupana.” Although kids are sleepy [while praying], at the same time, they find it very comfortable and safe, just like entering into another world, since we know that Our Lady is the mother in heaven and she will bring God to us. When we pray and sing, we could feel the presence of God. For me, I had a special experience of feeling in heaven while saying the rosary, because I knew that Mary was the one bringing us to her Son.

Fr Mejia: Of course one of the basic ways to pray is to say the rosary, and you learn the rosary at home. The sister of my father has 16 children, they gather in their home to pray the rosary everyday. My family is not very traditional, we didn’t pray the rosary together everyday, but at least once a week; so the rosary is very important. But then, when I started growing up, around 16 years old, I joined the Legion of Mary, which was mostly old people. I mingled very well with them, and I started learning to pray the rosary [in a more prayerful way], not just like repeating the lines with the memory. I realized it’s an experience of faith, experience of relationship. What I did when I was praying the rosary by myself, I invented something. Maybe people did not know I was praying when they look at me: I needed to take two buses going home from school, and I was rapping with the lines of the rosary. Praying is something that is personal, where you encounter with your mother, you really talk to her as someone really knows you well. When you bring the relationship with her, it’s totally different.

How much and what is the specific influence of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Mexicans, or even the whole Latin America?

Fr Angel: When you go to Mexico, whether it be a small village or a big city, there are statues or images of Our Lady of Guadalupe everywhere. Especially before the feast in every 12th of December, people do the novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe. During those nine days, there are activities like praying and singing. Some people would also spend several days going for a pilgrimage on foot on their birthday. Last year, we had a group from Macau going there, and there were over ten million people going there for pilgrimage. We believe Our Lady of Guadalupe will help us defend our faith, with the influence of secularism, such as abortion; Mexico is also facing this problem. Our Lady teaches us the importance of respecting life. We hope Our Lady of Guadalupe can revive Mexico, as well as the whole Latin America, amidst the influence of secularism. Also, there are many Mexican martyrs between 1923 and 1927. Through the intercession of Our Lady, they had a very strong faith – they cried out “Viva Cristo Rey y Santa María de Guadalupe!” They offered their life to God with a joyful heart, which shows the importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in their heart.

Fr Mejia: Our Lady of Guadalupe is not just a symbol, but is the figure of Pro-Life. As I have just mentioned, for the indigent people, symbols are very important. The way that Our Lady of Guadalupe presented herself. The black ribbon, in the ancient tribe, represents a lady who is pregnant, implying that she appears with her son, she is pregnant. This is the only apparition that she is talking about her son, not herself. Also, the figure of Our Lady of Guadalupe helps the unity of the family, it’s not only for Pro-life.