Happy feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is a special feast day to me because it’s the anniversary of the day that I converted to Roman Catholicism and of my first communion and confirmation. It’s a coincidence that this day was the date –I had waited a long time, years really, to decide to “take the plunge” and when I did I asked for the soonest day the church space was free.

The reception of the sacraments was a great gift to me and has continued to be so–the Church for all its human flaws has been a blessing in many ways.

But as the years have passed I’m delighted that it’s this day, because Our Lady of Guadalupe represents some of the best of the Church. Our Lady of Guadalupe is not about ostentation but simplicity. She is not about great political powers but regular people. Her appearance is miraculous and humble all at once.

When Our Lady appeared at Guadalupe, she appeared to a young Juan Diego, and she wore the most ordinary clothes of a peasant. Our Lady showed she stands with those whom no one else may notice but whom God never fails to see. Mary is indeed the one who said Yes to God who “fills the hungry with good things and lifts up the lowly.”

Although I have no personal or ethnic connection to Mexico, I like the idea that she can also be seen as a unitary figure for all of the Americas. We have much in common across our diversity. Our diversity is a gift.

One of the signs given to Juan Diego was to find a rose blooming in winter. I thought of this recently when in mid November I walked through the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and saw a rhododendron blossom blooming three months too late. How surprising. My own backyard rhododendrons had bloomed and faded months before. It really was noticeably out of season. I thought of Juan Diego–not because I thought I was a special recipient of a miracle such as his but rather because it turns out that this is the world that God inhabits and animates: a place where we do discover a Mexican rose blooming in winter, a Boston rhododendron insisting on splendor on a cold November day, and a young poor unknown Jewish woman in Nazareth saying to an angel: “Yes, let it be done, I don’t know what this means, or what will be required, but I do know the one thing is You and the only answer for me can only ever be: Yes.”