Our Lady the Virgin Mary appeared to a mestizo, Juan Diego, in Mexico on December 12, 1531. Mestizos, those of both Aztec and Spanish birth, were reviled by both cultures. The miracle of this apparition of the Virgin Mary is that she did not appear as a white, European Mary, as in other latino countries, nor did she appear as a native person, an Aztec. She took the form of the most reviled - a mestizo. She called the mestizos "mis hijos", my children. Unheard of. And her miracle - roses in a season when flowers did not bloom - turned the Spanish bishop's heart.
Today La Virgen de Guadalupe is known not only as the Virgin of Mexico; she is celebrated as Our Lady of All the Americas.
On the day of her feast, last Sunday December 12, Iglesia Betania held a mass in her honor and the people kept vigil at her shrine at Grace after the service. It was very moving to see the effect of being given space for this shrine, and the presence of the Virgin herself with them, on the people of Betania.
But the latinos are not the only ones who are being effected by her presence with us. People can sense Our Lady is truly there. I will not presume to speak for them. But I can speak for myself. When I knelt to pray before her image, I began merely being polite, and faithful to another peoples' tradition. In an instant I knew and felt differently and found myself crying as I asked her to help us, to soften hearts where they need to be softened, especially toward the latino people among us not only at Grace but in all Norwalk, and to strengthen and stir up those who need to catch the fire that is Christ with us.
The Holy Spirit side chapel at Grace will remain dedicated to Our Lady, the Virgin of Guadalupe, through New Year's Day. I have a feeling this will make a difference in the life that takes place at 1 Union Park in Norwalk, Connecticut. I don't know how; I only know that as I knelt before her, I knew I had been heard, and that my prayer mattered.
One and a half weeks of Advent remain. Make time for silence. Make time to stop, wait, ponder. Something is coming. We may think we know what it is. But be prepared to be surprised.