Not far from where I write, by American distance standards, is the beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe near La Crosse, Wisconsin. We honour her on December 12. The ground was broken in 2004 under the aegis of Raymond Leo Burke, then the local bishop, now cardinal, and it was dedicated in 2008. Our Lady smiled on its building from the beginning to the present day.
It is a wonderful pilgrimage destination. The shrine demonstrates that beautiful church architecture on a grand scale is still possible today. New materials and technologies can raise new sites of worship for God’s glory.
Speaking of technology, the great relic of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe contains treasures which modern means continue to reveal. On the cactus fibre poncho, or tilma, worn by the recipient of the visit, St Juan Diego, is the image of our Lady as she appeared in that moment. Modern photography reveals that there are no brushstrokes or paint: the image was imposed complete, in one instant. When viewed with infrared technology in 1979, researchers discovered that the tilma maintains a constant temperature of 98.6 Fahrenheit. A familiar number. An ophthalmologist discovered in the image of the eye of Our Lady the reflections of people who were standing before Juan Diego as he revealed the front of the tilma.
The organic fibres of the cloak should have disintegrated long ago, but it remains unchanged. It also was untouched by an anti-Catholic terrorist’s bomb in 1921: 29 sticks of dynamite in a rose vase placed before the image. The stars on Mary’s cloak are in the precise pattern of the day the apparition occurred: December 12, 1531; a Saturday, at 10:26 am. On the ceiling of the narthex of the aforementioned shrine is the star pattern of the day the church was dedicated.
For centuries we’ve developed technology exponentially but it cannot change our fallen human nature. The ancient denizens of Mexico ripped the beating hearts of children from their breasts in honour of demonic gods. Mary’s apparition helped to end that death cult. But can we sophisticated moderns claim to be any better than they when the practice of abortion, with modern technology, is so prevalent? Mary, help us!
Let us ask forgiveness of God for our actions against, and inaction in defence of, human life, invoking Mary’s help under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
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