The Blessed Virgin Mary is an evangelist in all times, in all cultures. She was essential to the evangelization of the Americas from the time of the first Christian missionaries who came to these shores. John Paul II said that “the Most Blessed Virgin is linked in a special way to the birth of the Church in the history … of the peoples of America; through Mary they came to encounter the Lord.”
Today, we are called to the work of a new evangelization—we are called to invite the world into deeper communion with Christ and His Church. We are called to propose Christ, as if for the very first time, to a culture that has largely lost sight of the Christian sensibilities in which it is rooted. We are called to propose to people an encounter with Christ.
If we wish to be successful evangelists—successful missionaries to a people who need Christ—we need the Blessed Virgin Mary. And in our culture, in our nation, in our communities, and in our families, we need the Virgin of Guadalupe.
As we undertake the work of the new evangelization, we are called to imitate the love of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There are, in particular, three elements of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the heart of her prophetic witness to the modern world: respect for the poor, commitment to the dignity of life, and evangelization through the power of beauty.
When the Blessed Mother appeared on Tepeyac, she appeared to St. Juan Diego, the Nahuatl Indian who was among the first to be baptized by Franciscan missionaries in Mexico in the early 16th century. She did not appear to the missionaries themselves, or to Bishop Zummarraga, or to the Indian and Spanish nobility in Mexico. Instead, the Blessed Virgin Mary entrusted the responsibility of proclaiming her presence to a simple man with no contacts, connections, or influence. She did so because she saw his dignity, his holiness, and his ability.
The Church calls us to “preferential respect for the poor.” Above all else, this means respecting the dignity, the capacity, and the call to holiness of the poor—and inviting those experiencing all kinds of poverty to share in the Church’s mission to the world.
When we invite the poor to share in the life and mission of the Church, we witness to the invitation Christ extends to each of us—poor and unworthy ourselves—to share in His mission and in His life.