Our Lady of Guadalupe Monday, Dec 12 2022 

Rich in symbolism and significance, this familiar image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is actually a self-portrait. The true story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is fascinating and intertwines cultures across continents and centuries right through to the present. Countless miracles have been attested to devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, including one incredible personal miracle I myself received in 2008.

Read on for more of this intriguing story.

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In the late sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great gave a black Madonna statue to Archbishop Leandro of Seville, Spain. When the Arabs invaded the country in 711, the statue was buried in the mountains of Asturias along the Guadalupe River. (Burying sacred items was a common practice to prevent their desecration and theft.) The legend is that five centuries later, Mary appeared to a man named Gil Codero and instructed him to dig for the buried sculpture. Codero retrieved the statue and placed it in a shrine on that same spot. The Spanish people showed honor to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Spain, by journeying to the shrine to pray.

Several centuries later, on December 9, 1531, across the ocean on the hills of Tepeyac, Mexico, a young peasant named Juan Deigo was drawn to a bright light. There Juan found within a cloud a beautiful woman dressed in vivid colors. The woman spoke to him in his native Aztec tongue of Nahuatl. She said she was the Ever-Virgin, Holy Mary, Mother of the God of Truth. The Lady instructed Juan to go to Bishop Zumarraga of Mexico and tell him to build a chapel on the hill. However, it took Juan three attempts and a miracle before he convinced the bishop that this message indeed came from Mary.

In the midst of winter, Mary provided what Juan thought was a sign for the bishop. It consisted of an exceptional bouquet of flowers, including Castilian roses, that he gathered from snow-covered hills per Mary’s instructions. Mary arranged the flowers herself and wrapped them in Juan’s own modest cloak, known as a tilma. However, it was a much more impressive sign than the beautiful flowers that Mary gave the bishop. Upon opening the cloak to present the bouquet, the exact image of Our Lady as revealed to Juan was printed on his tilma. The shocked bishop humbly dropped to his knees in tears.

The apparition was important to the indigenous people as well because it struck some significant correlations between the natives and their pagan gods:

  • Mary was shown in bright, bold colors standing in the rays of the sun on a crescent moon. The indigenous people considered the goddess Coatlicue the mother of the sun and the moon.
  • Mary told Juan that her name in his native tongue was Tlecuauhtlacupeuh, which means “the one who crushes the serpent.” One of the native gods, Quetzalcoatl, was a feathered serpent to which people sacrificed women and children.
  • The natives soon learned that while the serpent god required human sacrifice, Mary’s son, Jesus, sacrificed himself for all people.

Not only did Mary speak to the people in their language, she reached out to Juan as his friend and protector. She told Juan not to let anything discourage or depress him. She said he should not fear any illness or pain, because she was his mother. She promised to protect him in the folds of her mantle in the crossing of her arms. After the apparitions millions were drawn to this special woman and her message, thereby converting to Christianity.

The Spaniards in Mexico were touched by the miracle, as well. Tlecuauhtlacupeuh, the name Mary used to address herself in the language of Nahuatl, sounded like the word “Guadalupe” to the Spaniards. The Lady even wore stars on her cloak as found on the ancient statue of Guadalupe, so the Spaniards believed she was their own Lady of their native land of Guadalupe, Spain.

In addition, Mary’s relation with Juan forced the Spaniards to reconsider their perceptions of the indigenous people, whom they considered inferior. Mary honored the native culture with her presence. Consequently, the Spaniards had to recognize and respect them equally as children of God.

Scientists made several studies on the tilma to verify its authenticity. The scientific consensus consistently found that the icon truly is a heavenly creation. There are no brush strokes. Nor are the rich colors the result of any paint of dye known to humankind (with the exception of some flourishes added later).

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe illustrates Mary’s love for all people. However, she is most present to the poor, sad, sick, and lonely because that is where she is most needed. She is with us in our grief and human pain. Mary’s motherly concern is that everyone is treated justly and strives to live a life in a way that is pleasing to God. Her message always is to pray more and live peacefully.

Today, Juan’s tilma is displayed in the world’s busiest Marian shrine, Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica, located in Mexico City. Millions of pilgrims travel worldwide each year to see the magnificent piece firsthand. From a moving walkway only a few feet below, pilgrims can see the image of Mary exactly as Juan saw her nearly five hundred years ago. The reality of the privileged opportunity to brush so closely to this self-portrait of our Blessed Mother is evident in the stream of awe-struck faces of the pilgrims beneath it. The experience is life-changing for the many people who claim they receive personal miracles in its presence.

After five centuries, it is extraordinary that the tilma exists today unharmed and without deterioration of the cloth or colors. Made from the fibers of a cactus plant, it typically would disintegrate within twenty years. Also, a bomb exploded beneath it in 1921 ripping apart the marble in the sanctuary but without causing any damage to the tilma or its glass cover. The tilma’s incredible survival alone is an inspiration to patrons praying before it.

—Excerpt from my bestselling book, Grieving with Mary

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You can order Grieving with Mary from Amazon and ACTA Publications. You also might be interested in The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, also available from Amazon and ACTA.

The Book of Which I’m Most Proud Tuesday, Jun 14 2022 

A question I’ve been asked over the years is which of the books that I’ve written is my favorite. This is a question that is as impossible to answer as which child is my favorite. Each book is special to me. I’m proud of all of all of them for different reasons.

Each was written with an intent to fill a need. Each book was sent out into the world with a mission to offer information and consolation to a particular audience. Most have won awards and sold consistently well over the years. And now I’m very excited about a new book coming out this year, which I will tell you about at the end of this post.

Mentoring Heroes was my first book. Published in 2000, this book centered on my recognition through newspaper articles I’d written that successful people attributed their progress to the mentors who helped them along the way. I also recognized that women’s lives are complicated and multi-layered with family, household, and work responsibilities, and therefore, more challenging in finding ways in which to be mentored. Mentoring Heroes was widely used in university Women Studies programs and by clubs and groups. Today, I know that the book is dated in the way that it was printed–with copper plates and blue-line editing as opposed to today’s digital print method–and due to men participating more in household responsibilities and technology offering more ways in which to be mentored. Yet, the overall benefits and need for mentoring remains relevant.

The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, and Fatima at 100. Fatima Today were inspired by a devotion to the Virgin Mary. These were the types of books I wanted to write since childhood. Praying with Mary should always lead to a greater devotion to her son, Jesus. Mary is our heavenly mother, and like a good mother, she loves us dearly, promotes peace among all creation, and encourages us to care for one another as Jesus does. Praying with her offers a sense of calm in a world where this type of alliance is greatly needed.

With the The Rosary Prayer by Prayer readers can pray along simply by following pages showing the placement on the rosary, the prayer to be prayed, illustrations by Joseph Cannella, and a reflection. Grieving with Mary is a best-seller that aligns praying with Mary in a wide variety of ways during times of loss. And Fatima at 100. Fatima Today is a little booklet that reviews Mary’s messages in Fatima, Portugal in 1917 and how those messages remain vital in attaining peace.

Seven Principles of Sainthood Following Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God are books about a woman who immigrated to the United States to teach children and young woman. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, also known as Saint Theodora, and a small group of sisters opened schools throughout rural Indiana and Illinois in the mid to late 1800s, a time when Catholic schools were greatly needed and in which this band of women faced great obstacles. The sisters also opened a school for the higher education of women when women had little-to-no choice for such an opportunity. Seven Principles was written for adults and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God was written for children. I was inspired to write these books after attending Saint Mary of the Woods College, the school Saint Mother Theodore founded, as well as her canonization in Rome, Italy.

Young in the Spirit was published in 2013 when I was closing in on one of those big decade birthdays (I was 60 in 2014-Yikes!). Big birthdays spark contemplation on where we came from, how we arrived at a particular point in time, and where we anticipate the future to bring us. One of the areas of contemplation for me was in regard to my faith—how it changed through the years and what I could offer the Church now. Those thoughts are at the heart of Young in the Spirit.

Hans Christian Andersen Illuminated by The Message was part of a series initiated by my publisher, Greg Pierce. The series offers a unique way to promote prayer by pairing Scripture verses with passages from classic writings. I chose Hans Christian Andersen in remembrance of my mother and her childhood book, a 1936 edition of Anderson’s Fairy Tales, the same book from which my mother read to me.

Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving was born from a need recognized by Pam Sebern, the director of a memory care home where my husband resided in his last years. Pam asked for books to help families understand dementia and better care for their loved ones while caring for themselves along the way. She felt that the books available at that time were too medical and needed a perspective from one who lived the experience. As my husband suffered from symptoms from Alzheimer’s disease for more than 15 years, and I was an author with substantial writing experience, Pam believed I could fulfill that need.

Navigating Alzheimer’s covers the basics of Alzheimer’s and ways in which we can work with our loved one. It offers family members and caregivers a clear overall of the changes they’re likely to notice. The Alzheimer’s Spouse also covers the basics of the disease but from the perspective of the spouse. Alzheimer’s touches every aspect of both spouses in devastating ways. Inspired Caregiving provides readers with a daily/weekly boost of inspiration. Each weekly reflection follows a rotation that includes a photo, prayer, thought, activity, stretch, affirmation, quote, and bit of humor to offer guidance, encouragement, improved self-talk, and maybe a smile. All three of these books are recommended by memory care facilities across the country.  

My next book, which currently is in publication, is less serious. I believe readers and I are in need of opportunities that promote peace, beauty, love, and inspiration. For this reason, my newest book, tentatively called The Gifts of Public Gardens, showcases vivid photos of nature that I have taken at public gardens paired with short, thoughtful poems. My intent is for readers to escape into the positive, wonderous gifts around us. I will keep you posted on when this book will be available.

If you’ve read any of my books, please post a review on Amazon. Readers rely on these comments to find books best suited to their needs.

Do You Want Peace? Thursday, May 12 2022 

If you had the power to bring peace and justice to absolutely everywhere in the world, would you use that power? Would you at least make an attempt to promote peace?

Well, you do have such power, and it isn’t very complicated. More than 100 years ago, the Virgin Mary gave us a peace plan that she promised would work. And she provided clear instructions for us to follow.

Over the course of six months from May 13 to October 13, 1917, Mary appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta in Fatima, Portugal. The plan is simple but does take some effort on our part. Basically, it is to build a relationship with Mary’s son, Jesus. If Jesus is our first thought before we act, we would be kinder, gentler, and loving. The more of us who do this, the more peaceful our world becomes.

One way in which to grow closer to Jesus is to pray the rosary daily. Throughout the rosary, we meditate on the life, works, and death of Christ. The repetition of prayers is calming, which allows us to think clearly. We end feeling more relaxed and positive.

Mary warned that if we did not strive for peace, an already greedy, angry, and selfish world would become worse. At that time, World War I was in progress. Undoubtedly, we did not heed the warning. We know that a greater war did in fact occur, and we have continued with conflicts ever since then.

At the time of the apparitions, Lucia was 10 years old, Francisco was 9, and Jacinta was 7. The Fatima children were quite young yet followed Mary’s instructions to the very best of their abilities. If they could do it, so can we.

For more information on Mary’s peace plan, see my booklet, Fatima Today, available for only 99 cents from ACTA Publications. To learn how to pray the rosary or understand it better, see my book, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer.

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