I’ve only become interested in Our Lady of Guadalupe within the last 4 years or so.
I’m a self-proclaimed artist who finds great joy in creating religious art. After completing pieces of many of my favorite saints to hang around my college home, and then my first apartment after graduating, I wanted to create a picture of Our Lady to add to the collection.
At this time, I had no specific devotion to Mary, or really understood the beauty of having a relationship with our Heavenly Mother. But I was set on decorating my walls with her.
Early on, I decided that I didn’t want to create a picture of Mary that was common. I wanted something unique, something that resembled the real person of our Blessed Mother: a Middle Eastern young woman, who dressed of the time she lived in, in the colors available. I wanted to create a realistic representation of Our Lady that actually looked like Our Lady.
To begin this process, I started with the Bible. I went through the scriptures and found all the verses that prophesied about this mother of our Savior, the verses that described her Annunciation and betrothal, and the end of time scriptures where St. John describes the woman who defeats the serpent and is crowned with a diadem of twelve stars.
After I depleted the Bible of all descriptions of Mary, I moved on to apparitions. I read the accounts that the three children of Fatima recorded as they described the Lady in white who appeared to them. I poured over the recollections of St. Bernadette, who met Our Lady several times in Lourdes. It’s from these witnesses’ descriptions that the images of Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Lourdes were created and used as an aid to their devotions.
The more I read, the more excited I became to finally create my own piece depicting Our Lady. Something stopped me, though, as I was reading about Our Lady of Fatima. The artist commissioned to create the statue of Mary – based on the visions of the three children – revealed his final piece to the young visionaries. They were disappointed.
Upon its unveiling, the children were taken aback. Not because the statue was terribly done, or unacceptable, but because it wasn’t possible for the artist to recreate the immense beauty that Mary radiated during her apparitions.
Mary, whose Immaculate Conception we celebrated on December 8th, walked through our fallen world completely sinless. She knew no corruption of spirit or body, as she was assumed into her Heavenly home without experiencing the pangs of death. Of course, this most perfect instrument working in the hands of Our Lord would be the holder of an indescribable beauty. How was I supposed to translate that onto paper?
It wasn’t long after that I became drawn to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Appearing in the 14th century to a devout Christian farmer, Mary left behind her very own image on St. Juan Diego’s cloak as a symbol of hope and trust that the Mother of God would take her children by the hand and lead them to her most loving and merciful Son. Millions were converted as a result of this image, the only one of Our Lady in existence not forged by human hands. That day, I ended up drawing an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the perfect image of the most perfect woman, and it’s the one that I still admire the most.
As Catholics, we oftentimes get questioned about, or even question ourselves about, the role that Our Lady plays in our lives and the life of the Church. Our humanness tends to liken Mary to one of us–fallen, sinful, and often self-seeking. Our Lady is none of those things. She was conceived free from the stain of sin, lived a life of complete self-gift, brought the Savior to the world so He could save his people, and now continues to bring her children to her Son. She does this not for her praise, but for His; not for her good, but for ours. We can’t comprehend this complete blessing and mission of Our Lady if we paint her in our own broken likeness. Instead, we must allow her to reveal herself to us, clothed in the beauty of her goodness and in glorious colors we can’t even imagine on our own.
I have since acquired a great devotion to our Blessed Mother, who has taken me by the hand and led me so much closer to the heart of her Son and keeps me rooted there in times of trial or anxiety. I call upon her guidance and intercession daily, looking to her example of total trust in the Lord and His plans for her. I pray that you can do the same by opening your heart to the unimaginable beauty of the gift that is Our Lady.