By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
As has been his custom since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis celebrates the liturgy in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He was joined by many members of the Latin American community in Rome for the celebration in St Peter’s Basilica on Thursday afternoon. Pope Benedict XVI was the first Pontiff to celebrate this liturgy in 2011 in honour of the bicentenary of independence of the Latin American and Caribbean nations.
Pope Francis delivered his homily off the cuff, saying that the liturgy for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her image displayed on the altar, suggested three adjectives to him. These three adjectives explain Mary’s essence: Woman, mother, mestiza, he said.
Mary as woman
Mary is a woman, the Pope began. She is the woman par excellence most particularly because she is a disciple of her Son, whose message she bears. “It is that simple”, the Pope said. Even though Christians have venerated her under many other loving titles throughout the ages, “nothing else is needed” to describe Mary, he said. Mary is humble and faithful to her teacher, her Son, the only Redeemer.
Mary as mother
Mary never took anything from her Son because she is His mother. “She is our Mother, the Mother of our peoples…the mother of our hearts,” the Pope explained. Not only is she the Mother of the Church, she is also an image of the Church. Therefore, “what can be said of Mary can also be said of the Church which is feminine”, Pope Francis said. The Church cannot be imagined except in this Marian sense. This is essential in understanding the role of women in the Church, the Pope went on. Understanding the role of women only in a functional way is incomplete, he said.
Mary as mestiza
Our Lady wanted to be seen as a “mestiza”, the Pope noted, “not only with Juan Diego. She became a mestizo to show that she is everyone’s mother.” Mary speaks to us just as she spoke with Juan Diego, tenderly, maternally. The Pope concluded his homily noting that Mary appears as a person of mixed race in order to communicate that her Son too is a “mestizo”: that is, He is God, and He is man.