Jeanette Rodriguez,theology professor and chair of the Religious Studies and Theology Department at Seattle University, on the significance of Our Lady of Guadelupe for the indigenous poor:
For some Latinos, the Guadalupe story is the lifeline to their culture, their homeland. I remember a story my mother told me about when she first arrived in the United States. When she got off the plane–it was one of those planes that had bleachers, not airplane seats–she said that the minute her foot touched the earth, the land, she felt like all the blood drained out of her body. For some people, the Guadalupe story is the connection to their past and culture.
We here in the West struggle with spiritual poverty. I think the reason Americans are so spiritually deprived is because they’ve lost their way and don’t know how to access spiritual connections at a deep level. A lot of the transmission of faith was through the family. How can you expect to talk to a people about community when they do not have that experience culturally or religiously? You can’t give what you haven’t got. So the challenge then is how to create the community we talk about but don’t give people an experience of.
Guadalupe resurrects a notion of a much more loving, an unconditionally accepting God. Even the other Marian images–I don’t mean to critique them, but when I read their messages, they don’t grab my heart the way the Guadalupe one does because they’re conditional. I don’t know if you’ve seen the document on Fatima, but it’s scary.
Guadalupe’s message is so transformative because it’s so accessible. How could you not respond to someone who offers you love, compassion, and help-when someone promises you that they’re going to be there to hear your sorrows and pains?
In that sense, I think she resurrects or reminds us of that unconditional love of God. Her presence among the poor once again reminds us of the original intent of the biblical God of liberation and the message of Jesus as I understand it. To me it’s much more liberating.