There are many parallels between the story of Our Lady’s appearance at Guadalupe and the work of those committed to ending abortion. From the rescuing of innocents from the fate of human sacrifice to a lesson on the mysterious actions of God working among us, Guadalupe never ceases to be a source of inspiration and comfort to pro-life Catholics.
Some of the comparisons between the apparition and our work are quite obvious. One is the image itself: the miraculous representation of Our Lady which has remained in perfect condition for hundreds of years. It is unique, breathtaking and immediately draws us into a relationship with Our Lady as Mother of God and Mother of us all. In a similar way, images of preborn children never fail to appeal to us for help, even after the countless times we have viewed them. Whether on signs, on digital and in print media, or even as ultrasound images of our own children, they draw us into the mind of God, Who wills that we defend His tiny creations.
But there is more to this analogy. Despite the claims of revisionist historians, and despite the admittedly immoral behaviour of some conquistadors, Spain’s expansion into foreign lands was always accompanied by an authentic desire to spread the Christian faith. Evangelisation has frequently been found at the heart of colonisation. Catholics of five centuries ago knew very well their obligation to share the Faith. Indeed, it is a fundamental mandate from Scripture to go, and ‘teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ (Mt 28:19).
The pro-life community, or at least those members who think deeply about their mission, also place evangelisation on a footing above even the saving of children’s lives. As Monsignor Reilly often points out, our work is primarily about souls: the souls of the babies for whom we desire life, and the souls of the mothers, fathers and abortion providers for whom we beg forgiveness.
This work of sharing the gospel can be likened to the gruelling efforts made by the Spanish to subdue paganism and make inroads into a hostile landscape. Very often the work was thankless and the initial conversions were few and far between. Each new Franciscan missionary had no choice but to walk barefoot from Veracruz to Mexico City, a distance of more than three hundred kilometres. How similar this is to the often thankless and seemingly unrewarding work of prolifers who witness outside our abortion mills. Days and weeks may pass without a turnaround - this is even more pronounced in the areas of Australia that have enormous exclusion zones - but still, the prayerful presence continues, often for decades, energised by the hope that accompanies faith in Christ.
Another similarity is the associated cultural problems that pro-lifers have to deal with, in addition to the scourge of abortion. As the Spanish explorers found, sodomy goes hand in hand with human sacrifice, and they were confronted with clay idols engaged in these acts from the time they first entered an Aztec temple on the Yucatan Peninsula. So too, pro-lifers must often to divide their time and energy between opposing abortion as well as other attacks on the family such as homosexual marriage and the rise of the gay lobby, even within our own Church. Perhaps it’s not so surprising that these two vices are so often found together when we consider that these are both sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.
It takes supernatural faith to persevere when so few fruits are obvious; the faith of the Spanish priests must have been sorely tested when they saw so little return for their hard work. Their lot was made even more difficult when the natives began to rebel against the cruel treatment they received at the hands of the First Audience - the five administrators who replaced Cortes after he was accused of wrongdoing. In fact, Mexico was on the verge of a violent insurrection when Bishop Zumarraga fervently prayed to Our Lady for Her intervention. It was at this desperate point that the good bishop asked the Blessed Mother for the sign of Castilian roses, to show him that his prayers had been heard. The answer to those prayers was more stunning than he could ever have imagined: a bouquet of beautiful roses tumbling from Juan Diego’s miraculously imprinted tilma.
Although the initial efforts of the Spanish in Mexico yielded few results, things rapidly changed after the appearance of Our Lady. Those next five years saw five million Aztecs embrace the Catholic Faith, saving their souls and also compensating for the huge losses being sustained in England as millions joined the Protestant revolution. The number of Mexican conversions rose to a staggering nine million in the following decade.
This sudden conversion of millions of indigenous Mexicans to Catholicism has a parallel in our days with the sudden closure of abortion mills and the conversion of hardened abortionists. These events frequently take place without warning, but like the Aztec conversions, are usually the result of fervent prayers to Our Lady.
As one example, Sydney’s Preterm clinic, the oldest abortion facility in New South Wales, closed its doors in 2015, after fifty years of killing tiny babies and fifty years of prayer vigils. Similarly, Albury’s Englehardt St clinic unexpectedly closed last year, after years of persistent public witness from a much-maligned group of pro-lifers.
The 40 Days for Life campaign claims 104 abortion centres have closed since the group began organising prayer vigils in 2007. This is in addition to the more than 16,000 babies that have been saved and the more than one hundred abortion workers who have left their work in that tormented industry.
There was a similar turn of events last year in the UK, at Birmingham’s Calthorpe Clinic. This dedicated abortion mill had been in service for fifty years, with a peaceful pro-life presence there for thirty. It closed its doors suddenly last December, on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Am I not here?”
There would be few Catholics who have spent time outside abortion centres and who would not testify that they had felt the presence of Our Lady there with them. And little wonder, since this is the woman who at Tepeyac, uttered the consoling words to Juan Diego:
“Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you.”
It can be difficult for us to resist the discouragement that comes with seeing the hard-heartedness of our society, the underhandedness of our politicians or the apathy of our acquaintances. But this is little different to the hardships endured by the brave Spanish priests who serve as our inspiration. Although they may not have realised it, they were preparing the way, breaking up the rough ground of souls hardened by human sacrifice and paganism, in order that Our Lady’s visit would bring forth spectacular results.
A culture that embraces human sacrifice is loathe to let it go; as evidenced by the experience of the Spanish and also in our own days. It seems that the price of accepting the consequences of nature is too high in such cultures: for the pagan, sacrifices are a bargain for benefits from an idol, and in our days, blood sacrifice can be the price of freedom from responsibility.
When Pope Pius XII addressed Catholics at Guadalupe in 1945, he said that: "We are certain that as long as you, (the Virgin of Guadalupe), are recognized as Queen and Mother, America and Mexico will be safe". Today’s pro-life activists have that same assurance: as long as we recognize the Virgin of Guadalupe as our patroness, our souls, our work will be safe, and the results will come, in God’s time.
To buy a copy of Warren H Carroll’s excellent book, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness, click here:
This article first appeared at Family Life International.