Written by: Carina Marchetti, Catholic Gator
The year is 1531. The Virgin Mary appears on a barren, desolate hill in Mexico in the middle of December. This is her story — and mine.
If you would like to read the full story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this goes more in depth- https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=456
TL;DR: The Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a middle-aged lower class native Mexican who had never received any formal education. She wanted a Church built in the location where she appeared so that she could hear petitions and heal the suffering of the Mexican people. The Bishop said no; Mary said try again. The Bishop said no again and asked for a sign. Juan Diego’s uncle got sick, but Mary healed him so that Juan Diego could continue his mission. Mary had Juan Diego gather flowers in his tilma in the dead of winter to bring to the Bishop as a sign. When Juan released the flowers from his tilma in front of the Bishop, an image was left behind: the image that we know as Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Bishop instantly believed and repented. A church was built where Mary had requested and the tilma was displayed for all to come and see. As millions flocked to see her, Our Lady of Guadalupe was responsible for the conversion of most of Mexico.
My Saint Stalker.
Fast forward a mere 486 years to December 12th, 2017, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day. I learned a lot about her that day (mostly via the many Catholic women I follow on instagram). I had known about Our Lady of Guadalupe before (whom I so affectionately call Guady) . My main memory of her was a cartoon I watched in Catholic School that depicted her story. I had purchased a Guady medal the summer before, but the first time I ever wore it was on her feast day. It was an ordinary day and a minor start to my devotion to her, but I always felt that I didn’t have a reason to have a devotion to her. I had never been to Mexico, I am not Mexican, I didn’t feel that I was justified in a devotion to her. (It’s silly, I know. I think she thought so too.) That’s where the fun began.
The next day, I was in Publix with my mom. We were buying taco seasoning and tortillas for taco night. In the ethnic food section (literally right by the tortillas) there were religious candles…..one of which had Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. I pointed it out to my mom and we agreed that this was strange. We moved on with our grocery shopping and I moved on with my life. I thought.
A few days later, I had a friend staying with me and I brought him to a church for an award ceremony. As we were leaving, we saw a rather large statue of Guady being loaded onto a truck (presumably being put back where she belonged following the celebration for her feast day). I joked that maybe she was stalking me. If only I knew…
Another couple of days passed and I had two more friends come to stay with me. To thank me for my hospitality, they brought me a gift: a journal. Who was on the journal? None other than Our Lady of Guadalupe. At this point I was starting to get a little weirded out.
The next week, I went to John 15, a retreat for past Life Teen Summer Missionaries that’s held every December. I had several encounters with Guady at John 15, but most notably on the last day. I was sitting in mass next to the (old) sacristy at Hidden Lake. I happened to glance over into the sacristy and just sitting there, watching me, was a large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Why was she in there? Why was she watching me? Why did I just so happen to sit in the one seat right next to the sacristy???? Heck if I knew.
I went home from John 15 and told my mom that Our Lady of Guadalupe was stalking me, to which she responded sarcastically, “yeah, okay…” My friend Sophia was still staying with me and we were browsing through the app for FOCUS’ SLS Conference (which we were both going to in January). Sophia stopped suddenly and said, “Carina. Go look at who the patron saint of SLS is.” Can you guess who???? Obviously, Guady.
The next crazy instance was 3 days later, on Christmas. I went to the church that I always go to at home for Christmas Morning Mass with my family. I saw Our Lady of Guadalupe not one, not two, not three, not even four times that morning — I saw her FIVE, yes five, times. I think this was the moment that I knew this was so real. She was stalking me. My mom still thought it was just a coincidence.
I had no idea what Guady wanted from me or what she was trying to tell me. I figured she wanted me to go to SLS (which I was already planning to do). I thought that maybe I needed to go to Mexico. But other than that, I was at a loss.
Wanna go to Mexico?
At SLS, I told my discipler Hayley about this wild chain of events. Her response was, “Did you know that Kassandra (one of our other FOCUS Missionaries) is leading the spring break mission trip to Mexico City? You should talk to her about it.” Mission trip applications were due back in November. It was January. I never even considered that as an option.
I talked to Kassandra and she said, “Do you want to come?”
W H A T ?
I had nothing to lose. I didn’t have spring break plans. I would have to fundraise but I figured that if I was supposed to do this, I would be able to raise the money. Why the heck not?
I applied as soon as I got home.
All through this time, I was still seeing Guady in the most random places, almost every day. I discovered a book on my bookshelf all about her, which I didn’t even know I had.
I began fundraising less than a month before we were to leave, not really knowing where I was going to get $1200. I asked Guady for help. Within a matter of days, I received a $1000 donation and I was fully funded. I was going to Mexico.
Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope
In the weeks leading up to leaving for the mission trip, I was having a very rough time. I was not doing well. I got to a place that I truly never thought I would reach: rock bottom. I felt like I had lost my grip on everything, especially my mental health. I was failing my classes. I was bailing on all my commitments. I was in a very dark valley. I was considering medically withdrawing from all my classes. I dropped everything and decided to completely disappear by going home for a week. That was the mental state that I was in when I got on a plane to Dallas to meet up with the rest of the group.
To say that the mission trip was perfectly timed is an understatement. It was exactly what I needed. I was able to to get away from everything and everyone. I was able to to get out of myself and serve others and be surrounded by new people. I was able to forget about the dark valley, even for just a minute. I was able to experience true joy and remember what it feels like. For the first time, I was completely vulnerable with a group of my peers, and it was refreshing to just be real for once.
I brought all of my suffering to Our Lady of Guadalupe. In our daily visits to her, she spoke to the depths of my heart, “let me be your hope.” The famous words she spoke to Juan Diego when she healed his uncle rang loud and clear, “Am I not with you who am your mother?” As it turns out, she was with me. Not just in that moment, but since she started stalking me in December. She had been a beacon of hope every single time I spotted her in the most random places at the most unexpected times. She was always there. My mother, there to protect me, to guide me, to pray for me. When I looked up into her eyes, I saw her sorrow. I felt her weeping for me and with me. I felt how deeply she wanted to be my hope, to lead me to her Divine Son.
One of the most significant experiences I had in Mexico was finally gaining clarity. I knew that I needed to withdraw from my classes and allow myself time to heal and learn how to take care of myself. I am not sure that I would have had the strength or the courage to actually go through with it if it were not for all the time I spent in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I finally started to grasp what the Lord was calling me to for my future. For a while, I had wanted to be a FOCUS Missionary, but with everything I was going through, I doubted that I could even do it. I was a mess and I didn’t have any of my life together — at all. How could I possibly be a missionary? But the funny thing about God is that He doesn’t care about our mess. Through the people who were on the trip with me, I started to understand that it doesn’t matter if I have it all together. I knew that if the Lord was calling me to do this, He would give me the ability to do it well. I decided that I definitely needed to apply.
The intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe has radically changed my life. When I got back from Mexico, I went through with my medical withdrawal. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I took concrete steps to heal and mend my broken soul. I stopped letting my brokenness define me. I realize now that I had allowed Guady to find me and bring me to Jesus so that He could carry me out of my dark valley. I think that is what she wanted to do all along.
Our Lady of Guadalupe wants me to be a FOCUS Missionary. I say this a lot, but I really believe that it’s true. The clarity that I gained in Mexico was not a coincidence. I decided a few months ago that when I renewed my Consecration to Jesus through Mary that I would do it on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (For more on Marian Consecration please see https://totalconsecration.newevangelizers.com/consecration-explained/). The 33 days preparation for my reconsecration started on November 9th, the day that just so happened to be the first day of the FOCUS Recruitment Weekend that I went to for my interviews. I saw her e v e r y w h e r e while at Recruitment Weekend. I saw her as I walked to my interview and in a different place as I left my interview. I absolutely knew that this is what the Lord was calling me to, and I knew that Our Lady of Guadalupe wanted it for me; perhaps even more than I did. Well, let me tell you, Jesus gives His mother what she wants. FOCUS offered me a spot as a missionary for next year and I accepted. I’m going to be a FOCUS Missionary!
The last year of my life has been a whirlwind with Guady. She has been with me through it all, through my lowest lows and my highest highs. She has been praying for me so intensely. I firmly believe that I would not be where I am right now had it not been for Guady stalking me, praying for me, and literally bringing me to her so that she could bring me to Jesus.
I still see her every single day, without fail, in the most unexpected places.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is our most kind and merciful mother. She embodies the very definition of compassion: “to suffer with”. She suffers with every one of her children. She desires to do for each one of us what she did for the Mexican people: to hear our petitions and heal our suffering; to bring us to the child in her womb, Jesus Christ. All we have to do is turn to her and ask her to do it.
So will you? Will you let our mother be your hope?
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!