Saturday, October 31, 2009

Book Review: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Civilization of Love

Just in time for her feast day, December 12, this book by Carl Anderson and Fr. Eduardo Chavez documents the visitation of Our Lady to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on Tepeyac. Anderson and Chavez recount the visitation using several sources, including the testimony of Juan Diego himself as well as his contemporaries.

I knew the outlines of the story but I didn't realize how the Virgin spoke to Juan Diego in his native language, using phrases and endearments that he would recognize. And, as she did later at Lourdes and Fatima, she chooses her messenger from among the lowest caste.

In fact Juan Diego protests that there are others who would be better suited to deliver her request for a church to Friar Zumarraga, the bishop-elect of Mexico. But the Virgin insists and Juan Diego obeys. Fr. Zumarraga's staff stonewalls Juan Diego and later lies about his actions, but he delivers the Virgin"s message and later the proof Fr. Zumarraga demands: flowers wrapped in his tilma. And the incredible image we know as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

An incredible image it is, too. Anderson & Chavez write about the scientific examinations the tilma has undergone over the centuries, how this simple garment has withstood deterioration, the lack of damage from acid and bombs. They also reveal the complex symbolism of the painting, incorporating images recognized by the Spanish and by the native population, including the fact that Our Lady is a mestiza: a mixture of Spanish and native. I found this section quite interesting and wish I had known more about it when the authorized reproduction of Our Lady of Guadalupe visited my parish several years ago. In fact, my one complaint is the lack of color illustrations in this section of the book.

Anderson & Chavez spend a lot of time on the historical events at the time of the Apparition (1531), both in Europe as well as the New World, further clarifying the extraordinary power of the apparition and why Our Lady of Guadalupe is so highly honored in the Americas, including the United States and Canada. And explaining, as well, the significance of Mary to the Catholic Church.

The final section discusses the hope the Virgin brings to us because she carries her Son with her always. She directs our attention to Him and models for us the behavior of a true believer. To quote from the book, "...she is the spiritual mother we all share, perfectly enculturated, a symbol of the "catholic" aspect of a Church where all are full members and all are welcome as equal heirs to the kingdom of God." We share Mary as our Mother and with her help, we are called to bridge the gap between cultures and countries.

The Appendices include The Nican Mopohua, the earliest written record of the apparition, as well as a Chronology, prayers, and a bibliography. There are extensive footnotes.

Carl Anderson is the Chief Executive Office and Chairman of the Board of the Knights of Columbus. Fr. Eduardo Chavez is an expert on the Guadalupe apparitions and was the postular of St. Juan Diego's cause for sainthood.

The book is well-written in language for the layman. Canonical and theological terms are explained without slowing down the narrative.

FTC Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book for review from The Catholic Company

On the March Hare scale: 4 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civiliation of Love.

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

1 comment:

Liz said...

Well, I learned something today. So the day is starting out well. I wanted to just make a remark about a book I think Catholics will really embrace, though the subject matter may seem very humdrum. "Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!" has great stories about the saints (and personal stories about pets loved and lost), but it also talks about God's creation of all things and the universal call to all humankind to be stewards of the earth. It also is a call to action for all Catholics to to be stewards of creation. It's based in Catholic theology, but is really easy and fun to read.