I remember as a child hearing that "Catholics worship Mary." It was one of the first things I quizzed the archbishop about when I was living in Nicaragua. He very patiently set me straight on the matter, explaining the difference between worshiping God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) and honoring the Mother through whom the Son became incarnate. This was when I first came to really understand the Church as a family: God the Father, Mary the mother, Jesus the Son and our brother.
The relationship between a mother and a child is unique. And so throughout the year we honor Mary under a variety of titles. The apparitions such as at Guadalupe are not considered dogma and no Catholic is required to believe in them. They are classified as "private revelation."
The catechism says about these private revelations,
It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 67)
It seems to me quite reasonable to believe that God has allowed Mary to continue to exercise that maternal role and to appear at particular times and places, pointing people toward her son, and calling us to unity and peace. At least in our house, mom was always the one who reminded us that we were supposed to love one another.
Today we celebrate a series of apparitions that began December 9 1531. In them Mary appears as an indigenous woman to a man named Juan Diego. She not only looked like him, she spoke to him in his language Nahuatl. But the roses that bloomed as part of the miracle were not native to Mexico. They were Castilian.
She was there to unite the two peoples: the Spaniards and the Aztecs.
Recent events have reminded us that we still suffer great ethnic division in our own nation. Today as we honor Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe let us pray the message of unity she brought to Mexico almost 500 years ago will resound in our hearts and in our nation.