Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love

By Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chávez

Doubleday, 2009

236 pages, $22.99

To order: GuadalupeBook.com

When Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531, she came not only to evangelize the Aztecs — she brought a timeless message: to build the civilization of love.

That’s a major theme in Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love, co-written by Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Msgr. Eduardo Chávez, postulator of the cause of canonization of St. Juan Diego.

With careful research and vivid details, Anderson and Msgr. Chávez recount the story of the apparitions and the historical/political/cultural situation in which they occurred.

One of the book’s many sources is the earliest edition of the first full account of the apparitions — information apparently from Juan Diego himself. In an appendix, the authors include this “Nican Mopohua” with its native, poetic flow.

The events of Dec. 9-12, 1531, take on added significance because the authors explain them with meticulous insights from the nuances of the native language. Likewise, there are pages and pages analyzing in detail every nuance of color and figure and form of the flowers on Our Lady’s tunic. They are details that even the simplest peasant at the time would immediately understand as referring to building a civilization of love. That accounts for the nine million conversions in so short a time.

The meaning of all these details grows into building the civilization of love because Our Lady of Guadalupe’s answer to our problems is not political but spiritual and, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has said, “her solution, although articulated clearly in the Mexican situation, is one that is relevant in all ages.”

In fact, over and over, the book weaves the words and writings of Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II together with Our Lady of Guadalupe’s call to us to build that civilization of love today.

“Juan Diego remains for us an example today, especially for the New Evangelization,” write the authors, “In his role in the apparition and in his life afterward, he is a model of … the role of every believer to transform culture.

“It falls to us to continue this sequence of conversions, and through our conversion of self to … bring conversion to those around us by our witness.”

While the authors talk about the family and its major role in building the civilization of love, they don’t include the fascinating details from recent expert research (such as by José Aste Tonsmann) examining Our Lady’s eyes on the tilma. Reflected in them are 12 people, including an Indian family with three children. A discussion of these discoveries — which were made in our time — would be helpful now, at a time when the family is under relentless attacks.

Still, we more fully understand why Our Lady of Guadalupe is “Queen of all America” and why, conclude the authors, “Our Lady of Guadalupe offers us the promise that the Continent of Hope may one day blossom into a Civilization of Love.”

Staff writer Joseph Pronechen

is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.