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Why is Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of the unborn?

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On Dec. 12 we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Did you know that she is the patroness of the unborn?

When Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego nearly 500 years ago, she came first and foremost as a mother — the mother of God and our mother.

“Listen, and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son; do not be troubled or weighted down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain,” Our Lady of Guadalupe is quoted as comforting the saint. “Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

She spoke as his mother and as the mother of an unborn baby Jesus when she appeared on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City in 1531. Her miraculous image, imprinted on the saint’s tilma, or cloak, shows her wearing a black sash, an indication of pregnancy in the native culture.

Our Lady of Guadalupe not only looked like a native woman, but also spoke in the same language as one. She came at a time of conflict between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples to ask St. Juan Diego to persuade the bishop to build a church. As a sign to the bishop, she instructed the saint to gather Castilian roses in full bloom despite the winter. When he presented the flowers to the bishop, he discovered her image left on his tilma.

Today, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City houses that image, which is visited by millions of pilgrims each year. She is not only considered the patroness of the Americas but also of the unborn. Here’s why.

In 1999, Pope John Paul II established Dec. 12 as the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“This is our cry: life with dignity for all! For all who have been conceived in their mother’s womb, for street children, for Guadalupe!” he declared at the basilica.

Neary 20 years later, in 2018, Pope Francis entrusted to Our Lady of Guadalupe “in particular, those who are awaiting the birth of their children.”

“St. John Paul II commended to her maternal protection the life and innocence of children, especially those who run the risk of not being born,” he told Polish pilgrims during his general audience. “By her intercession, in this time of Advent, let us implore the gift of children for families without children, respect for the conceived life and the openness of hearts to Gospel values.”

The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops features a prayer asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as the patroness of unborn children, for “every child at risk of abortion.”

“Help expectant parents to welcome from God the priceless gift of their child’s life,” the prayer reads. “Console parents who have lost that gift through abortion, and lead them to forgiveness and healing through the Divine Mercy of your Son.”

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Why is Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of the unborn?