This painting by artist Lalo Garcia seen Nov. 20, 2019, is part of an exhibit in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. OSV News photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Indigenous inspiration drawn from Our Lady

  • December 9, 2023

Graydon Nicholas says he never turns down an invitation to talk about Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Wolastoqey Indigenous elder, chancellor of St. Thomas University and member of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle, will deliver a presentation about the patroness of Indigenous peoples in North and South America on Dec. 12 at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Halifax.

Nicholas’ talk is part of a Mass to commemorate both the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the National Day for Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples for the Canadian Catholic Church. Halifax-Yarmouth Archbishop Brian Dunn will preside over the liturgical service.

Nicholas, the former lieutenant governor of New Brunswick, will delve into how Mary, Mother of Jesus, in the form of an Indigenous woman, appeared to the Mexican peasant Juan Diego in four Marian apparitions during December 1531. Mexico was under the control of the Spanish Empire at the time. According to accounts, the apparition spoke in Diego’s first language, Nahuatl, a language of the Aztecs.

Nicholas first witnessed the missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in January 2006. He said he became an instant follower. He shared this image with four First Nations communities that month. He wrote about these experiences in a document outlining the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Indigenous people.

“The people were deeply and profoundly touched by her apparitions and especially her Indigenous appearance and language,” wrote Nicholas.

“This was never told to my people by the missionaries and priests about the love of Jesus and His Mother for our people.”

Nicholas has shown the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to tens of thousands of people over the years. He said he and his wife Elizabeth have witnessed “many miracles of family healing, devotion to prayer, return to the Church and medical healing through her intercessions,” including Elizabeth in August 2006. He expressed belief that Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercessions guided him to joining the Knights of Columbus in 2009 and serving as lieutenant governor from 2009 to 2014.

Still, he would like to see more Catholics, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, become inspired by these apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

“You don’t hear it very much from the pulpit for whatever reason,” said Nicholas. “If I have an opportunity to go and share that beautiful story with the people, I will. What you have to remember is what Pope Francis said: ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe came. She did not use force. She did not abuse people, and yet she invited people to follow her son Jesus.’ That is a beautiful story of evangelization instead of using soldiers or government policy to try and convert Indigenous peoples, using the Catholic Church as their instrument.”

Nicholas wrote that within six years of the Our Lady of Guadalupe miracle “over six million Mexicans converted to Catholicism.”

To commemorate National Day for Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, Nicholas invites people across the country to read scripture, receive the Eucharist and participate in prayer circles and other Indigenous sacred ceremonies.

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