There are many depictions and accounts of Mary appearing to people to offer the world guidance in their faith and in pursuit of her Son. Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady at Fatima, Mount Carmel... there are many. My personal favorite is Our Lady of Guadalupe, the only confirmed apparition of Mary in the Americas.
On his way to work one December morning, Juan Diego was startled by beautiful music and an inexplicable apparition of the Virgin Mary, dressed in a tilma, just like Juan himself. Mary did not look like the common statues we see today in churches; she appeared dark complected and dressed in traditional Mexican native clothing. In short, Mary looked like Juan. She asked Juan to tell the local bishop to build a church on the hill where she had appeared to Juan and sent him on his way.
The bishop did not believe that this poor, uneducated, native man had seen Mary. It wasn't until a few days later, when Juan opened his tilma to reveal the roses (completely out of season) that the bishop believed. Mary had left her mark on Juan's tilma, leaving her own image as proof that Juan had been blessed by her. She, Juan's mother, had provided for him, helping to care for his uncle so that he could do what she had asked. When Juan opened his heart to her, she asked him, "Am I not here, your mother?" and then gave him the help he needed, as any mother would.
Mary's appearance to St. Juan Diego has always held a special place in my heart. I grew in a parish that had a vibrant and active Latin American, predominantly Mexican, community. There is always a huge celebration on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The homily I heard year after year at this celebration helped my younger self that the feast is not just about Mary appearing to someone. It is about Mary appearing to a downtrodden, abused, and discriminated against group of people. And not only did she appear to an indigenous man, but she appeared as an indigenous woman. Mary proved to St. Juan Diego, a man who had been raised in the Aztec religion, that he was worthy of his Savior's mother's love, regardless of how he was treated because he was an indigenous man.
I love the statues that are so often found in churches today based off of the image on St. Juan Diego's tilma. Although there are many other miracles associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe (miraculous healings, the tilma has not decayed in over 500 years, etc.), the greatest part to me is that Mary, just like her Son, did not come for the already devout, the wealthy, or the educated. She came to man of great faith and small means, who believed himself unworthy.
Let's take some time this evening to pray for those who are still mistreated and misrepresented in our churches. Who look at white-washed statutes and images and wonder if there is any room for them in this faith. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.