When Carl Anderson was named Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Catholic fraternity in 2001, he brought the Board of Directors and the officers of the order to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, in order to place the Knights under the protection and intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
"I wanted to emphasize the international character of her message, and the international character of the Knights of Columbus," Anderson told CNA.
He was also inspired by St. John Paul II, who called Guadalupe "an example of perfect inculturation and placed the entire hemisphere under her protection, so it seemed to me that this was the right thing for the Knights of Columbus to do," he said.
The Virgin Mary has often been invoked as a special protectress and patroness of priests. In Nebraska, at an international seminary for the Fraternity of St. Peter, the priests-to-be are under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, for whom the seminary is named.
Valenzuela said that this patronage speaks to the "international character" of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, which is a worldwide congregation of priests specifically formed and trained to celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass.
Our Lady of Guadalupe has a special place in the hearts of seminarians, Valenzuela said, because "the work of Mary is pretty much the work of priests."
"Our Lady of Guadalupe from what I know is the only apparition of Mary where she's pregnant, so what she does, what her full mission is, is to bring Christ into the hearts of man, and that's what priests do, we bring Christ to other people," he said.
Her feast day at the seminary, which includes seminarians from South, Central and North America, is a full day of celebrations beginning with the liturgy and complete with pinatas, a Mexican feast, fireworks, and a mariachi band.
"It's a pretty big feast day," Valenzuela said.
Our Lady of Guadalupe has also been popularized as the patroness of the pro-life movement, particularly in the United States and Canada, "because she is a pregnant woman and she carries Jesus Christ our Lord in her immaculate womb, she is the patroness of life from the moment of conception," Chavez said.
Human Life International (HLI), a group of pro-life missionaries founded in the United States, is one pro-life organization that specifically claims her as their patroness.
"We live in a world in which child sacrifice, i.e. abortion, is embedded deeply in the substructures of our culture," HLI President, Fr. Shenan J. Boquet, said in e-mail comments to CNA.
"The modern-day gods of wealth, power, pleasure, convenience, and independence demand so much blood – sacrifice – in exchange for their poisonous gifts," he said. "In this spiritual and temporal battle, we may be tempted out of fear and discouragement as to wonder what we can possibly do against such determination of will and evil as experienced today in the advancement of the Culture of Death."
Fr. Paul Marx, O.S.B., who choose Our Lady of Guadalupe as patroness of Human Life International, did so because he saw devotion to Mary as "the solution" to moral decay, Boquet said.
"In contemplating her simplicity we find the strength to emulate her faith, and proceed with confidence in the knowledge that God will overcome the seemingly insurmountable barriers looming over the world today," Boquet said, quoting Marx.
Valenzuela said he also looks to Guadalupe for encouragement against the "culture of death."
"Pope John Paul II called the culture in this present time the culture of death. And Our Lady of Guadalupe, she is the symbol of life. Why? Because she bears life, Christ himself, in her womb."
The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the Church today
Chavez said the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to grow and spread, and is evident in the variety of international pilgrims at her shrine in Mexico City.
Her message, he noted, is one of unity and love.
"That is why she is making a new civilization - of God's love - where there are no borders or divisions, where we are all the one family of God. Her dark skin, her mestizo skin, also signals she is the mother of all people," he said.
Anderson, who co-authored a book on Guadalupe with Chavez entitled "Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love", said that amid divisions and tensions in the U.S. and the world, the Virgin is ever urging peace and reconciliation.
"She came at a time when there was a tremendous conflict between the Europeans that had arrived in the New World and the indigenous people, and her message was one of hope, reconciliation, unity, and healing," he said.
"That message has carried through centuries, and I believe that it's just as relevant today, when we look at what is going on around the world, but also right on our own border, we need her message as much today as ever before."
Valenzuela said the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe for Catholics today is also one of total confidence in the love and protection of Mary.
"I think she has a universal message...and this is very important for all Catholics, of this confidence in Mary," he said, "because she tells Juan Diego: 'nothing should frighten you. Let your heart not be disturbed.'"
Editor's note 12/11: A previous version of this story said the Virgin of Guadalupe was crushing a Satanic snake. She is in fact crushing a dark moon, an Aztec symbol of evil. It has been corrected.