by Andrew Joseph Koslosky KGCHS, Contributing Writer

What is The Silver Rose? More importantly, should I care and is its message relevant in today’s world?

These are the main questions I get asked when I tell people that I am coordinating The Silver Rose Pilgrimage for our community and our local Knights of Columbus.

The fact is we can say almost everyone knows the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, yet few know about The Silver Rose Pilgrimage which was put into place to remind us of the true message of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

At a time when our society is letting go of so many of our traditions, and ignoring much of our history, The Silver Rose Pilgrimage has managed to continue to grow since its inception back on December 12, 1960. This will in fact be the 64th year of this Pilgrimage program.

The Silver Rose pilgrimage starts in March, each year and ends Dec. 12, on Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day. Eight Silver Roses run along different North American routes, starting in Canada, to every U.S. state, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and Mexico. So, what is the purpose of this annual run?

Let’s take a moment to examine the facts.

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe tells of Her appearance on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City in 1531. Our Lady appeared as a native woman, pregnant with a child. She came at a time of conflict between the Spanish and the indigenous people. She chose to appear to a 57-year-old, widowed, Aztec Indian and farmer, named Juan Diego.

What Diego saw on his daily walk to work would change the life of millions forever. She was a beautiful woman, standing at the top of the hill, who would reveal that She was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her purpose was clear, to offer a message of peace and comfort, to be a source of love, hope and strength, even when the world seemed upside-down and lost.

What an important message for us to receive in our hearts today in the midst of so much suffering and pain in our nation and world.

“Let not your heart be disturbed… Am I not Here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”

She told Diego to visit the local bishop and to tell him that it is Her wish that a temple be built, in Her honor, at the base of the hill. At first, Diego faced much resistance when telling his story. In fact, the bishop asked for a sign that the apparition was real. A dejected Juan Diego went back to Tepeyac, where Mary appeared to him once again.

She instructed Diego to climb to the top of the barren hill and gather a bouquet of roses that he found growing miraculously, though it was the middle of winter. Amazingly, there was an abundance of every color rose. He picked them and carried them to the Blessed Mother. She then arranged the roses in his tilma (a rough cloak woven from vegetable fibers) and sent him back to the bishop.

When Diego presented the bouquet of roses in his cloak, the bishop fell to his knees as he saw, the Castilian roses and more shockingly under it, on Diego’s tilma, an image of Our Lady.

Though the miraculous nature of the tilma of Juan Diego is fascinating to ponder, what is of far greater significance are the words of our Lady.” I am your merciful Mother.” She came to a nation who was once invincible, but now divided and broken, with broken-hearted people. Sounds relevant and familiar to me.

Today, Her Pilgrimage comes to our United States, once invincible, but now a deeply divided country, and broken in many ways. Our people are struggling with many moral issues…such as abortion, the selling of body parts, and the human trafficking of children. The moral compass of our Nation, once based on Judeo-Christian values, has lost its way. It is almost as if the serpent is rearing its ugly head again.

An interesting side note, Ancient texts have celebrated the Mother of God as the one who crushes the serpent’s head. Is it not important and relevant, therefore, that we ask Mary to pray for and protect all during these times of struggles, trials and tribulations?

“I am your merciful Mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; I will listen to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows.”

This Feast of Our Lady, therefore, ought not simply be seen as a cultural, historical or miraculous phenomenon. Rather, it must be seen as an invitation to accept Her as our Mother. I believe that this is what the message is for us today. Our Lady called Herself “your Merciful Mother.”

Understanding its importance and relevance, in 2001, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson expanded the Silver Rose Pilgrimage program saying, “This is a perfect program for the Knights of Columbus. Through it we honor not only Our Lady of Guadalupe and express the unity of our Order, but we also reaffirm the Order’s dedication to the sanctity of human life. It is to the Blessed Mother that we turn to in prayer as we work to end the Culture of Death that grips our society. As we think in terms of ‘One Life, One Rose,’ it is most appropriate that we turn to Our Lady of Guadalupe who made known Her will through Juan Diego and the miracle of the roses.”

The challenge before us today is to teach the world that the life of every human being, unique and un- repeatable, begins at the moment of conception and ends at natural death.

“Let not your heart be disturbed… Am I not Here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”

The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, delivered to us through The Annual Silver Rose Pilgrimage, without a doubt is one of great importance to all of us, especially in the present world we live in. It is comforting to know our hearts can lay claim to the merciful love and protection of this noble Queen, our Mother.

I don’t know about you, but that sure seems relevant to me.