On Monday, August 20, after the defeat of a bill intended to make abortion more widely available in Argentina, several pro-abortion extremists defaced the outdoor image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the parish of Santa María de Betania (Our Lady of Bethany) in Buenos Aires. They also left posters with pro-abortion messages to make it clear what their motive was.
This came 11 days after the Argentine Senate rejected a law that would have liberalized abortion laws. Currently, Argentina allows abortion only in cases of rape or to save the mother’s life; the defeated bill would have legalized it for any reason during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Fr. Fernando Caviedes, LC, pastor of the parish whose image was defaced, called for a Mass of reparation on Friday, August 24, and invited the faithful to bring Mary flowers at the Mass.
“This was taken literally by some of the young women,” Gabriela Vairo, a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi working at the parish, told ACI Prensa, “and we transformed each spot into a flower.” Several people banded together to remove the red paint from the tile image and turned the remaining paint stains around the image into roses.
Giuli Duarte, a member of the parish, said, “I was very afraid after it happened. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to church afterward. But when it came time to paint Mary, in reality I felt just the opposite. In a way, I felt happy that it happened.”
Martina, one of young women interviewed for this story, said that they were inspired by Gabriela Vairo’s Instagram posts inviting people to paint roses. “When I heard [about what had happened], I was calm. There was a moment of anger when I wanted to hurt someone, but it was more about intimacy with God, and a moment to pray for these people.”
She found the act of painting the roses changed the way she felt about what had happened. “My experience was to make reparation for the damage done to Mary. It was an act of love. Through painting these roses, we experienced God’s love and mercy. Through God’s love, everything is possible. When someone puts forward hatred, we can put forward love, which is more important.”
Martina has been involved in various apostolates at the parish. She ran NET (an apostolate for young children) and participated in two other apostolates: visiting the elderly in nursing homes, and Mission Youth.
Gabriela noted that Fr. Fernando was fearless in fighting anti-clerical slogans such as “The only church that illuminates is the one that burns.” Fr. Fernando turned this around to reveal a message for Christians: “The only Church that illuminates is the one that burns, and you have to burn with love of neighbor and with forgiveness, and to manifest this to enlighten the world.”
One little girl named Emma wrote a beautiful but simple note to Mary: “Mommy from heaven / I love you very much / You are my heart / Forgive us / For the bad things that / Were painted on you.”
Gabriela viewed this as a positive expression of the Regnum Christi charism: “We cannot take for granted the gift we have received in the charism. It is truly ours, and at the same time, it does not belong to us—it is for the Church and for all of society. We see this in all the details of what has happened—this offensive graffiti on the image of Our Lady, and our answer in transforming each stain into a flower.”
She commended the way the Legionary priests responded. “From the first moment . . . they reacted with great meekness, forgiveness and mercy. How important that pastors transmit this to the people of God. They said a Mass of reparation that was fervent and beautiful, offered also for those who offended us.”
Gabriela wanted to extend what was done here to the whole spiritual family. She said, “I ask for the grace for me and for all our spiritual family to know how to take hold of the brush of Mercy. It is easy to transform stains on a wall into flowers, but what about hearts—our hearts and the hearts of those we encounter? Hopefully, we can transform each offense into an offering to the Father, through the Heart of the King.”
Martina said she hoped the image now with roses around it would touch the hearts of all who look on it. “I hope that they experience the great mercy of God,” she said, “and grow in love for Mary as their mother . . . that they can see Mary as their true mother.”
Note: ACI Prensa is the Spanish Language version of Catholic News Agency.