Today's piece of Catholic trivia: The Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On Dec. 12, 1531, outside of present-day Mexico City, the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant man named Juan Diego, in the appearance of an Indian woman. (Mary usually takes the ethnic form of the culture she's appearing in during her apparitions.) She told him to climb a hill and pick the roses he would find there. Juan Diego brought them back to his bishop, and when he opened his cloak, the roses poured out and an image of Our Lady was left on his tilma (cloak), which remains to this day. Given that the lifespan of a tilma is approximately 20 years, the fact that this relic has lasted more than 450 years is astonishing by any standard, and the image hasn't faded. It has since become one of the most popular images of Our Lady in Catholic iconography, especially in the Latin American countries and the American Southwest.
Today, take some time to maybe say a rosary or a special prayer to Mary in order to thank her and God for all the blessings in your life. (My non-Catholic readers will cringe at this advice, but as I say, "she's your mother, too!" And Martin Luther was always devoted to Mary, even after his unfortunate split with Rome. You could just say you're being faithful to Luther...or something.) She's always ready to listen to us and recommend us to her Son. Or perhaps you could read some excellent books on Mary and apparitions. A few of my favorites:
-- The Essential Mary Handbook from Ligouri Press
-- Hail, Holy Queen by Scott Hahn (I love his stuff)
-- Mary: The Church at the Source by B XVI and Hans Ur von Balthasar (that's a heavy one!)
--many of JP the Great's works talk about Mary, so you can peruse those, too.