Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Virgin of Guadalupe (Spanish name: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) is a 16th century image, a Roman Catholic icon, Mexico’s most popular religious image and patron saint of the Americas, including our Parish. Below are two articles related to the story of our virgin mother’s apparition.
St. Juan Diego and his Tilma
To a neophyte, fifty five years old, named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac hill to hear Mass in Mexico City, on Saturday, 9 December, 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared and sent him to Bishop Zumárraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the bishop’s answer. He had not immediately believed the messenger; having cross-questioned him and had him watched, he finally bade him ask a sign of the lady who said she was the mother of the true God. The neophyte agreed so readily to ask any sign desired, that the bishop was impressed and left the sign to the apparition.
Juan was occupied all Monday with Bernardino, an uncle, who seemed dying of fever. Indian specifics failed; so at daybreak on Tuesday, 12 December, the grieved nephew was running to the St. James’s convent for a priest. To avoid the apparition and untimely message to the bishop, he slipped round where the well chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin crossed down to meet him and said: “What road is this thou takest son?” A tender dialogue ensued. Reassuring Juan about his uncle whom at that instant she cured, appearing to him also and calling herself Holy Mary of Guadalupe she bade him go again to the bishop.
Without hesitating he joyously asked the sign. She told him to go up to the rocks and gather roses. He knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many into the lap of his tilma a long cloak or wrapper used by Mexican Indians he came back. The Holy Mother, rearranging the roses, bade him keep them untouched and unseen till he reached the bishop. Having got to the presence of Zumárraga, Juan offered the sign. As he unfolded his cloak the roses fell out, and he was startled to see the bishop and his attendants kneeling before him: the life size figure of the Virgin Mother, just as he had described her, was glowing on the poor tilma. Taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia (source: www.NewAdvent.org)
Mesoamerica, the New World, 1521: The capital city of the Aztec empire falls under the Spanish forces. Less than 20 years later, 9 million of the inhabitants of the land, who professed for centuries a polytheistic and human sacrificing religion, are converted to Christianity. What happened in those times that produced such an incredible and historically unprecedented conversion?
In 1531 a “Lady from Heaven” appeared to a humble Native American at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City. She identified herself as the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth.
She made a request for a church to be built on the site, and submitted her wish to the local Bishop. When the Bishop hesitated, and requested her for a sign, the Mother of God obeyed without delay or question, sending Her native messenger to the top of the hill in mid-December to gather an assorment of roses for the Bishop.
After complying to the Bishop’s request for a sign, She also left for us an image of herself imprinted miraculously on the native’s tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 475 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.
It apparently even reflects in Her eyes what was in front of her in 1531.
Her message of love and compassion, and her universal promise of help and protection to all mankind, as well as the story of the apparitions, are described in the “Nican Mopohua”, a 16th century document written in the native Nahuatl language.
There is reason to believe that at Tepeyac Mary came in her glorified body, and her actual physical hands rearranged the roses in Juan Diego’s tilma, which makes this apparition very special.
An incredible list of miracles, cures and interventions are attributed to Her. Yearly, an estimated 10 million visit her Basilica, making her Mexico City home the most popular Marian shrine in the world, and the most visited Catholic church in the world next to the Vatican.
Altogether 25 popes have officially honored Our Lady of Guadalupe. His Holiness John Paul II visited her Sanctuary four times: on his first apostolic trip outside Rome as Pope in 1979, and again in 1990, 1999 and 2002.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12th. In 1999, Pope John Paul II, in his homily from the Solemn Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, during his third visit to the sanctuary, declared the date of December the 12th as a Liturgical Holy Day for the whole continent.
During the same visit Pope John Paul II entrusted the cause of life to her loving protection, and placed under her motherly care the innocent lives of children, especially those who are in danger of not being born. (Source: www.Sancta.org)