Bible verse 1: Rev. 12:1
Bible verse 2: Luke 1:38
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patron Saint of the Americas, and her feast day is December 12th. When people first started coming from Europe to the New World, they sought gold, religious freedoms, and conversions of the natives. One of the converts was a poor Aztec named Juan Diego.
Juan often walked through the Tepayac hill country in central Mexico. On his way to chapel one day, he encountered a beautiful woman, who spoke to him in his native tongue, “My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother's Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace. So run now to Tenochtitlan and tell the Bishop all that you have seen and heard.”
Juan, who was nearing 60 and had never been to Tenochtitlan, did what Mary asked and sought out the bishop. The bishop’s servants were doubtful of Juan’s credibility, and kept him waiting for hours. The bishop told Juan he’d think about it, and basically gave him the brush off. Juan saw Mary again, and asked for someone else to be sent in his place. She told him that he was the one she chose, and instructed him to go back the next day. His uncle fell sick, however, and Juan was going to go get a priest from nearby. He passed the place that Mary had since visited him twice, and she was there. "Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Your uncle will not die at this time. There is no reason for you to engage a priest, for his health is restored at this moment. He is quite well. Go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that are growing there. Bring them then to me.”
While it was freezing on the hillside, Juan obeyed Mary's instructions and went to the top of the hill where he found a full bloom of Castilian roses. Removing his tilma, he cut the roses and carried them back to Mary. She rearranged the roses and told him, "My little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that with this sign I request his greatest efforts to complete the church I desire in this place. Show these flowers to no one else but the Bishop. You are my trusted ambassador. This time the Bishop will believe all you tell him.”
He told the bishop his story and opened the tilma letting the flowers fall out. However, what really got the attention wasn’t the roses. It was a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary precisely as Juan had described her, imprinted on the tilma. The next day, after showing the tilma at the cathedral, Juan took the bishop to the spot where he first met Mary. He then returned to his village where he met his uncle who was completely cured. His uncle told him he had met a young woman, surrounded by a soft light, who told him that she had just sent his nephew to Tenochtitlan with a picture of herself. She told his uncle:
"Call me and call my image Santa Maria de Guadalupe.” It’s believed that the word Guadalupe was actually a Spanish mis-translation of the local Aztec dialect. The word that Mary probably used was Coatlallope which means "one who treads on snakes" ! Within six years of this apparition, six million Aztecs had converted to Catholicism. The tilma shows Mary as the God-bearer, as she is pregnant with her Divine Son.
In 1977, the tilma was examined using infrared photography and digital enhancement techniques. Unlike any painting, the tilma shows no sketching or any sign of outline drawn to permit an artist to produce a painting. Further, the very method used to create the image is still unknown. The image is inexplicable in its longevity and method of production. It can be seen today in a large cathedral built to house up to ten thousand worshipers. It is, by far, the most popular religious pilgrimage site in the Western Hemisphere.(1)
Reflection question 1: What intense faith Juan had! When is a time you struggled with having faith?
Reflection question 2: What was your favorite part of the Our Lady of Guadalupe apparition?
Act: Pray for the courage and faith that Juan had!