LADY OF GUADALUPE
Reprinted from an article by Lester Mark Haddad, M. D.
estoy aquí, yo, que soy tu madre?
not here, who am your Mother?
you not under my shadow and protection?
not the fountain of your joy?
appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Aztec Indian Juan Diego in
December of 1531 generated the conversion of Mexico, Central and South
America to Catholicism. Indeed, the Blessed Virgin Mary entered the very
lifestream of Central America and became an inextricable part of Mexican
life and a central figure to the history of Mexico itself. The three most
important religious celebrations in Central and South America are
Christmas, Easter, and December 12, the feast-day of Our Lady of
Guadalupe. Her appearance in the center of the American continents has
contributed to the Virgin of Guadalupe being given the title "Mother
of the Americas." 1-3
important to understand the historical background and setting at the time
of the apparition to fully appreciate the impact of the Virgin of
Guadalupe, La Morenita, as she is affectionally known to the
Aztecs ruled most of Central America in 1500, and their Empire known as
Mesoamerica extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean and
included the lands of Mexico, Guatamala, Belize, and portions of Honduras
and El Salvador. Montezuma (or Moctezuma) the Younger, considered
the earthly representative of the sun god Huitzilopochtli, became King of
the Aztecs in 1503, and ruled from the capital Tenochtitlan and its
sister-city Tlatelolco, both situated on an island in Lake Texcoco, the
site of modern Mexico City. The inhabitants of the island were called the
demanded heavy tribute from the surrounding Indian tribes, and was poised
to conquer the few remaining regions of the dying Mayan civilization.
city of Tenochtitlan was the center of religious worship for the Aztecs.
Since the Mexica believed that the gods required human blood to subsist,
the priests sacrificed thousands of living humans a year, generally
captured Indians from surrounding tribes, in order to appease the
frightful deities. 4-7
gods important to understanding the events of history were Quetzelcoatl,
the stone serpent, and Tonantzin, the mother god. Quetzelcoatl was the god
who founded the Aztec nation, but left when human sacrifice began, as he
was opposed to the terrible ritual; but he vowed to return one day to
reclaim his throne and redeem the Aztecs in the year 1-Reed, which
occurred every 52 years in the Aztec time cycle.
was depicted as a terrifying figure, with her head comprised of snakes and
her garment a mass of writhing serpents; her eyes projected fathomless
grief. Tonantzin was worshipped at a stone temple in Tepeyac, about five
miles from the capital Tenochtitlan.
sister, Princess Papantzin, lapsed in a coma in 1509. Upon her recovery,
she related a dream that profoundly influenced the superstitious King. In
her dream a luminous being with a black cross on his forehead led her to a
shore with large ships that would come to their shores to conquer the
Aztecs and bring them the true God. It was only ten years later, in the
year 1-Reed, a year when Quetzelcoatl could return, that the Conquistadors
of Spain arrived on the shores of Mexico.2
Cortez and the Conquistadors
European discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 led to the
exploration and colonization of the entire Caribbean by the Spaniards. The
Conquistadors, much like the Crusaders, were variably in search of
fortune, personal glory, and God, and often all three.
Spaniard Hernando Cortes landed on the Gulf shore of Mexico on Good
Friday, April 22, 1519. According to one of his men, Bernal Diaz del
Castillo, who recorded the events of the expedition, Cortes arrived with
508 soldiers on eleven ships, 100 sailors, 16 horses, a few cannons,
crossbows and other pieces of artillery. They named the landing site Veracruz,
"The True Cross." Their Chaplain, Father Bartolome de Olmedo,
performed Mass on Easter Sunday. Cortes worked alongside his men to build
a fort and left a contingent to protect the new settlement. He then sent
one ship back to Spain with a letter that detailed their discovery for
King Charles V. In an historic move to strengthen their resolve to conquer
the land, Cortes burned his last ten ships in the harbor, cutting off any
avenue of retreat. 4
reasons have been given for the conquest of Mexico by this small but
formidable force. The arrival of the Spanish conquistadors with their
metal breastplates, snorting horses, loud smoking guns, and vicious dogs
proved a frightening spectacle to the Indians. Cortes, through the Indian
interpreter Dona Marina, cleverly won over outlying Indian tribes, such as
the Tlaxcalans, who resented the heavy tribute demanded by the Aztecs. In
addition, the Aztecs and others had no immunity to smallpox brought to
American shores by the Europeans, and were decimated in a smallpox
epidemic that began in 1520. 8
expedition first went up the coast to Cempoala, where the heavily taxed
tribe pledged their allegiance to Cortes. They continued through Jalapa,
and headed towards Tlaxcala. They continued to find evidence of human
sacrifice everywhere they went. This only strengthened their determination
to stop the diabolic practice. At first the Tlaxcalans resisted the
Spaniards. Cortes fought right alongside his men and forever earned their
respect. Unable to defeat the Spaniards, the fierce Tlaxcalans finally
joined forces with Cortes, and ultimately proved to be most valuable
way to Tenochtitlan, Montezuma planned a trap in Cholula for Cortez, but
the Spaniards and the Tlaxcalans overwhelmed the Chululan tribe, allies of
the Mexica, and left 3000 dead. Montezuma recalled the dream of his sister
when he learned that a black cross adorned the helmets of the Spaniards.
Because he believed that he was the returning god Quetzelcoatl, Montezuma
refused to attack Cortes, and actually welcomed him on his arrival into
Tenochtitlan 8 November 1519, and housed the Spaniards in the palace of
Spaniards were appalled at the horrible spectacle of human sacrifice, and
Cortez asked Montezuma to stop. But sacrifice of adults and even children
continued, and the Spaniards were awakened each morning by the screams of
sacrificial victims. Cortez boldly placed Montezuma under house arrest one
week after his arrival, and confined him to his palace.
presented many gifts of gold, silver, and jewels to Cortez, but would not
stop the demonic rituals. Finally, Cortes climbed the stairs of the main
temple, had the priests remove the Aztec gods, and placed a Cross and
image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Father Olmedo said Holy Mass.
Aztec rituals stopped for three months.
was about to begin.
afterwards, Cortes had to leave the city for political reasons, and placed
Pedro de Alvarado in charge of Tenochtitlan. During the festival of the
sun god Huitzilopochtli in the spring of 1520, Alvarado decided to
surround the Aztecs during their ritual ceremony in the temples, and
slaughtered the unarmed celebrants. Outraged at this violation, the Mexica
rose up in arms. Montezuma's brother Cuitlahuac assumed leadership and
fiercely attacked the Spaniards. Montezuma died in the battle. Cortes
returned to Tenochtitlan to find the city in open warfare. The Spaniards
and Tlaxcalans were soundly defeated and driven from the city on the Night
of Sorrow, June 30, 1520.
Cortes returned to Tenochtitlan in May of 1521 with a massive army of
native Indians, mostly Tlaxcalans. They were surprised to find half the
population had died of a smallpox epidemic, including King Cuitlahuac. The
new leader Cuauhtemoc fought Cortes for 93 days, but had to surrender the
city on August 13, 1521. The once glorious city of Tenochtitlan was
destroyed, and with it, the Aztec practice of human sacrifice. The
conquest of Mesoamerica was complete. 4
Early Church in Mexico
first action as conqueror was to place the region under the Spanish crown
and demolish the temples of sacrifice and build Catholic churches in their
place, such as the Church Santiago de Tlatelolco on the site of the Temple
of the sun god in present-day Mexico City.
did call for missionaries to convert the native Indians, and shortly after
the Conquest, the Franciscan Peter Ghent from Belgium arrived in New Spain
in August of 1523. He become known as Fray Pedro de Gante, and
adopted the ways of the Indians and lived a life of poverty among the
natives. He learned Nahuatl, the native Aztec language, and soon
appreciated that communication with the natives was through images, music,
and poetry. He first began to educate the young, and the natives soon
learned to trust him and listen to the Christian message.
of 1524, twelve Franciscan missionaries arrived, including Father Toribio
Paredes de Benevente, who affectionally became known as Motolinia or
"poor one" by the natives for his self-sacrificing ways. Many of
the others attempted conversion by formal catechetical methods through
translators. But they found the natives highly resistant to Christianity,
the religion of the Conquistadors, who had killed thousands of Indians,
raped their women, and destroyed Tenochtitlan.
Dominicans, including Father Bartolome de las Casas of the West Indies,
the first priest ordained in the New World, the Augustinians, and the
Jesuits arrived considerably later.
1528 Charles V of Spain sent a group of five administrators known as the
First Audience to govern Mexico. The First Audience was headed by Don Nune
de Guzman, who quickly proved cruel and ruthless in his treatment of the
native population. He forced the native population either to abandon their
villages or be reduced to slavery, branded them on the faces, and sold
them in exchange for cattle.
offset the First Audience, Charles V appointed Fray Juan Zumarraga
as the first Bishop of Mexico City and Protector of the Indians in
December of 1528. He accomplished much in his 25 years as Bishop, which
included the establishment of the first grammar school, library, printing
press, and the first college, Colegio de la Santa Cruz at Tlatelolco.
However, he spent much of his first year in Mexico objecting to the
ruthless treatment of the Indians by de Guzman, who by then had sold
15,000 Indians into slavery. The First Audience applied strict censorship,
and forbade both Indians and Spaniards from bringing complaints to the
Bishop. The Bishop countered with stern sermons against their use of
military force, torture, and the imprisonment of Indians.
in 1529, some Indians managed to smuggle a protest to Bishop Zumarraga
concerning the heavy taxes and slave conditions in nearby Puebla. Bishop
Zumarraga managed to send a message hidden in a crucifix back to Spain,
and de Guzman was recalled. A Second Audience was appointed which proved
judicial to the Indians, but did not arrive in Mexico until 1531.
the Conquistadors and the First Audience had done grave damage to their
relationship with the native population. The Indians were fed up with
Spanish occupation, and resentment had reached a flash point. Isolated
outbreaks of fights with the Spaniards had become inevitable, and Bishop
Zumarraga feared a general insurrection. Such was the setting when the
event of Tepeyac took place.
following account of the five apparitions in three days is based on the
oldest written record of the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Nican
Mopohua, written in Náhuatl about 1540 by Don Antonio
Valeriano, one of the first Aztec Indians educated by the Franciscans
at the Bishop's Colegio de la Santa Cruz. An illustration of the
apparition event with the signature of Don Antonio Valeriano and the date
1548 was recently uncovered in a private collection in 1995, now referred
to as the Codex 1548. The Codex 1548 has been scientifically
determined to be genuine, and substantiates the historical basis of the
apparition of Guadalupe. 1,
3, 7, 9-11
Jesuit Father Miguel Sanchez published the first Spanish work on
Guadalupe, Imagen de la Virgen Maria Madre de Dios de Guadalupe in
1648. Brother Luis Lasso de la Vega published in Náhuatl the Nican
Mopohua and other documents in a collection known as Huey
Tlamahuezoltica in 1649. The theologian Luis Becerra Tanco published
his work on the tradition of Guadalupe in 1675. Finally, the Jesuit
professor of theology Francisco de Florencia produced his account of the
apparition in 1688. These four writers have been important in the
preservation of the tradition of Our Lady of Guadalupe.1-3
tradition of the event is of prime importance. The precipitous conversion
of over 8 million Aztec Indians to Catholicism in seven years is highly
indicative of the miracle of Guadalupe. It has been pointed out that great
historical movements do not result from non-events. 9
Miracle of Tepeyac
Aztec Indian Cuauhtlatoatzin, which means "the one who speaks like an
eagle," was born in 1474. He married a girl named Malitzin, and they
lived with an uncle near Lake Texcoco. The three were among the few to be
baptized in the early days, most likely by Father Toribio in 1525, and
given the names Juan Diego and Maria Lucia, and the uncle Juan Bernardino.
Maria Lucia was childless, and died a premature death in 1529.
was a widower at age 55, and turned his life to God. It was his custom to
attend Mass and catechism lessons at the Church in Tlatelolco. At
daybreak, on Saturday, December 9, 1531, Juan Diego began his
journey to Church. As he passed a hill named Tepeyac, on which once stood
a temple to the Aztec mother god Tonantzin, he heard songbirds burst into
harmony. Music and songbirds presaged something divine for the Aztec. The
music stopped as suddenly as it had begun. A beautiful girl with tan
complexion and bathed in the golden beams of the sun called him by name in
Náhuatl, his native language, "Juan Diego!"
girl said: "Dear little son, I love you.
you to know who I am.
am the Virgin Mary, Mother of the one true God, of Him who gives life.
Lord and Creator of heaven and of earth.
desire that there be built a temple at this place where I want to manifest
Him, make him known,
Him to all people through my love, my compassion, my help, and my
truly am your merciful Mother, your Mother and the Mother of all who dwell
in this land, and of all mankind,
those who love me, of those who cry to me, and of those who seek and place
their trust in me.
shall listen to their weeping and their sorrows.
shall take them all to my heart, and I shall cure their many sufferings,
afflictions, and sorrows.
now to Tenochtitlan and tell the Lord Bishop all that you have seen and
Diego went to the palace of the Franciscan Don Fray Juan de Zumarraga, and
after rude treatment by the servants, was granted an audience with the
Bishop. The Bishop was cordial but hesitant on the first visit and said
that he would consider the request of the Lady and politely invited Juan
Diego to come visit again.
Juan returned to the hill and found Mary waiting for him (second
apparition). He asked her to send someone more suitable to deliver her
message "for I am a nobody."
said on this second visit, "Listen, little son. There are many I
could send. But you are the one I have chosen for this task. So, tomorrow
morning, go back to the Bishop. Tell him it is the ever holy Virgin Mary,
Mother of God who sends you, and repeat to him my great desire for a
church in this place."
Sunday morning, December 10, Juan Diego called again on the Bishop for the
second time. Again with much difficulty, he was finally granted an
audience. The Bishop was surprised to see him and told him to ask for a
sign from the Lady.
Diego reported this to the Virgin (third apparition), and she told him to
return the following morning for the sign. However, when Juan Diego
returned home he found his uncle Juan Bernardino gravely ill. Instead of
going back to Tepeyac, he stayed home with his dying uncle on Monday.
Diego woke up early Tuesday morning, December 12th, to bring a priest from
the Church of Santiago at Tlatelolco, so that his uncle might receive the
last blessing. Juan had to pass Tepeyac hill to get to the priest. Instead
of the usual route by the west side of the hill, he went around the east
side to avoid the Lady. Guess who descended the hill on the east side to
intercept his route!
Virgin said, "Least of my sons, what is the matter?"
was embarrassed by her presence (fourth apparition). "My Lady, why
are you up so early? Are you well? Forgive me. My uncle is dying and
desires me to find a priest for the Sacraments. It was no empty promise I
made to you yesterday morning. But my uncle fell ill."
said, "My little son. Do not be distressed and afraid.
not here who am your Mother?
you not under my shadow and protection?
not the fountain of your joy?
you not in the fold of my mantle, in the cradle of my arms?
uncle will not die at this time. This very moment his health is restored.
There is no reason now for your errand, so you can peacefully attend to
mine. Go up to the top of the hill; cut the flowers that are growing there
and bring them to me."
in December? Impossible, thought Juan Diego. But he was obedient, and sure
enough found beautiful Castilian roses on the hilltop. As he cut them, he
decided the best way to protect them against the cold was to cradle them
in his tilma - a long, cloth cape worn by the Aztecs, and often
looped up as a carryall. He ran back to Mary and she rearranged the roses
and tied the lower corners of the tilma behind his neck so that nothing
would spill, and said, "You see, little son, this is the sign I am
sending to the Bishop. Tell him that now he has his sign, he should build
the temple I desire in this place. Do not let anyone but him see what you
are carrying. Hold both sides until you are in his presence and tell him
how I intercepted you on your way to fetch a priest to give the Last
Sacraments to your uncle, how I assured you he was perfectly healed and
sent you up to cut these roses, and myself arranged them like this.
Remember, little son, that you are my trusted ambassador, and this time
the Bishop will believe all that you tell him." This fourth
apparition was the last known time Juan Diego ever saw the Virgin Mary.
called for the third time on the Bishop and explained all that had passed.
Then Juan put up both hands and untied the corners of crude cloth behind
his neck. The looped-up fold of the tilma fell; the flowers he thought
were the precious sign tumbled out on the floor.
Bishop rose from his chair and fell on his knees in adoration before the
tilma, as well as everyone else in the room. For on the tilma was the
image of the Blessed Virgin Mary just as described by Juan Diego.
Juan Diego was calling on the Bishop, Juan Bernardino, the dying uncle,
suddenly found his room filled with a soft light. A luminous young woman
filled with love was standing there and told him he would get well. During
this fifth apparition, she told him that she had sent his nephew, Juan
Diego, to the Bishop with an image of herself and said, "Call me and
call my image Our Lady of Guadalupe."
news of the appearance of the Indian mother who left her imprint on the
tilma spread like wildfire! Three points were appreciated by the native
population. First, the lady was Indian, spoke Náhuatl, the Aztec
language, and appeared to an Indian, not a Spaniard! Second, Juan Diego
explained that she appeared at Tepeyac, the place of Tonantzin, the mother
god, sending a clear message that the Virgin Mary was the mother of the
true God, and that the Christian religion was to replace the Aztec
religion. And third, the Indians, who learned through pictures and symbols
in their culture of the image, grasped the meaning of the tilma,
which revealed the beautiful message of Christianity: the true God
sacrificed himself for mankind, instead of the horrendous life they had
endured sacrificing humans to appease the frightful gods! It is no wonder
that over the next seven years, from 1531 to 1538, eight million natives
of Mexico converted to Catholicism! 1-3,
Image on the Tilma
imprint of Mary on the tilma is striking, and the symbolism was primarily
directed to Juan Diego and the Aztecs. Mary appears as a beautiful young
Indian maiden with a look of love, compassion, and humility, her hands
folded in prayer in reference to the Almighty God. Her rose dress, adorned
with a jasmine flower, eight petal flowers, and nine heart flowers
symbolic to the Aztec culture, is that of an Aztec princess. Her blue
mantle symbolized the royalty of the gods, and the blue color symbolized
life and unity. The stars on the mantle signified the beginning of a new
civilization. La Morenita appeared on the day of the winter solstice,
considered the day of the sun's birth; the Virgin's mantle accurately
represents the 1531 winter solstice! Mary stands in front of and hides the
sun, but the rays of the sun still appear around her, signifying she is
greater than the sun god, the greatest of the native divinities, but the
rays of the sun still bring light. Twelve rays of the sun surround her
face and head. She stands on the moon, supported by an angel with wings
like an eagle: to the Aztec, this indicated her superiority to the moon
god, the god of night, and her divine, regal nature.
important are the black maternity band, a jasmine flower, and a cross that
are present in the image. Mary wore a black maternity band, signifying she
was with child. At the center of the picture, overlying her womb, is a
jasmine flower in the shape of an Indian cross, which is the sign of the
Divine and the center of the cosmic order to the Aztec. This symbol
indicated that the baby Mary carried within her, Jesus Christ, the Word
made Flesh, is Divine and the new center of the universe. On the brooch
around her neck was a black Christian cross, indicating she is both a
bearer and follower of Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, who died on the
Cross to save mankind
summary, the image signified Mary bringing her Son Christ to the New World
through one of their own!1-3,
cannot help but identify Our Lady of Guadalupe with the Woman of the
great sign appeared in the sky,
woman clothed with the sun,
the moon at her feet,
her head a crown of twelve stars."
tilma itself was a cape worn by the Indians of the time, made of ayate, a
coarse fiber from agave or the maguey plant. The cape measures 5.5 x 4.6
feet, and is made in two parts sewn by a vertical seam made with thread of
the same material. The natural life of the fiber is roughly 30 years,
yet the tilma and the image remain intact after 470 years, in spite of
moisture, handling, and candles! 1,
Zumarraga was overwhelmed by the miracle of the tilma, and this time
extended his hospitality to Juan Diego and invited him to spend the night.
He gently removed the tilma and placed it in his private chapel, where all
prayed in thanksgiving for the miracle.
following day, they set out for Tepeyac, and Juan Diego showed Bishop
Zumarraga where Mary had appeared. The Bishop directed that a small chapel
be erected at the site. The enthusiasm from the event produced so many
volunteers that a chapel in Tepeyac was constructed by Christmas Day.
Diego then asked leave of the Bishop that he might see his uncle. The
Bishop insisted that Juan Diego be escorted back to his home and then
returned to his palace. Juan Diego and Juan Bernardino were joyfully
reunited, and both recounted to each other the miraculous events. Juan
Diego brought his uncle back to the Bishop's residence to show him the
tilma, and they stayed as guests of the Bishop until Christmas. The
convergence of the curious multitude led the Bishop to move the tilma to
the Cathedral so that all could marvel and pray.
December 26, 1531, a solemn procession with the Bishop, Juan Diego,
Franciscan priests, and the faithful brought the tilma from the Cathedral
to the Chapel at Tepeyac. Thousands attended the procession. In the
excitement, some Indians shot arrows into the air, and one mortally
wounded a man in the procession. A priest tended to the wound, and prayers
were said to the Virgin, and the man was reported to have been
miraculously healed. This only added to the fervor of the procession.
Diego lived in a hermitage built for him next to the chapel at Tepeyac,
and showed the tilma and explained the apparition and its Christian
significance over and over to pilgrims who visited the shrine. He died
peacefully on May 30, 1548 and was buried at Tepeyac. Bishop Zumarraga
died only three days after Juan Diego.
miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe led to a tidal wave of conversions. The
few missionaries that initially were met with resistance became
overwhelmed with baptisms, preaching, and instruction in the faith. An
early missionary, the Franciscan Father Toribio de Benavente, recorded in
his Historia de los Indios, published in 1541, that "I have to
affirm that at the convent of Quecholac, another priest and myself
baptized 14,200 souls in five days. We even placed the Oil of Catechumens
and Holy Chrism on all of them." 2
Virgin of Guadalupe is literally intertwined with both the History
of the Catholic Church in the new world and of Mexico itself. To mention a
few events, the great floods of 1629 claimed 30,000 lives and threatened
the destruction of the valley of Mexico, until the waters abated when the
image was taken in solemn procession from Tepayac to Mexico City. A
horrible plague in the early 1700s claimed the lives of 700,000 people,
and, once the Virgin of Guadalupe was declared the Patroness of Mexico on
27 April 1737, the disease dissipated. But before that, as Mexico became
mestizo, the union of Spanish born in Mexico and the Indians, La
Morenita, or the dark Virgin, became the symbol of the people, and
they love her as one of their own. 6,
November 14, 1921, during a period of government persecution, a powerful
bomb hidden in flowers exploded directly underneath the tilma during High
Mass, and destroyed stone and marble in the sanctuary and shattered the
stained-glass windows of the Basilica. When the smoke cleared, the
congregation was amazed to find that the tilma remained untouched, and the
thin protective glass covering was not even cracked, nor was anyone hurt.
studies of the tilma have been undertaken through the years, which have
only served to confirm its supernatural nature. The tilma remains just as
vibrant as ever, having never faded. Famous Mexican artists such as Miguel
Cabrera (1695-1768) determined that it is impossible for the rough surface
of the tilma to support any form of painting. Furthermore, the tilma
appeared to embody four different kinds of painting, oil, tempura,
watercolor, and fresco, blended in an inexplicable fashion. One of the
unusual characteristics of the tilma is that up close the features are
unremarkable, but the tone and depth emerge beyond six or seven feet and
the image becomes more radiant and photogenic.
astonishing discovery that reflections of people in Mary's eyes, perhaps
Juan Diego and Bishop Zumarraga or the interpreter Juan Gonzalez, were
confirmed by two scientists in 1956. This phenomenon is seen only with
human eyes, not in a painting.2,
by infra-red photography in May of 1979 were undertaken by Philip C.
Callahan, a research biophysicist at the University of Florida. He ruled
out brush strokes, overpainting, varnish, sizing, or even preliminary
drawings by an artist in the body of the image. Damage from the 1629 flood
was apparent at the edges of the tilma. He concluded that the original
image on the tilma has qualities of color and uses the weave of the cloth
in such a way that the image could not be the work of human hands.10,
did Our Lady identify herself? Bishop Zumarraga understood the Spanish
name Guadalupe, a Marian shrine in Estremadura, Spain. But Mary spoke
Nahuatl to Juan Diego, and some writers suggest that she may have said Coatlaxopeuh
or one "who treads on the snake," recalling Genesis 3:15. On the
other hand, Juan Gonzalez, the interpreter present for conversations
between Juan Diego, his uncle, and the Bishop, was reported to be fluent
in both Nahuatl and Spanish, so any misinterpretation would seem unlikely.2,
4 Either may be
possible, as Mary is our Mother (John 19:25-27) everywhere.
tilma of Juan Diego is the only known divine image of the Blessed Virgin
Mary that exists on our planet!
million people from the Americas visit the Virgin of Guadalupe every year,
especially on December 12, the annual celebration of the miracle. If one
visits Mexico City, one can plainly see who has the heart of the people.
One finds the Virgin of Guadalupe pictured everywhere in Mexico City, in
the airport, taxis, bakeries, even on streetcorners. Our Lady has been the
factor that has preserved the Aztec Indians from the cultural
disintegration observed with other Indian populations such as in North
through the ages have recognized Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Pope John
XXIII was the first to call the Virgin Mother of the Americas on
October 12, 1961. John Paul II was the first Pope to visit the Guadalupe
shrine on January 27, 1979. On January 23, 1999, Pope John Paul II,
referring to all of the Americas as one single continent, called the
Virgin of Guadalupe the Mother of America.
John Paul II canonized Juan Diego a Saint on July 31, 2002. Juan Diego
certainly deserves sainthood, as he was both humble and obedient to the
request of Our Lady. The Catholic Church remains firmly entrenched in
Mexico, Central and South America, which today are at least 90% Catholic.
The Catholic Church of the United States with 60 million Catholics can
attribute much of our recent growth to the Hispanic population of North
te salve, María,
eres de gracia,
Señor es contigo.
tú eres entre todas las mujeres,
bendito es el fruto de tu vientre, Jesús.
María, Madre de Dios,
por nosotros pecadores,
y en la hora de nuestra muerte.
December 12, 2003
Basilica de la Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
write this from Mexico City during the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Mexico Herald reports that a crowd of 5 million has come to honor the
Blessed Virgin Mary in Tepeyac, now La Villa, Mexico City. The square in
front of the Basilica is filled with families waiting to attend Mass and
to see the tilma of St. Juan Diego. The beautiful new Basilica, which
holds 10,000 people, was completed in 1976.
struck by the faith of the Mexican people. Some are walking on their
knees, some circle in native dances. Some have travelled for three days
and have camped out in front of the Church.
line up in front of the escalators that go underneath the tilma behind the
main altar. They pray and cry in front of the beautiful relic of the
Virgin that visited their land 472 years ago. I look up and am struck by
the natural beauty and colors of the Virgin's dress. How can the tilma be
so bright but so old?! The paintings in the nearby museum are only 150
years old but are dark and faded.
Mass of the Roses blends all of the Mexican cultures - Indian, Criollo,
and Mestizo. The music is interspersed with the beat of native drums and
dancing. The crucified Jesus hangs alone on his cross above the main
altar, which is elevated on a platform. Behind the altar to the right is
the tilma of the Virgin, underneath a large cross on the wall. The aroma
of roses fills the air. Love and tears fill the faces of the people.
Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, please pray for us.
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Apparitions . St. Paul - Alba House, Staten Island, New York, 2001.
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Demarest D, Taylor C. The Dark Virgin - The Book of Our Lady of
Guadalupe . Coley Taylor Publishers, Freeport, Maine, 1956.
Carroll, Warren H. Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness.
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Steubenville, Ohio, 2003.
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- Mother of the Civilization of Love. Doubleday, New York, 2009.
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