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Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of God and Queen of the Americas

 

The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas, is a beautiful and unique miracle on several levels. The fact that the Virgin deigned to appear to Juan Diego (John James) Cuauhtlactoztzín, a neophyte Christian convert and a Marian visionary, in the New World of the 16th century, clearly demonstrates Mary’s wish to bring a message of motherly love to all who would turn to her with trust.  As she said to Juan Diego, on the occasion of his regret that he had initially failed her in his mission: “¿Yo estoy you aqui que soy tu madre? – “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?”)

On Saturday, December 9, 1531, Juan Diego, a 57-year-old Chichimec peasant, was walking from his home to Tlatelolco for Mass and religious instruction when he was surprised by the sound of flutes or birds singing as he passed by the hill at Tepeyac.  As he listened, the music became more like the harmonies of a Gregorian chant.  Climbing the hill, which was bathed in light and a luminous cloud as dazzling as a rainbow, he was startled by hearing his name called by a lady who appeared to be a beautiful Aztec Princess, as she emerged from the cloud.  Immediately the summit of the hill was transformed into a vision of a Heavenly Garden, dotted with rocks, leaves and cactus made of the most precious stones he’d ever seen, as well as of gold and silver.  By far, though, the most beautiful sight was the lovely lady who identified herself as:” I am the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God, Who is the Author of Life, Creator of All, and Lord of the Heavens and the Earth and present everywhere….”

 

During this first apparition the ever Virgin entrusted a mission to Juan Diego – to convey to the Bishop that she desired a chapel to be built there at Tepeyac for her, where she could shower the Indians and all who came to her, with great love, clemency, and compassion. To fulfill the Virgin’s task, Juan Diego hurried to Mexico City for an audience with Bishop Fray Juan Zumárraga, who naturally at first was a bit skeptical. He told Juan Diego to return the next day, allowing the Bishop some time to reflect on this seemingly impossible turn of events. 

 

Disheartened, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac and announced to the Virgin that he had failed in his quest.  Mary was undeterred and she convinced Juan to return to the Bishop’s residence on Sunday, December 10, 1531 and repeat the request.  This time Fray Juan Zumárraga was more compliant, although he still asked for a sign to prove that the apparition had truly come from Heaven. 

 

The Virgin graciously agreed to provide a sign on the following day that would convince the Bishop.  She told Juan Diego to return the next day, Monday, Dec. 11, 1531.  But that night Juan’s uncle, (Juan Bernardino) fell ill and he had to tend to him.  

 

The following morning, early on Tuesday, December 12, 1531, Juan Diego set out to find a priest to give his uncle the Last Rites.  Full of remorse, Juan took a different route in order to avoid meeting the Virgin. But the Virgin intercepted him on his trek and assured him that his uncle was healed (as she spoke).  Instead, she told him to climb the hillside and pick the Castilian roses that he would find.  Despite being skeptical of finding any flowers at all, never mind Castilian roses, Juan Diego did the Virgin’s bidding.  And he did find the most beautiful roses, which he put in his tilma to take to Our Lady.  The Virgin rearranged the flowers in Juan’s cloak and told him to take them to Bishop Zumárraga in Mexico City.  

 

When Juan arrived at the Bishop’s residence and opened his tilma the roses spilled out onto the floor.  But that wasn’t what astonished the Bishop.  He was staring at the inside of Juan’s tilma on which was ‘painted’ an image of the Blessed Virgin.  The image, the colors, the details on the Virgin’s cloak – as well as all the Heavenly symbols – immediately convinced Fray Juan Zumárraga of the veracity of Juan’s story.  Truly the Mother of God had appeared to him.  The Bishop hastily agreed to build a chapel as she requested.  A large procession accompanied the tilma back to Tepeyac where it was hung for adoration.  

 

In the meantime, the Blessed Virgin had also appeared to Juan Diego’s uncle, healing him and telling him that she wished her Holy Image to be known as that of Our Lady Mary of Guadalupe.  There has been much speculation as to why the Virgin chose that title (and much discussion as to its translation), but Mary had spoken and thus she was honored with her new name.   

 

Currently the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, at the foot of the hill at Tepeyac, houses the tilma of Juan Diego with the Virgin’s image miraculously impressed on the coarse fabric.  This has become one of the world’s major pilgrimage sites, where the Virgin of Guadalupe comforts all those who come to her with their cares.  

 -Ginny Revel 

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