GROW IN DEVOTION TO OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

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Learn about the miraculous roses, the hidden music and constellations found in the Tilma’s images, the figures found in the Blessed Virgin’s eyes, and more!

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What is the story behind Our Lady of Guadalupe?

On December 9, 1531, barely 10 years after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, Our Lady appeared to a native peasant named Juan Diego while he was crossing Tepeyac Hill, outside what is today Mexico City. After telling Juan that she was the “mother of the true God,” she told him that she wanted a church to be built there in her honor.

Juan Diego then approached the bishop of the new diocese of Mexico, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, asking for a church to be built. Without any proof, the bishop did not believe him. The Blessed Virgin then appeared again to Juan Diego, asking him to approach the bishop again. St. Juan obeyed her, and this time, the bishop requested a miraculous sign that would prove the story. When Our Lady appeared a third time to St. Juan on December 10, she said that she would provide a miracle the next day.

However, on December 11, Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill, and he took care of him instead of meeting the Blessed Virgin. When his uncle, Juan Bernardino, appeared to be in his final hours on the early morning of December 12, St. Juan left the house to find a priest.

Believing that he could avoid seeing the Blessed Virgin, he took another route. However, not to be outsmarted, she still appeared to him.

The Blessed Virgin asked where he was going, and he explained that his uncle was ill. In response to Juan’s lack of understanding of her great love for him, the Blessed Virgin asked him, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?" She then told him that his uncle had, in fact, recovered.

Then Our Lady asked Juan to collect some flowers from Tepeyac Hill, which is usually barren. He found Castilian roses, which are not native to Mexico, much less bloom in central Mexico in December.

The Blessed Mother arranged the roses in Juan Diego’s tilma, before he proceeded to the bishop yet again. Upon opening his tilma before the bishop and other witnesses, the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was revealed as the roses fell to the ground.

The following day, St. Juan returned to his uncle and found him completed recovered, as the Virgin had said. Juan Bernadino reported that Mary had appeared to him and requested to be known under the title of “Guadalupe.”

Within seven years of this apparition, in which Our Lady manifested herself to the native peoples of Mexico as a sign of her maternal care, nine million accepted the Catholic faith. Remarkably, this amounts to an average of over 3000 people a day, every day for the next seven years. This is the number who were converted on Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:41.

“Our Lady is brilliantly seen in the mestizo countenance of this image of Mary of Guadalupe who appeared in the beginning of the evangelization of the Americas…. I ask her to ‘visit’ as a ‘pilgrim of faith’ – each and every diocese, parish, and family in America, repeating to her children what she did at Cana, ‘Do whatever He tells you.’ (Jn: 2:5). May she cross this continent bringing it ‘life, sweetness and hope!’” - St. John Paul II

Why is the Virgin Mary called Guadalupe?

When she appeared to St. Juan Diego’s uncle, he understood her to say “Call me and call my image Santa Maria de Guadalupe.”

While in Spain there was a shrine called Our Lady of Guadalupe in Extramadura, it seems unlikely that the Virgin called herself by this Spanish title. Although well known, especially to sailors––Columbus visited it both before and after his voyage of discovery, neither Juan nor his uncle spoke Spanish, and would have repeated the title to the bishop with difficulty. It is more likely she spoke to both in their native Náhuatl, calling herself by something understandable to them, but misunderstood by the Spanish.

One possibility is that she said that she was “Coatlaxopeuh” (the one who crushes the serpent), which suggests “Guadalupe” (also known as the “dark virgin” of Spain). In addition to the hints of the Spanish virgin, this name holds and two-fold reference, understandable and appealing to Spaniards and Mexicans.

The first is to Genesis 3:15, in which God says to Satan, appearing under the form of a serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” In this text, known as the protoevangelium (first gospel), is both the promise of a Redeemer to crush the Serpent, as well as the mysterious participation of the “Woman” in the fulfillment of that promise. The second reference is to Cuetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, a predominate deity in the Aztec pantheon. The Aztec religion had many gods, some of whom demanded human sacrifice. Cuetzalcoatl was a god of creation, of man, of knowledge and of wisdom, yet a parody of the true God nonetheless. By taking this name the Blessed Virgin announced that she and her Son, the True God, would defeat the feathered serpent and the religious system that held sway over the people of Mexico.

Why is Our Lady of Guadalupe so important?

At the time of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation was resulting in millions of people in Europe leaving the Church. During this massive departure in the Old World, the image and story of Our Lady of Guadalupe helped to convert millions in the New World. To this day, Our Lady of Guadalupe is incredibly significant to the Mexican people. She is the patron of Mexico and truly interwoven into Mexican culture.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is also revered throughout the Catholic world. In fact, the apparition site of Our Lady of Guadalupe has become the most visited Catholic pilgrimage destination on earth.

“[Mary] walked to Tepeyac to accompany Juan Diego and she continues walking the Continent when, by means of an image or holy card, of a candle or a medal, of a rosary or a Hail Mary, she enters a house, a prison cell, a hospital room, an old age home, a school, a rehabilitation clinic... to say: ‘Am I not here, who am your mother?’” – Pope Francis

What language did Juan Diego speak?

St. Juan Diego spoke in Náhuatl, the language of the Aztecs, and Our Lady spoke Náhuatl in her apparitions to him.

Different versions of this language are still spoken by roughly 1.7 million people in central Mexico.

In which country did Our Lady of Guadalupe appear?

The Virgin Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac, a hill on the outskirts of Mexihco, what it is today Mexico City, the capital of the nation of Mexico. At the time of Our Lady’s appearance, it was part of the Aztec city states which occupied the Valley of Mexihco, an ancient lakebed.

Is the Virgin Mary the same as Guadalupe?

Yes, Our Lady of Guadalupe was an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has appeared in different times and places, and is known by different titles according to the particulars of each appearance. As Our Lady of Guadalupe she has an indigenous appearance, whereas in her European apparitions, such as Lourdes (France) and Fátima (Portugal), she appears European. In her Roman apparition to Alphonsus Ratisbonne, a Jew, she appears as a Jewish woman with child – perhaps the closest to her own historical reality. Taken together, these apparitions indicate that Mary is truly the mother to all peoples and that she wants to reach out to us as we are.

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What did the Virgin Mary say to Juan Diego?

During the apparitions, the Blessed Virgin said the following to St. Juan Diego:

My 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 and I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask for my help in their work and in their sorrows will know their mother’s near in this place. Here I will see their fears and I will console men and they will be at peace.

Know for certain that I am the perfect and ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God. … Here I will show and offer all my love, my compassion, my help and protection. I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who have confidence in me. I will hear their weeping and their sorrows … their necessities and misfortunes. ... Listen, and let it penetrate your heart. ... Do not fear any illness or vexation, anguish or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?

 

Who is the patron saint of the pro-life movement?

Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of many pro-life patrons, along with St. Gianna Molla, St. Gerard Majella, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and many others.

As the mother of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin is an ideal patroness of the pro-life movement. Her Fiat (saying “yes” to God) at the Annunciation is the perfect example for mothers of unborn babies.

Out of all of the Marian apparitions, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a special pro-life patron because she is shown to be pregnant. The sash around her waist is a symbol that indicated pregnancy in the culture of that place.

Is Our Lady of Guadalupe a painting?

No, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was not created by any human hand, or according to any process of painting or staining or printing known either then or today. Nor does the cloth contain any artifacts of any process, such as paint.  Scientifically, it is inexplicable.

“My 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.” – Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego

What is the meaning of the angel and moon under Our Lady of Guadalupe?

These images can be understood according to the meaning of a Mesoamerican pictograph and would have been read, as such, by the native peoples. In the art of that culture the angel indicates Our Lady to be a royal personage, as only royalty were carried. The moon shows that she defeats the god of the night, Coyolxauhqui, even as she crushes the feathered serpent, Cuetzalcoatl.

Behind her we also see the rays of the sun god, Huitzilopochtli, whom she overshadows. Some decorative elements seem to have been added to these later in time, but representing the manner of reading the image accepted by the people.

Finally, one can also see in these same images of sun and moon a Catholic and universal meaning, that indicated in Rev. 12 and Gen. 3:15. There we see a woman clothed with the sun, Christ, and who herself is the greatest creaturely reflection of His light, and who cooperating with Him in His redemptive mission ultimately defeats the dragon, which like the serpent represents Satan.

What are the miracles of the tilma?

The tilma defies the efforts of science to explain its creation, its survival, or its details.

Regarding Its Creation:

  • No method of art or technology has been identified that could have produced the image.
  • Like the Shroud of Turin, it is most like a photograph – the Shroud a negative image, the Tilma a positive image.

Regarding Its Survival:

  • The tilma has survived for 500 years, despite being made of cactus fiber which typically disintegrates in 20-40 years.
  • For much of that time it was exposed uncovered to the heat, humidity, and sunlight of the church where it was displayed, as well as the veneration of the people.
  • Nitric acid was spilled on the tilma in 1791, and it repaired miraculously with no external aid.
  • Unprotected, it survived unscathed a bomb attack in 1921, which damaged the altar and bent a brass crucifix upon it.

Regarding Its Details:

  • The position of the stars on the image conform to the constellations as they were on December 12th, 1521, when the image was created.
  • Recent investigations have shown that when the tilma is enlarged 2,500 times, the Virgin Mary’s eye has the reflection of all of the people who were present when the tilma was revealed to the archbishop.

These are just some of the unbelievable discoveries that have been made about the image.

Where is the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe?

Since 1531 the Tilma has been keep in a church at the foot of Tepeyac Hill, where the apparitions occurred. This site is located in the north of modern Mexico City.

The original church was succeeded in 1709 by a new shrine (now referred to as the Old Basilica). There the image remained until 1974, when owing to earthquake damage and sinking into the soft soil of the old Basilica, the Tilma was moved to the adjacent new Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There it hangs above the main altar.

What was Juan Diego's tilma made of?

The tilma was made from agave thread, a very fragile fabric that is known to disintegrate in 20-40 years. The tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only existing agave fabric from the 16th century, even though it was left unprotected for over a hundred years. In that time, the tilma was exposed to smoke and incense and was also touched by many people every day.

“I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who have confidence in me. I will hear their weeping and their sorrows … their necessities and misfortunes.” – Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego

What color were the roses of Our Lady of Guadalupe?

The flowers that St. Juan Diego held in his tilma were dark pink Castilian roses, which are not native to Mexico. Also, roses do not grow in central Mexico in December.

Why did Mary appear to Juan Diego?

From the first apparition to St. Juan Diego, she told him that she wanted a church built in her honor. However, we know now that the ultimate reason for these apparitions was to provide a catalyst for the conversion of Mexico.

How many times did Mary appear to Juan Diego?

She appeared to St. Juan Diego four times between December 9-12, 1531. She also appeared once to St. Juan Diego’s uncle.

Was Juan Diego a real person?

Yes, St. Juan Diego was a real person. In the late 1990s, a Vatican commission including 30 researchers from around the world investigated this question. Here are some of the findings:

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“Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?” – Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego

Who painted the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe?

The image itself has all the characteristics of a miracle. In 1936, biochemist Richard Kuhn – who later won the Nobel Prize – said that the source of the image was unknown (not animal, mineral, or vegetable). Also, Dr. Philip Serna Callahan photographed the tilma under infrared light and said that the image of the Virgin Mary had been formed without brush strokes. Other researchers have described its character as closest to a photograph, yet created 300 years before the invention of photography.

How is Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated?

Each year at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) festival celebrates the feast day. Nine days before the feast, the faithful begin a novena, and they also gather to pray the Rosary each night leading up to December 12. The feast day itself is marked with singing, dancing, firecrackers, and feasts. Pilgrims from all different regions of Mexico come to the festival each year. On the feast day itself, 2 to 3 million pilgrims from the Americas and the world will attend the Solemn Mass.