our lady of guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today we Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Another feast of Our Lady, see here) I’m sure a lot of us already know the story of how Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego so long ago in Mexico. But just in case you haven’t heard, below is the story. (source: Franciscan Media)

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the 16th century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego. He was a 57-year-old widower, and lived in a small village near Mexico City. On Saturday morning December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

Juan was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds. A radiant cloud appeared, and within it stood an Indian maiden dressed like an Aztec princess. The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga. The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan to have the lady give him a sign. About this same time Juan’s uncle became seriously ill. This led poor Juan to try to avoid the lady. Nevertheless the lady found Juan, assured him that his uncle would recover, and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

On December 12, when Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground, and the bishop sank to his knees. On the tilma where the roses had been appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac.


I will borrow Bishop Barron’s reflection below. But before that, I just want to throw in a little thought of my own. The Chinese folk religion have a Guanyin, loosely translated as Goddess of Mercy. The interesting thing about her is that she’s often depicted (at least in parts of China/Hong Kong) as a young woman wearing flowery robe. She might be alone or seen atop a dragon or standing/sitting at the heart of a lotus. Somehow, my childhood’s overactive imagination would think that this was our Lady appearing to the Asians. But the Asian people, over the centuries, blended her in with their own cultures. I know, way out there!

Bishop Barron’s reflection
Though Franciscan missionaries had been laboring in Mexico for twenty years, they had made little progress. But within ten years of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe practically the entire Mexican people, nine million strong, had converted to Christianity. La Morenahad proved a more effective evangelist than Peter, Paul, St. Patrick, and St. Francis Xavier combined! And with that great national conversion, the Aztec practice of human sacrifice came to an end. She had done battle with fallen spirits and had won a culture-changing victory for the God of love.

The challenge for us who honor her today is to join the same fight. We must announce to our culture today the truth of the God of Israel, the God of Jesus Christ, the God of nonviolence and forgiving love. And we ought, like La Morena, to be bearers of Jesus to a world that needs him more than ever.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!
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