Today, December 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared under this title in Mexico on December 9 and December 12, 1531.
I’d like to share facts about this event in honor of her feast.
“Know, know for sure, my dearest, littlest, and youngest son, that I am the perfect and ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the God of truth through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near us, the Lord of heaven and earth…” ~ Our Lady of Guadalupe
Facts about the Apparitions
- Our Lady appeared to a poor, humble widower in Tepeyac Hill, Mexico. He was an Aztec Indian who converted to Christianity and was baptized with the name Juan Diego in 1524.
- She requested for a chapel to be built there. When Juan Diego told the bishop, he demanded proof that the apparition was authentic. Mary granted his request and provided two miraculous signs on December 12, 1531. First: Dozens of Castilian roses bloomed in the middle of winter in an infertile location. Second: When Juan Diego opened his tilma to reveal the roses to the bishop, a beautiful imprinted image of Our Lady appeared.
- Even though the tilma, a poncho made from poor quality cloth, should have deteriorated within twenty years, it never did. The poncho and image of Our Lady are still fully intact, after almost 500 years! The original tilma is kept in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on the outskirts of Mexico City, for veneration. Many miracles have occurred in its presence through Mary’s intercession.
- The poncho and image have been scientifically tested over the years. There’s no scientific explanation for its preserved condition. Time and many factors — including humidity, salt, light, heat, chemicals, and an explosion — should have ruined it. The material has been tested and the origin of the fibers can’t been found. The image has no brush strokes and seems to have been placed on the surface all at once, which wasn’t humanly possible in 1531. The coloration in the image has no animal or mineral elements and the source can’t be determined. The temperature of the tilma remains at a constant 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the same temperature as that of a living person.
- When magnified, Mary’s eyes in the image show the reflection of what Juan Diego saw at the moment he revealed the tilma to the bishop.
- Her appearance was meaningful for the Aztecs and demonstrated that she was the Mother of God: The turquoise mantle symbolized heaven. The stars on her mantle symbolized royalty. The sash around her waist symbolized pregnancy. Her complexion symbolized the indigenous people, specifically a mestizo which is a combination of Mexican and Spanish. The sun behind her symbolized her superiority to their sun god. The moon under her feet symbolized her superiority to their moon god. The black cross on her neck symbolized the Catholic missionary priests in Mexico.
- Research published by Fr. Mario Rojas Sánchez and Dr. Juan Homero Hernández Illescas shows that the stars on her mantle are positioned in exactly the same way as they were before dawn on December 12, 1531.
- The event is linked to Scripture: “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth” (Revelation 12:1-2 NABRE).
- Spanish explorers arrived in Mexico in the early 1500’s. A small group of Franciscan missionary priests tried to convert the native Aztecs to Christianity, but they faced tremendous challenges. The Aztecs were devoted to a polytheistic religion and worshipped many gods and idols. They also performed human sacrifices, killing tens of thousands of men, women and children every year. The explorers were disturbed by the natives’ actions, especially the human sacrifices, and didn’t treat the Aztecs with respect. When Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego, the two groups were on the brink of war.
- By 1539 almost 9 million Aztecs converted to Christianity, the largest conversion in the history of the Church! Without Mary’s intercession, a brutal war would have occurred and Christianity may have disappeared from Mexico.
- Because Guadalupe is a Spanish word, and the indigenous people spoke native languages, the reason for Mary’s title isn’t clear. She may have used the Aztec Nahuatl word coatlaxopeuh when referring to her title. This word, pronounced quatlasupe, sounds similar to Guadalupe. Using this word, her title means “the one who crushes the serpent.” In Christianity Mary is known as the one who defeats Satan, the ancient serpent (see Genesis 3:14-15). Snakes were also a prominent symbol in the Aztec religion and used in the rituals of human sacrifice, an act of great evil which ended after the apparitions.
- It was the first Marian apparition in the New World and was foreshadowed by Christopher Columbus’ 1492 expedition. The main ship, Santa María de la Immaculada Concepción, was named in honor of Our Lady. The names of the smaller ships point to the future apparitions. Niña, which means “little girl,” points to her appearance as a virgin maiden. Pinta, which means “painted one,” points to her image being imprinted on the tilma.
- After the events, Juan Diego lived as a hermit near the chapel. He cared for the church and the pilgrims who visited until his death. He was canonized in 2002 and is the first Roman Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas. His feast day is December 9th.
- The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, known as Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Spanish, is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. It’s also the third most visited sacred site in the world. Over 10 million people visit the shrine each year.
- The Virgin of Guadalupe is honored in a special way in Mexico, and her feast is observed as a national holiday. She’s the patroness of Mexico, the Americas, the New Evangelization, and the unborn.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!
Saint Juan Diego, pray for us!