Thousands of people in Mexico come to church on Dec. 12 to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas.
On Dec. 9, 1531, a poor Indian Christian named Juan Diego (now St. Juan) saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin on the Hill Tepeyac in Mexico City. She asked that a church be built on the site; Juan Diego relayed her message to the bishop. The bishop requested a sign that Juan had truly seen the Virgin; on Dec. 12, she again appeared to him and instructed Juan to gather roses growing on the hillside into his tilma (cloak) and carry them back to the bishop. When Juan opened his tilma before the bishop, dozens of roses poured out, revealing an image of our Lady on the cloak’s lining.
The image from Juan Diego’s tilma is on display at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the church that was built on the site where she appeared to Juan Diego and one of the most visited Catholic shrines in the world.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is important to both the religious and political history of Mexico. Our Lady spoke to Juan Diego in the native Nahruatl language and her high cheekbones, brown skin and unbraided black hair is that of a mestiza — a woman of Spanish and American Indian parents. Her downcast eyes makes it clear to the native people that she is not a god, while her blue-green mantle is the color natives associated with royalty. The black cord tied high above her waist shows that she is pregnant. In the years following her appearance to Juan Diego, nine million Indians became Catholic. Her image was on the banner of several revolutionaries, including those of Emiliano Zapata, when he entered Mexico City in 1914.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is also said to symbolize that God’s love is for all people; her appearance to a poor peasant shows Christ’s identification to the poor.
Juan Diego readily accepted Our Lady of Guadalupe’s request that he take action on her behalf. When God asked Our Lady to bear his son, she agreed. What is God’s request of you and how willing are you to take action on what he has asked of you?