Updated: Oct 8, 2021
By Theresa Anthony, author of My 13th Station
Today is December 12th, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Virgin Mary is honored with a myriad of titles—just read through the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary someday—but I have always been partial to the titles given her after she has graced the world with her presence: Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of La Salette…
The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, aka, Virgen de Guadalupe, is simply astonishing. In December of 1531, an obscure indigenous peasant named Juan Diego was out walking in his small village, near what is now Mexico City. Suddenly, he was distracted by a glowing light—in the figure of a woman—on a nearby slope, the hill of Tepeyac. She revealed herself as the Mother of God, and, speaking to him in his native Aztec tongue, directed him to ask the local bishop to build a shrine upon that spot.
During his meeting with the bishop, in his effort to fulfill the request, he was met with skepticism. It seems the bishop was not so convinced that Juan was telling the truth--entirely understandable! So he sent Juan Diego away, challenging him to provide some proof of his claim.
When Juan returned to the hillside a few days later, the Virgin was once again there to meet him. He relayed to her what the bishop had said, that he needed to come back with some proof of her identity. She then instructed Juan to gather up a large number of beautiful roses that had miraculously appeared on the slope. Seeing the bold, bright roses surprised Juan, as it was December and rose plants were usually dormant at that time of year.
The Virgin then instructed him to wrap the flowers in his tilma, a cloak he wore made of cactus fiber, and then present them to the bishop as proof of her authenticity. So, when Juan returned to the bishop, he opened the tilma to allow the roses to spill out…which is when the people present in that room witnessed the real miracle. The exact image of the Virgin Mary, just as seen by Juan Diego on the hillside, was miraculously imprinted on the inside the tilma!
The tilma remains intact nearly 500 years after this event occurred on December 12, 1531. This adds to the mystery, as cactus fiber typically degrades within ten years. Skeptics have tried every which way to discredit the relic, claiming that the image must have been created with dyes or paints, or shipped there from Europe. The tilma has been scrupulously examined over the years.
In recent years, using modern high-powered photographic equipment, the tilma was studied once again. Not only were the scientists involved forced to admit that there was no evidence of fraud, with no paint or pigments detected, but that, amazingly, the eyes of the image held stunning clues of that miraculous moment when the roses had been unfurled.
In the Virgin’s eyes can be seen about 13 people, people who had been present in the bishop’s quarters when Juan Diego brought his bundle of flowers. You can even see the figure of Juan Diego kneeling in front of the bishop in her eyes!
Make no mistake that this event wasn't perfectly planned by Christ Himself. Jesus has sent His Mother to us strategically over the centuries, often to warn us of our own undoing should we choose to persist in our sinful ways. This time Jesus sent her to Mexico during the early days of the Protestant Reformation, when the Catholic Church in Europe was literally hemorrhaging. Needless to say, when news of this phenomenon began to spread, a massive wave of about 8 million conversions of indigenous peoples to Catholicism occurred in Mexico over those next seven years. To this day, December 12th remains a pivotal date in the lives of Catholics, not only in Mexico, but worldwide. Collectively she is honored as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.
Indeed, the Blessed Mother belongs to us all. On the Cross, just before he expired, Jesus turned to his beloved apostle, John, and stated, “Behold your Mother” as Our Lady stood by. We believe that Jesus was offering His Mother to all mankind to become our spiritual Mother. She is there to console us, protect us, intercede for us, and guide us spiritually. She is our Mother. How very grateful we should all be for the precious gift Jesus bestowed on us before He returned to the Father.
Personally, I cannot begin to convey how much I have leaned on the Blessed Virgin Mary during the trials that I faced in recent years, and the aftermath. I absolutely needed a Super-Mother in order to survive what I had to go through with my poor son. And like a snuggly, warm blanket thrown around my shoulders, Our Blessed Mother provided much comfort to me. She knew my sad, tortured heart and she never left my side throughout that unfolding tragedy.
And when I lost my son, it was this prayer that I chose to have printed on his memorial card:
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for Us!
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