This month, we are shining a spotlight on a miraculous Marian apparition for the Americas and beyond: Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our Lady of Guadalupe – Empress of the Americas, Patroness of Latin America and Queen of Mexico – appeared to Juan Diego in December of 1531 and asked for a church to be built on top of a hill in Mexico City at a turbulent time in history when the conquest of Mexico by Cortes created division between the Aztecs and the Spaniard Christians (ref: Varghese, 2000). Read on to learn more about the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the image not made by human hands, which converted millions of Aztec hearts to finding Jesus through Mary that still exists today.
Mother Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a 57 year-old peasant and an Aztec convert, to deliver a special message to the Bishop of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) that she desired a church to be built on the hill. The bishop did not believe him and requested a sign, so Juan, with his humble heart and sincerity, went back to Mother Mary asking for her to help him deliver the bishop a sign.
“Climb, my son the least, to the top of the hill; there where you saw me and I gave you orders, you will find different flowers. Cut them, gather them, assemble them, and then come and bring them before my presence.” (ref: Smith, 1983)
In the dead of winter, Juan was amazed to find very fragrant rosas de Castilla blooming on the top of the hill where it was typically a place for weeds and destroyed vegetation due to the freezing weather.
“My son the least, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign which you will take to the bishop. You will tell him in my name that he will see in them my wish and that he will have to comply with it.” (ref: Smith, 1983)
So Juan, with new diligence and confidence in what he was experiencing, carried the roses in his tilma to the bishop. After giving his testimony to the bishop and others at the bishop’s palace, they were all amazed at the fresh, fragrant and full bloom roses Juan had delivered. When he unfolded his tilma and the different varieties of rosas de Castilla fell to the floor, suddenly appeared the drawing of the precious image of the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, in the same manner as she is today in the temple of Tepeyac named Guadalupe (ref: Smith, 1983).
The significance of the intentionality of Our Lady’s apparition coincides with historical accounts, as the image on the tilma was of an Aztec girl but she had chosen a name in Spanish. Within seven years, 8 million Aztecs were converted to the faith and human sacrifice (a common cultural practice) among the Aztecs ceased. The most miraculous aspect of the story is that scientists have scrutinized the tilma, and the low life-span cactus cloth, which should have turned into dust within 20 years, defies all natural explanation and still remains unscathed today in 2023 (ref: Varghese, 2000). The pigments cannot be identified by chemical analysis and there is no wear and tear which naturally would come from age and pollution. The image of Guadalupe has been a source of faith, strength, healing, and awe for millions of people for 492 years.
“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” (The Woman and the Dragon) (Revelations 12:1)
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a patroness of couples having trouble conceiving because Mother Mary’s fiat and her miraculous conception of our Lord, as well as the symbolic cultural meaning of the black ribbon around her belly indicating that she is with child in the image. Our Lady is a powerful intercessor in our times of need.
It can be easy to forget to see the intercessory roses along our journey but remember that never was it known that anyone who fled to Mother Mary’s protection, implored her help, or sought her intercession was left unaided.
“She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations, with an iron rod.” (Revelations 12:5)
Roy Abraham Varghese (2000). God-Sent: A History of the Accredited Apparitions of Mary. The Crossroad Publishing Company. New York.
Jody Brant Smith (1983). The Image of Guadalupe: Myth or Miracle. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York.