On December 12th, the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. Why would the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a poor Indian man in Mexico all the way back in 1531 A.D. be so important that she has been declared the patroness of the Americas?
When the Blessed Virgin appeared, on a hillside in what is now Mexico City, the people and their culture was in a state of disarray. The Aztec culture was one in which human sacrifice had played a major role. There were Aztec feasts in which thousands of persons were offered in human sacrifice to their “gods” — in actuality, to demons. The victims of these genocidal massacres were generally not the Aztecs, but other native tribes that had been conquered and enslaved by the Aztecs. The Spanish conquistadors, led by Cortez, had set out to destroy this terrible evil of human sacrifice. And they did destroy it, and the Aztec empire as well. But they did not convert the people to Christianity. The native peoples of Mexico were still living in a state of paganism, but with their pagan society more or less destroy and not replaced. It was at this time that the Blessed Virgin Mary chose to appear on the hillside at Tepeyac.
When Our Lady appeared, she did not appear to the Spanish conquerors, nor did she appear as a Spaniard. She appeared as an Aztec princess to a young Indian man named Juan Diego. This young man and his uncle, Juan Bernadino, were among the small minority of Aztecs who had embraced Christianity. Juan Diego was passing by the hill of Tepeyac when a beautiful lady appeared to him, and told him to go to the bishop of Mexico and tell him that he was to build a church on the site in her honor. It was only after several discouraging attempts, and Juan Diego trying to avoid meeting her, that the beautiful lady told him to gather roses from the top of the hill (it was the middle of winter, and the roses were Castilian roses, a variety not native to America). The roses were to be a sign for the bishop, but they weren’t the real sign — that was the tilma, the cloak of Juan Diego, which now has a beautiful painting of the lady from heaven — “Our Lady of Guadalupe” — impressed upon it. Except that this image of the Mother of God isn’t really on the tilma (a cactus fiber garment, which should have decayed within a decade or two of the event), it is suspended just above the cloth. And the paints used are not from any substance known upon earth. This tilma and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe defy all scientific explanation.
Why is Our Lady of Guadalupe the Patroness of the Americas? Because she appears as a native of the Americas, a member of one of our native tribes, and she has a message for all peoples of North and South America: “Am I not your Mother?” We are called to trust her, to trust our Lady as our Mother, the heavenly Mother of all who claim the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Brother. She is also the heavenly patron of the pro-life movement. It was the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe that put a final and definitive end to the “culture of death” that had gripped and terrorized Mexico for centuries, and she it is who will, with our cooperation, put an end to our modern “Culture of Death” of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, etc. that is gripping America today. Let us turn once more and pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe — Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe — for her miraculous and motherly intervention that is so needed today.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn, pray for us!
Saint Juan Diego, pray for us!