Today, December 12th, is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. My parish, Church of the Incarnation, has a large Hispanic community that comes together to celebrate the entire day honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. It begins at 2am with a procession for 7 miles through Charlottesville to the parish where there is prayer, music, and celebration all day ending with an evening Mass.
Our Sunday Visitor offers a good history of Our Lady of Guadalupe:
The information about the Lady of Guadalupe is based on a sixteenth-century work written in Nahuatl, the Aztec language, by the Indian scholar Antonio Valeriano.
On Saturday, December 9, 1531, a poor Aztec named Juan Diego was on his way to Mass when he neared a hill not far from a former temple once dedi- cated to the virgin mother of Aztec gods. Suddenly, he heard the most beautiful music and smelled a sweet aroma that made him wonder if he was dream- ing. But then, he spied a beautiful lady with a dark complexion who asked him where he was going. When he told her he was going to Mass, she smiled and said:
“Know for certain, my son, the smallest one, that I am the perfect and ever virgin holy Mary, mother of the true God, through whom one lives, the creator of mankind, the one who owns what is Near and Beyond, the owner of heaven and earth. I ardently desire that here they build me my sacred little house, a Teocalli, where I will show him, I will exalt him and make him manifest. Where I will offer him to all the people with all my love, my compassionate gaze, my help, and my salvation, because I am truly your merciful mother, yours and mother of all who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who search for me, of those who have confidence in me. There I will listen to their cry, to their sadness, so as to curb all their different pains, their miseries and sorrow, to remedy and alleviate their sufferings.”
Juan Diego was then charged with taking this message to his bishop. Although impressed with Juan’s humility and sincerity, the bishop hesitated to trust his word. He asked Juan to visit with him on another day when, he promised, he would take the heavenly Lady’s message into consideration.
The next day, Juan Diego arrived at the bishop’s place of residence and requested an audience. Once again, the bishop questioned him but did not believe what he was told and asked for a sign from the heavenly Lady.
When Juan surprised the bishop by confidently asking him what type of sign he would like, the bishop didn’t answer, only dismissed him and sent some trusted aides to follow and observe him. Juan went directly to Tepeyac Hill, where he met Our Lady and commu- nicated the bishop’s demand. She listened, then asked Juan to return the next morning, December 12.
The next day, instead of meeting with Our Lady, Juan went to find a priest to administer the last rites to his dying uncle. Even on this alternate route, how- ever, Our Lady appeared to him and asked where he was going. Ashamed, Juan explained. Our Lady responded, “Listen and let it penetrate your heart, my dear son. Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection . . . is there anything else you need?” Juan Diego’s uncle recovered from his illness at that very moment.
Our Lady then told Juan to go to the top of the hill, where he would find a variety of flowers blooming in the frozen ground. The would be the sign the bishop requested.
Juan obeyed, gathered the blooms and arranged them in his tilma, after which Our Lady instructed him to reveal the content only to the bishop. When he arrived at the bishop’s residence, authorities first met Juan with sus- picion and demanded to know the contents of his tilma. But when the bishop heard the commotion, he welcomed Juan. At this welcome, Juan knew the time was right to show the bish- op the sign he had requested. So he opened his cloak, the flowers cascaded to the ground and the bishop and others in the room gazed in awe and fell to their knees in veneration. Amazed, Juan Diego looked to his tilma and realized that the image of Our Lady was miraculously imprinted there. In light of this clear sign, the humbled bishop begged for Juan Diego’s forgiveness and invited him to be his honored guest at his residence.
Our Lady of Guadalupe may be the most recognized apparition of the Blessed Virgin in the world. Twenty-five popes have honored her, and millions of pilgrims have come to ask her intercession and to recognize her as mother, protectress, and guardian. In 1999, Pope John Paul II declared December 12 a holy day for the entire American continent and placed all young children, especially the unborn, under her care.
The Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico (where Holy Tilma is visited)
Saint Juan Diego (SQPN Saints)
Mary, Mother of God (Catholic Online)
Church of the Incarnation, Charlottesville, Virginia