Listen and let it penetrate your heart…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? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need? ~ Our Lady to Juan Diego, 1531
On December 9, 1531, in Mexico, Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Aztec Indian who had recently converted to the Catholic faith. While he was walking on the hill of Tepeyac, he saw a vision of a young girl surrounded by light. The Lady asked for a church to be built there in her name. Juan Diego recognized her as the Virgin Mary and he told the story to the Spanish bishop. The bishop requested that Juan Diego ask the Lady for a miraculous sign to prove herself. Juan relayed the message to Our Lady and she told him to go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that were growing there and bring them to her. It was winter and too cold for flowers to be growing but at the top of the hill he found beautiful roses. He cut them and brought them to Mary, who arranged them with her own hands in his tilma/mantle. Juan went to the bishop and proudly opened his tilma to show him the flowers. The flowers fell before the bishop but there, printed miraculously, on Juan’s tilma was the image of the beautiful Lady that he had seen on Tepeyak Hill. The bishop was then very much convinced by the signs, and the chapel was later built on the same spot where Juan Diego saw Our Lady.
The image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec Pictograph which was read and understood quickly by the Aztec Indians. Every detail is symbolic and reveals part of the message the Blessed Virgin brought to the Indians through Juan Diego:
- Mary appears as a beautiful young Indian maiden, her hands folded in an Indian manner of prayer. Her pale red dress is the color of an Aztec princess.
- Her eyes are looking down. This is a position of humility and compassion and also reveals that she is not a god. Indian gods always looked straight ahead.
- Her face shows compassion. She has the dark skin and hair like that of the Indians.
- Mary stands in front of and hides the sun, but the rays still appear around her, signifying that she is greater than their sun god, Huitzilopochtli”.
- She stands on the moon, supported by an angel with wings like an eagle. She had clearly vanquished their foremost deity, the feather serpent, “Quetzalcoatl”. The angel supporting the Lady testifies to her royalty. To the Meso-American Indians only kings, queens and other dignitaries would be carried on the shoulders of someone. The angel is transporting the Lady to the people as a sign that a new age has come.
- The stars on the mantle shows that she comes from heaven. She comes as the Queen of Heaven but with the eyes of a humble and loving mother. She was greater than the stars of heaven which they worshipped.
- The main color of the tilma is turquois. She was a Queen for she wears the color of royalty.
- The gold-encircled cross brooch under the neck of the Lady’s robe is a symbol of sanctity.
- The black belt shows that she was with child for she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.
- The four petal flower over the womb symbolizes that she was the “Mother of God”. The flower was a special symbol of life, movement and deity – the center of the universe.
The image to this date, cannot be explained by science:
- The tilma is hand woven from the coarse fibers of the Manguey cactus. This fabric has a life span of approximately 30 years. The image remains intact after more than 450 years. The image is housed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
- Microscopic examination revealed that there were no brush strokes. According to Kodak of Mexico, the image is smooth and feels like a modern day photograph (the image appeared 300 years before the invention of photography).
- Several images can be seen reflected in the eyes of the Virgin. It appeared to be a snapshot of the very moment Juan Diego unfurled the tilma before the archbishop.
- The stars on Our Lady’s Mantle coincide with the constellation in the sky on December 12, 1531.
- All who have scientifically examined the image of Our Lady over the centuries confess that its properties are absolutely unique and so inexplicable that the image can only be supernatural.
There are some really good books out there for kids about our Lady of Guadalupe. We like The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie dePaola and Our Lady of Guadalupe by Carmen Bernier-Grand. Holy Heroes has a printable coloring download of Fresh Flowers in Winter: The Story of Saint Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. And Catholic Icing blog has lots of crafts you can make…I especially like the ornaments!
CCC of America has a great video, Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe. There is also a new documentary produced by the Knights of Columbus and narrated by famed actor, Jim Caviezel, Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message.
We celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th. On this day, people from all over Mexico, and pilgrims from all over the world, travel to the chapel in Tepeyac Hill, near Mexico City, to pray and join the celebrations. Colorful fiestas are held in Mexico and Central America to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.
How will you celebrate? You can dedicate your home and family to her patronage with a home Enthronement of Our Lady of Guadalupe ceremony. Some ideas include a traditional Mexican meal such as tacos or fajitas for dinner. Or you can have family brunch like Jessica over at the Shower of Roses blog. Maybe break open a piñata. Or for dessert make some Mexican hot chocolate in the crock pot and have some Mexican hot chocolate cookies!
Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mystical Rose, make intercession for the Holy Church, protect the Sovereign Pontiff, help all those who invoke you in their necessities, and since you are the ever Virgin Mary, and Mother of the True God, obtain for us from your most holy Son the grace of keeping our faith, of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life, of burning charity, and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen.