On December 12th, the Church in the United States celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In December 1591, Juan Diego, a Mexican peasant, was on his way to Mass. Our Lady appeared to him, and speaking in Nahuatl, which was Juan Diego's native language ( the language of the fomer Aztec Empire), identified herself as "Mary, Mother of the very true deity" and asked that a church be erected in her honor on that site.
In obedience, Juan Diego went to the Archbishop of Mexico City, Juan de Zummarraga, to tell him what had happened. Quite expectedly, the Archbishop did not believe him.
Later that day, Juan Diego saw an apparition of Our Lady again, and she insisted that he ask the Archbishop again.
The next day (Sunday, December 10,1531), Juan Diego spoke to the Archbishop a second time. The Archbishop instructed him to return to the site and ask the woman for a miraculous sign to prove her identity. Later that day, Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego again when he returned to the site. He told her of the Archbishop's request for a sign, which she said she would provide on the following day.
The next day, Jean Bernardino, Juan Diego’s uncle, became ill. Juan Diego attended to him and did not go to the site.
In the early hours of the next day (Tuesday, December 12), as Juan Bernardino's condition deteriorated, Juan Diego journeyed to find a priest to hear his uncle's deathbed confession. To avoid being delayed by the Virgin and ashamed at having failed to meet her on Monday as agreed, Juan Diego chose another route. Our Lady appeared to him and asked where he was going. Juan Diego explained what had happened, and Our Lady gently chided him for not having made recourse to her.
Her words to Juan Diego have become the most famous phrase of the Guadalupe apparitions and are inscribed above the main entrance to the Basilica of Guadalupe. They are:
"¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre?" - "Am I not here, I who am your mother?"
Then Our Lady assured Juan Diego that his uncle had recovered. She also instructed Juan Diego to gather flowers from the summit of the site, which was normally barren, especially in the cold month of December. Juan Diego obeyed and found Castillian roses blooming there. Castillian roses did not grow in Mexico.
Our Lady arranged the roses in Juan Diego's cloak.
Later that day, when Juan Diego opened his cloak before Archbishop Zumárraga, the flowers fell to the floor, and, on the inside of his cloak was an image of Our Lady on the fabric.
On the following day, Juan Diego found his uncle fully recovered. His uncle said that he had seen a lady praying at his bedside. The lady told him to inform the Archbishop of this and of his miraculous cure. The lady also told him of her desire to be known under the title of "Guadalupe."
The Archbishop kept Juan Diego's mantle in his private chapel, then moved it to the church for public display, where it attracted great attention. On December 26, 1531, the cloak was transferred via procession back to the site, where it was installed in a small chapel.
Today, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world.
In 1910 our Lady of Guadalupe was declared Patroness of Latin America. In 1945, Pope Pius XII declared her to be the Empress of all the America's.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is exquisite not only for its artistry and beauty but also its meaning. Each of its elements carries profound meaning, including the golden stars that adorn the mantle of Our Lady.
The stars represent her heavenly origins and her role as the Queen of Heaven. Their arrangement is truly miraculous.
The stars are positioned exactly as they had appeared on the morning of December 12th, 1531—when the miraculous image appeared on the cloak of Juan Diego. The stars are a mirror image of what they would have looked like from an earthly perspective, which means that they were arranged from the perspective of someone looking down, as God our Father, the Heavenly Artist, looks down upon us.
And it’s not only the visible stars that are amazing. No stars appear around Our Lady’s head but if we overlay a (reversed) star map on the image, we will see that the Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown) lays perfectly upon her brow.
As the book of Revelation says: “…a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
Over Our Lady’s breast is the constellation Virgo--the Virgin. Over her womb is Leo the Lion, where she carried He whom Scripture calls Lion of Judah.
Who, other than our Heavenly Father, could have created something so rich, so beautifully perfect and perfectly constructed down to every detail?
Today, as we meditate upon the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe, let us also meditate on the words she gave to Juan Diego:
"Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son; let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, 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 crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?"
May her words be imprinted on our hearts as is her image on the mantle of Juan Diego.