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History of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The opening of the New World in 1519 with the arrival of Cortez to Mexico brought with it fortune-seekers.

In 1521 the Aztec Capital City of Tenochtitlan falls under Cortez. Cortez having conquered the country for Spain was not lacking zeal for the evangelization of the Aztecs, so in 1524 the first twelve (12) Franciscans priests arrived in Mexico City. These missionaries built churches but had little success with the evangelization of the Indians. The Indians were reluctant to accept Baptism, primarily because it would require them to abandon polygamy.

In 1525 a poor Indian named CUAUHTLATOATZIN (speaking eagle) and his wife were the first to be baptized. They were given the Christian names of Juan Diego and Maria Lucia respectively. In 1529 after his wife Maria Lucia became sick and died, Juan Diego moved to the home of his uncle, Juan Bernardino, who had become a Christian as well.

First Appearance

On Saturday morning December 9, 1531 Juan Diego was on his way to attend Catechism classes and hear mass. He walked past a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music that seemed to come from a multitude of birds. All of a sudden the music stopped, a radiant cloud appeared and within it a young beautiful woman dressed like an Aztec princess appeared, a gentle and graceful voice called him in Nahuatl, his native language. The gentle voice called: "Juanito, Juan Dieguito!" "Juanito my son where are you going?" - Noble Lady, My Queen, I'm going to the Mass in Mexico City to hear all the beautiful things that the priest teaches us. Then the Lady spoke again.

"My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask for my help in their work and in their sorrow will know my Mother's Heart in this place. For I am your merciful Mother, to you and to all mankind who love me and trust in me and invoke my help. Go now to the Bishop in Mexico City and say that the Virgin Mary sent you to make known to him her great desire I have that a shrine dedicated to me be built there. So run now and tell the Bishop all that you have seen and heard."

Second Apparition

Juan Diego went to the palace of the Bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga and requested to meet with him. The Bishop's servants, who were suspicious of the rural peasant, kept him waiting for hours. The Bishop-elect told Juan that he would consider the request of the Lady and told him he could visit him again if he so desired. Juan Diego was disappointed by the Bishop's response and felt himself unworthy to persuade someone as important as a Bishop. He returned to the Tepeyac Hill where he had first met the Lady and found her there waiting for him. Juan Diego implored her to send someone else, she responded:

"My little son, there are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen."

The Lady then told Juan Diego to return the next day to the Bishop and repeat the request.

Third Apparition

On Sunday, after again waiting for hours, Juan Diego met with the Bishop who, on re-hearing the story, asked him to ask the Lady to provide a sign as a proof of who she was. Juan Diego dutifully returned to the hill and told the Lady, who was again waiting for him there, of the Bishop's request. She responded:

"My little son, am I not your Mother? Do not fear. The Bishop will have his sign. Come back to this place tomorrow. Only peace, my little son."

Fourth Apparition

Unfortunately, Juan Diego was not able to return to the Tepeyac Hill the next day. His Uncle had become mortally ill and Juan stayed with him to care for him. After two days, with his Uncle near death, Juan left his side to find a priest. Juan had to go by Tepeyac Hill to get to the priest. As he was passing, he found the Lady waiting for him. She listened quietly to Juan's excuse for not having kept his appointment with her the day before. When he had finished speaking she said:

"Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Your uncle will not die at this time. There is no reason for you to engage a priest, for his health is restored at this moment. He is quite well. Go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that are growing there. Bring them to me."

While it was freezing on the hillside, Juan obeyed the Lady's instructions and went to the top of the hill where he found a full bloom of Castillian roses. He cut them and placed them in his rough cloak, or tilma. He brought the flowers to the Lady who rearranged them and told him to take them to the Bishop; that this was the sign to persuade him to carry out her wishes.

"My little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that with this sign I request his greatest efforts to complete the church I desire in this place. Show these flowers to no one else bu the Bishop. You are my trusted ambassador. This time the Bishop will believe all you tell him."

At the palace Juan Diego radiantly happy, stood before Bishop Fray Juan de Zumarraga and several of his advisors and told him of the fourth encounter with the Lady. He opened his tilma to show the Bishop the sign; the flowers cascaded to the ground - but to the surprise of the Bishop and Juan Diego there appeared upon the coarse fabric of the tilma an exquisitely colored image of the Blessed Virgin exactly as Juan Diego had previously described when she appeared to him at the Tepeyac Hill. The Bishop and his advisors fell to their knees in awe and thanksgiving.

The next day, after showing the Tilma at the Cathedral, Juan Diego took the Bishop to the spot where he first met the Blessed Virgin. He then returned to his village where he met his Uncle, Juan Bernardino, who was completely healed. His Uncle told him that a young woman surrounded by a soft light appeared to him and told him that she had just sent his nephew to Tenochtitlan with a picture of herself. She told his Uncle, that her image was to be known as "Santa Maria de Guadalupe." She has been venerated by this title for nearly five centuries.

Juan Diego died in 1548. He was declared Blessed in 1990 by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican and on July 31, 2002 Juan Diego was canonized in a ceremony presided by His Holiness John Paul II in the Basilica Of our Lady of Guadalupe.

Brief History of Mantle and Image

The tilma of Juan Diego is handwoven, made of fibers of the Maguey Cactus, a fabric that has a life-span of approximately thirty years. No dust, insects or other impurities that would normally be found in such an item has been detected on the tilma. The fact that the tilma has remained perfectly preserved to this day is inexplicable.

The image on the tilma is an authentic portrait of Our Lady which to this day remains perfectly preserved and retains the same freshness and the same color as when it was new four hundred eighty years ago. In 1647 the image is covered with glass for the first time. In 1921 a powerful bomb placed beneath the image in a flower vase exploded destroying the marble steps on the main altar. The marble altarpiece was broken into pieces, the brass Christ on the Tabernacle was split in two. The glass windows in most of the houses near the Basilica were destroyed from the explosion, but the glass that was protecting the Image was not even cracked.

In 1945 Pope Pious XII stated that the Virgin of Guadalupe was the "Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas" and that she had been painted "by brushes that were not of this world."

The sacred image is full of symbolism

Astronomers have observed that the stars visible on the tilma reflect the exact configuration present in the heavens at the Winter Solstice on December 12, 1531.

It has also been found that imposing a topographical map of Central Mexico on the apparently random pattern over her rose colored gown matches the mountains, rivers, and principal lakes of the Mexican lands once ruled by the Aztecs.

The figure of Our Lady of Guadalupe stands in front of the sun, making her brighter than the sun - her foot rests upon a crescent moon, both of which were worshiped in the Aztec culture. This indicates that the woman whose image is shown is greater than both. She stands in an attitude of prayer, indicating that there's someone greater than her. Her mantle is of a blue-green color, a clear signal of royalty in Aztec culture. She wears a black-cincture around her waist - a sign of pregnancy for the Aztecs.

Under the black-cincture in the center of the tilma is a flower with four petals, the Solar Flower. This flower symbolized divinity, the center of the earth, heaven, time and space. Her hair is unbraided which indicated to the Aztecs that the woman in the figure is a virgin.

On her neck hangs a brooch with a cross in the center recalling the death of Christ.

The figure of Our Lady of Guadalupe is standing with her left foot on a serpent's head. The serpent is a symbol of Satan for the Christians and a god to the natives. Showing that she is greater than both Satan and the serpent god.

Examination by an ophthalmologist and a photographer in 1929 and 1951 of the eyes of the Virgin noted the discovery of an apparent reflected image of a man's head in the right eye of the Virgin. In 1956 and 1958 ophthalmologists again examined the eyes of the Virgin confirming the findings from 1929 and 1951. The studies were undertaken by five ophthalmologists, two of whom were non-believers. In 1962 another ophthalmologist announces the discovery of two minute human figures apparently reflected in the pupils of the eyes of the Virgin when studying a photograph enlarged twenty five times.Several studies were done again in 1975 and 1979.

The natives spoke many languages and dialects at the time, but all were able to understand the message that is contained in the Sacred Image. In a short span of seven years eight million natives were converted to Christianity.

The words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego

"My dear little son, I love you. I want you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains the existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth"

"I want to have a church built in this place where your people will know my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know their Mother's heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace..."

"Listen to this, my dear little son: do not be afraid; let your heart not be disturbed; do not fear any sickness..."

“My son, am I not your Mother? Fear not. Eses not worried, my son. Am I not here with you?

" My little son, am I not your Mother? Do not fear. Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you? Are you not under my shadow and protection?"