Our Lady of Guadalupe
Today, December 12th, is the feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of "Our Lady of Guadalupe", and the anniversary of her apparition to the peasant Juan Diego 476 years ago. Up until this point in history, the Christian missionaries had made little headway in bringing the Gospel message to the native peoples of Central and South America. But within a decade of the apparition, seven million Mexicans had become Christian, the largest mass conversion in the history of Christianity! The native religions of the Aztecs and Mayans soon began to fade away, as love for the Virgin and the God that she presented to the people grew across the land. Pope Pius XII went so far as to name Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as the "Empress of the Americas", the patroness of all of us here in North and South America.
This morning at Mass, Fr. Wilson recounted a humorous story from another priest friend of his. I'd heard it before, but it's just a great tale to tell! His friend was raised Lutheran, and so did not grow up with any kind of Marian piety in the home. When he entered Catholic seminary and became a priest, he did so acknowledging Mary but not really feeling any affinity towards Mary or personal devotion to her. It just "was", but not a part of his life. Well, those essential elements of all parish life, the "little old church ladies", wanted to go on pilgrimage to Mexico City, for Our Lady of Guadalupe. And they wanted a priest to come with. So they persistently asked the good Fr. to come (ok, nagged him). Persistence pays off - at last, Fr., who did truly want to do what was best for his people, went to Mexico City with them. During Mass, as he was concelebrating with dozens of other priests, he heard in his ear, very distinctly: "If I choose to have My mother lead seven million people to Me - what business is it of yours?" Needless to say, his life changed forever. Of course, the deeper meaning behind all of the appearances of Mary is not only to demonstrate the love of God and His willingness to use many means to rescue the lost, but also to inspire us to allow Him to use us, following the example of Mary. We too must be "reeds of God", and following the model of Mary's discipleship and of her constant leadership to her Son, we too may be instruments of grace in the life of others. What a beautiful meditation for this Advent!
This website has a brief description of the apparition and miracles associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe, including this fascinating interpretation of the image on the tilma, Juan Diego's "apron":
The Image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec Pictograph which was read and understood quickly by the Aztec Indians.
1. THE LADY STOOD IN FRONT OF THE SUN
She was greater than the dreaded Huitzilopochtli, their sun-god of war.
2. HER FOOT RESTED ON THE CRESCENT MOON
She had clearly crushed Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent moon-god.
3. THE STARS STREWN ACROSS THE MANTLE
She was greater than the stars of heaven which they worshipped. She was a virgin and the Queen of the heavens for Virgo rests over her womb and the northern crown upon her head. She appeared on December 12, 1531 and the stars that she wore are the constellations of the stars that appeared in the sky that day!
4. THE BLUE‑GREEN HUE OF HER MANTLE
She was a Queen because she wears the color of royalty.
5. THE BLACK CROSS ON THE BROOCH AT HER NECK
Her God was that of the Spanish Missionaries, Jesus Christ her son who died
on the cross for all mankind.
6. THE BLACK BELT
She was with child because she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.
7. THE FOUR PETAL FLOWER OVER THE WOMB
She was the Mother of God because the flower was a special symbol of life, movement and deity-the center of the universe.
8. HER HANDS ARE JOINED IN PRAYER
She was not God but clearly there was one greater than Her and she pointed her finger to the cross on her brooch.
9. THE DESIGN ON HER ROSE COLORED GARMENT
She is the Queen of the Earth because she is wearing a contour map of Mexico telling the Indians exactly where the apparition took place.
As always, Rocco has the scoop on the myriad celebrations that are taking place in honor of the "birthday" of the Patroness of the Americas - including this great video clip: