On December 9, 1531, in Mexico, Our Lady appeared to Juan
Diego, a poor humble Aztec Indian who had recently converted to
the Catholic faith. She asked him to go to the Bishop and tell him
to build a church where she said “I will show and offer all of my
love, my compassion, my help and my protection to my people.”
Juan Diego did as she asked, but the Bishop asked for a sign that
this message was really from Our Lady.
Mary granted his request. On December 12, she showed Juan
where the most beautiful Castilian roses were and told him to
gather them. It was a miracle that the roses were there and in
bloom because there was frost on the ground, and the ground was
an infertile place where only cactus and thistles grew. After he
gathered them, she helped arrange them in his tilma, or poncho,
and told him to show them to the Bishop.
When he brought them to the Bishop, the Bishop was amazed at
the roses, but was even more amazed at what began to happen to
Juan Diego’s tilma. Right before their very eyes, the image of Our
Lady began to form on the cloth. The picture of Mary was
beautiful and the Bishop fell to his knees. He had the church built
at her request.
The tilma is still intact after 470 years. The colors have not faded
and the cloth has not deteriorated. It has been on display in the
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe for all this time.
The manner in which Our Lady appeared on the tilma was very
significant to the Aztec Indians. God had her dressed in a way that
they would understand who she was. She was dressed in royal
clothes that showed that she was very important, perhaps a queen.
She also had the symbol of the cross at her neck which was the
same symbol the Spaniards had on their ships and in the churches they built. She
had a sash tied around her waist which meant that
she was with child, for this was the way the Aztec women dressed
when they were pregnant. And on her beautiful dress were all sorts
of designs and flowers. But there was one flower on her dress that
was very significant. It had only four petals. To the Aztecs, the
four petal flower was the symbol for the true God, the God above
all gods. This flower was located on her abdomen, right over the
place where Jesus was growing inside of her. The Aztecs
immediately understood that this was the mother of the true God!
This appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe was very important to
the history of our continent. You see, the Aztec Indians and the
Spaniards were on the brink of war. The Aztec Indians’ culture and
religion were very different from the Spaniards. They worshipped
gods, to whom they would offer human sacrifices, often killing
50,000 people a year. The Spaniards, who were Catholic, were
naturally disgusted by this. But they were cruel to the Aztecs too,
treating them like animals and sometimes killing them for no
reason. If a war had occurred, it would have been very brutal and
the Spaniards and Christianity would have been totally wiped out.
Mary’s appearance changed everything, however. It helped the
Indians to embrace Christianity and it helped the Spaniards to treat
the Indians with respect and as human beings. In the course of
seven years, 6,000,000 Indians converted to the Catholic faith.
This was the biggest conversion in the history of the Church!
This is why Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patroness of the
Americas. Juan Diego, the humble man to whom she appeared,
was canonized in the summer of 2002.
Mary’s appearance also put an end to the worship of stone gods
and the ritual of human sacrifice. We pray for Mary’s help today
to bring an end to the human sacrifice of God’s children through
abortion and to convert non-believers. Our Lady of Guadalupe is
also called the Patroness of the Unborn.