St. Anthony Messenger magazine
St. Anthony Messenger

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas 

Our Lady of Guadalupe
For nearly 600 years, the appearance of the Virgin Mary to St. Juan Diego in Mexico has captivated countless hearts and minds worldwide.  

With bowed head, brown skin, and wearing a blue-green robe studded with stars, Our Lady of Guadalupe is instantly recognizable and one of the most iconic images associated with Catholicism. Despite the widespread fame of this Marian apparition, its origins are quite humble and deeply connected to the identity of indigenous people in Mexico and beyond. The story begins 490 years ago in 1531 in Mexico City, a New World metropolis recently conquered by the Spanish.

Juan Diego, an indigenous man who had converted to Christianity, would make regular visits to a Franciscan mission for religious education, typically passing by Tepeyac Hill. On the morning of December 9, as he walked past the hill, the Virgin Mary appeared before him with a message: Request that the bishop have a chapel built in her name in this location as a place for those in need to pray for her intercession. After two more Marian apparitions—and a demand for proof from Bishop Juan de Zumárraga—on December 12, Juan once again encountered Our Lady, who uttered these famous words: “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” She instructed Juan to gather flowers, and when he did, she arranged them in his tilma, or cloak.

When Juan returned to tell Bishop Zumárraga about this latest encounter, he opened his tilma, the flowers fell onto the floor before the prelate, and emblazoned upon Juan’s cloak was an image of the Virgin Mary. Being the culmination of the four Marian appearances to Juan Diego, December 12 is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Now, there is not only a chapel built in her honor on the Hill of Tepeyac, but also two basilicas. Construction on the original basilica began in the late 1600s and was completed in 1709.

Built with heavy stone in the style of churches of that era, the old basilica slowly began to sink and become unstable, due to Mexico City being built on a dried-out lake bed. The second basilica, built to handle the fluctuating earth underneath, opened its doors in 1976. The original tilma worn by Juan Diego is on display in the new basilica.

Well before the construction of the basilicas, the site was already venerated as a place of pilgrimage, even dating back to the year of the apparitions themselves—1531. Now it is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, and the third most visited sacred site across all religions. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, around 10 million people visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe each year.


Image
On Tepeyac Hill, where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in 1531, a bronze sculpture installation by Aurelio G.D. Mendoza titled The Offering shows 17 figures, including the Virgin Mary, Juan Diego, Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, and indigenous people bringing gifts to honor Our Lady.
On Tepeyac Hill, where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in 1531, a bronze sculpture installation by Aurelio G.D. Mendoza titled The Offering shows 17 figures, including the Virgin Mary, Juan Diego, Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, and indigenous people bringing gifts to honor Our Lady. (Image: Byelikova Oksana)

Image
The connection between indigenous heritage and the Marian apparitions is strong, as evidenced by pilgrims wearing traditional indigenous clothing.
The connection between indigenous heritage and the Marian apparitions is strong, as evidenced by pilgrims wearing traditional indigenous clothing. (Image: Octavio Duran, OFM)

Image
Woman prays before candles devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe
The facts that Our Lady of Guadalupe has mestizo—a combination of European and indigenous—features, and that she chose to appear to an indigenous person have long held an important place in the Mexican identity. (Image: Julio Ortega/iStock)

Image
The diaspora of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations has continued to spread in the United States. A woman wearing a traditional Aztec headdress participates in a ceremony honoring the Virgin in Houston in December 2019.
The diaspora of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations has continued to spread in the United States. A woman wearing a traditional Aztec headdress participates in a ceremony honoring the Virgin in Houston in December 2019. (CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald)

Image
Pope Francis burns incense on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Vatican in 2019. In his homily, the pope said, “May she speak to us as she spoke to Juan Diego with these three titles: with tenderness, with feminine warmth, and with a closeness of ‘mixedness.’”
Pope Francis burns incense on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Vatican in 2019. In his homily, the pope said, “May she speak to us as she spoke to Juan Diego with these three titles: with tenderness, with feminine warmth, and with a closeness of ‘mixedness.’” (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Image
Thousands of people join in an “Honor Your Mother” event in downtown Phoenix Dec. 5. The annual public procession honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe concluded with an outdoor Mass concelebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares of Phoenix. The diocesan celebration was held prior to the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)
Thousands of people join in an “Honor Your Mother” event in downtown Phoenix Dec. 5. The annual public procession honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe concluded with an outdoor Mass concelebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares of Phoenix. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Image
In the days leading up to the feast day in 2020, thousands of faithful had already come to honor Mary by lighting a candle such as this one and offering prayers.
In the days leading up to the feast day in 2020, thousands of faithful had already come to honor Mary by lighting a candle such as this one and offering prayers. (Image: Julio Ortega/iStock)

Given that Our Lady of Guadalupe has mestizo—a combination of European and indigenous—features, and that she chose to appear to an indigenous person have long held an important place in the Mexican identity. She also reportedly spoke to Juan Diego in his native tongue, Nahuatl. Outside of Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe is honored by millions in the United States, other countries in Latin America, and beyond.

In Los Angeles, for example, an annual procession honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe has taken place since 1931. In cities and towns across the United States, more and more festivities and processions are popping up each year. So although this feast is thoroughly rooted in Mexico, it’s no surprise that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patroness of the Americas.


St. Anthony Messenger Magazine Subscription

Comments

Jane Mbûrû
Sun, 12/12/2021 - 03:43 AM
Jane Mbûrû
On 12th December, we in Kenya celebrate our independence day. Our Lady of Guadeloupe take us to the Lord especially as we go towards the elections. May we elect leaders in tune with God's will. Happy feast day to all.
Gloria Whitfield
Sun, 12/12/2021 - 08:11 AM
Gloria Whitfield
I've read that up close images of the pupils of the Virgin's eyes reveal the kneeling Bishop.
Mary Ann Young
Sun, 12/12/2021 - 06:43 PM
Mary Ann Young
I have owned a photograph of Our Lady's left eye since 1963. To me, the image shows Juan Diego. He has a beard.
joe
Sun, 12/12/2021 - 09:43 AM
joe
do you want to wipe out the plage, say many rosary to our Lady of Guadalupe !!!
Lika Yandall
Mon, 12/13/2021 - 09:10 AM
Lika Yandall
I was born n raised in the island of American Samoa. I’m the 7th., generations Roman Catholic from the ancestry of England plus ancestry of the Samoan Island since we were deposit here from beginning of Ancient time. We have always pray the Rosary to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception plus Our Lady of Guadalupe.🧘🏽‍♂️🙏🙏🙏💔❗️She has performed countless miracles to our families because of our beliefs in Jesus Christ🔥😱😂🧐😘😇
Gwen
Tue, 12/14/2021 - 09:19 AM
Gwen
My son died at the Mayo Clinic on 12.16.19 after only eight days there. He was only 35. We are almost certain that when he looked in the corner of the room on the ceiling (many times), he saw either Our Lady and/or his Guardian Angel. He LOVED Mexico, and what she said to Juan Diego is what we believe she also told my beloved son. He was calm, had his Last Rites, and as we prayed around his bed, we prayed the Memorare, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, etc. On 12.12.19, his wife and I went to the Chapel to pray for our beloved. Our Lady was surrounded by many roses on this, her Feast Day. As we left, we took a few Holy Cards of OLOG. My son was mostly uncommunicative at this time, but my daughter-in-law put one in my son's hand. When she tried to take it from him, his fingers gripped it tighter. A sign from the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are sure. +JMJ+

Add new comment