Moments with Mary ...
Our Lady of Guadalupe
When Our Lady came to Guadalupe it was to a land that had been ravaged by tyrannical rituals and a leader who, totally under the domination of satan, sanctioned carnage on a scale that leaves the modern mind totally lost in bewilderment and horror. Throughout all those years many a human heart must have cried out to Heaven for deliverance.
When Cortes, against incredible odds, conquered Mexico, planting in its soil the Spanish flag, he also raised the Cross, heralding the entrance of the True Faith into this land drenched with the blood of its own people. Among those that converted, it was hard for the missionaries to root out some of the pagan and satanic practices to which these Aztec people clung so tenaciously and the fruit was indeed sparse.
It was against this background that Our Lady deigned to come as the Mother of all who weep in this vale of tears. On the early dawn of a beautiful day, December 9th, 1531, Our Lady hastened to strengthen the Faith of this newest possession in the Kingdom of Her Divine Son, which had been purchased by the great price of the Precious Blood. She deigned to choose as Her instrument a fervent Catholic but one of the poor and despised of his people, Juan Diego. This peaceful morning saw him crossing over the hill of Tepeyac on his way to morning Mass. He was startled to hear singing and was more surprised to see a white cloud, enclosed in a rainbow, from which emanated a brilliant light. A lady, all of light, appeared before the cloud. Falling to his knees, Juan Diego heard Her say to him, in his own dialect, My son, Juan Diego, where are you going? He answered, Noble Lady, I am going to Tlatelolco to the Holy Mass. Then She said,
My very dear son, I want you to know that I am the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God Who is the Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and the Earth.
It is My desire that a church be built here for Me - where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show My loving clemency, and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to all those who love Me and call on Me in their affliction so that here I may listen to their sorrows and prayers and give them comfort.
... It is My intention that you go at once to the house of My Bishop of Mexico and tell him that I have sent you to make this request. Tell him that he must build Me a Church here, right away.
With all haste Juan Diego set out for the Bishop’s house only to be met with scorn and disdain by the members of the Bishop’s staff. He was left to wait for a considerable length of time. Finally he delivered the message entrusted to him. But the Bishop was skeptical. Juan Diego went back to lovingly complain to his Lady asking Her to send someone more worthy . . . But the mission had been entrusted to him and so he must try again. The next day he went back again, encountering the same difficulties with the staff as before. This time the Bishop was more responsive and said that the Lady must give him a sign. On his return to Tepeyac Hill, the Lady reassured Juan that She would supply the sign on his return trip to the Bishop.
On returning home that evening Juan Diego found his uncle was sick to the point of death. The next day he spent caring for his uncle instead of returning for the promised sign. His uncle, fearing death, asked for a priest to administer Extreme Unction to him. So on Tuesday morning, December 12, long before dawn, Juan Diego set out quickly, skirting Tepeyac Hill, so that he would not have to face the Lady. But to his great surprise, She came down to meet him and asked him where he was going. After he explained all to Her, She reassured him of his uncle’s cure and then told him to cut and gather the roses he would find at the top of the hill. What had always been a desert now produced a profusion of exquisitely scented roses which Juan Diego plucked. The Lady lovingly arranged them in his tilma. She told him not to show what he was carrying to anyone on the road, or to anyone else except the Bishop. Enfolded in the tilma was the sign the Bishop had asked for.
Once in the Bishop’s presence, Juan Diego recounted all that had transpired that day and upon opening his tilma, the roses cascaded to the floor, filling the room with the most exquisite perfume. Juan Diego did not understand why the Bishop fell to his knees. Casting a glance at his tilma, he beheld the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as She is known to us. After recovering from the profound sense of the sacred, the Bishop reverently took the tilma from Juan Diego and put it in his own private chapel, before the Blessed Sacrament, in thanksgiving and acknowledgment of the great manifestation of benevolence on the part of Divine Providence.
The first chapel to house the precious image was erected in two weeks! From this point in the history of the people of Mexico, the tide turns and Our Lady showers literally millions of conversions to the True Faith. Between the years 1532 and 1548, there were over nine million Baptisms performed. The missionaries were truly overburdened in their happy plight. A loving Mother had answered the heartbreaking cry of the preceding generations and came to offer them new life in the bosom of holy Mother Church.
As to Juan Diego, the rest of his life was spent in the care of this first little sanctuary and the Virgin of Guadalupe showed him all the beauties and wonders of the true Faith and taught him all its depths as only the Mother of God can. He came to be known for his sanctity by all those who knew him.
In the same years that Mexico came into the Faith, the break with the Church that would reverberate for centuries was taking place in England. But the Virgin of Guadalupe gave to these people a faith that has withstood all that the forces of hell could vomit up in order to render it ineffective. When a bomb was concealed in a bouquet of flowers placed before the sacred image and the impact bent the Crucifix, all those in the packed sanctuary were protected, the Faithful erected the chapel of reparation as an outward manifestation acknowledging the protection of the Virgin of Guadalupe over Her sanctuary and over Her people.
The history of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an ongoing one, and as with all other shrines of Our Lady throughout the world, plays a central part in the lives of the Faithful. She and Her Divine Son remain the center of the lives of countless Catholics worldwide and there is no power in this world, or
the next, that will ever diminish this love for Her.
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Be sure to read our next Moments with Mary column where we will feature Our Lady of Perpetual Help.