Feast Day: December 12
Patron of the Americas
The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego in the 16th century in present day Mexico City, Mexico. Juan Diego saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin on the Hill of Tepeyac on December 9, 1531, which happened to be the feast day of the Immaculate Conception in that time. Our Lady requested that a church be built on that site, which Juan Diego dutifully relayed to the bishop.
After a request by the bishop to prove her identity, Our Lady asked Juan Diego to gather roses that were growing on the hill (which were neither native to the area nor in season) and take them to the bishop. Juan Diego obeyed and placed the roses in his tilma (or cloak) to carry back to the bishop as evidence of Our Lady’s appearance.
Upon opening the tilma to reveal the miraculous roses to the bishop, there was something even more miraculous present in the tilma–a striking image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the image Our Lady wears the traditional garments of an Aztec princess. A black sash around her waist was a cultural tradition among the Aztec women that indicated pregnancy. All the elements of the image point to Our Lady as being above the gods the Aztecs worshiped, while at the same time showing that she herself was submissive to the true Creator God while being pregnant with the Divine God-man that grew in her womb.
By using only cultural symbols and no words, which the Aztec people could read as a codex, the miraculous image on the tilma spoke the truth of the Christian faith that the Spanish Catholic missionaries proclaimed. A mass conversion of millions upon millions of Aztecs to the Catholic faith soon followed–ending the human sacrifices, especially child sacrifices that they practiced.
A church was built at Our Lady’s request on the Hill of Tepeyac to mark the apparition site, and today it is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage shrine in the world. Venerated in this cathedral is the original tilma of St. Juan Diego, which still displays the miraculous Our Lady of Guadalupe image. The image has been subjected to scientific testing to prove its authenticity and miraculous properties.
Pope John Paul II’s Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Given in Mexico, January 1979, while visiting her basilica during his first foreign trip as Pope
“O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the true God and Mother of the Church!, who from this place reveal your clemency and your pity to all those who ask for your protection, hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust, and present it to your Son Jesus, our sole Redeemer.
Mother of Mercy, Teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice, to you, who come to meet us sinners, we dedicate on this day all our being and all our love. We also dedicate to you our life, our work, our joys, our infirmities and our sorrows. Grant peace, justice and prosperity to our peoples; for we entrust to your care all that we have and all that we are, our Lady and Mother. We wish to be entirely yours and to walk with you along the way of complete faithfulness to Jesus Christ in His Church; hold us always with your loving hand.
Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, we pray to you for all the Bishops, that they may lead the faithful along paths of intense Christian life, of love and humble service of God and souls. Contemplate this immense harvest, and intercede with the Lord that He may instill a hunger for holiness in the whole people of God, and grant abundant vocations of priests and religious, strong in the faith and zealous dispensers of God’s mysteries.
Grant to our homes the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings, with the same love with which you conceived in your womb the life of the Son of God. Blessed Virgin Mary, protect our families, so that they may always be united, and bless the upbringing of our children.
Our hope, look upon us with compassion, teach us to go continually to Jesus and, if we fall, help us to rise again, to return to Him, by means of the confession of our faults and sins in the Sacrament of Penance, which gives peace to the soul.
We beg you to grant us a great love for all the holy Sacraments, which are, as it were, the signs that your Son left us on earth.
Thus, Most Holy Mother, with the peace of God in our conscience, with our hearts free from evil and hatred, we will be able to bring to all true joy and true peace, which come to us from your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.”