The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, 1531, commemorates the Blessed Mother’s appearance to Juan Diego in Mexico. She appeared clothed in the sun with the moon at her feet and left her image on his tilma.
That miracle converted the Aztec/Mayan people who were practicing human sacrifice. Within nine years of her appearance, nine million were baptized into the Catholic Church. It is what turned Mexico into a largely Catholic country.
My husband and I have twice visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe where the image hangs; once with our family in 2006 and again last summer for our fortieth wedding anniversary. The appearance is an amazing story every Catholic should know. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas and of the unborn, giving us great hope to overcome the culture of death of today.
The story is both simple and complex in all the deep meaning and miracles that it contains. One of my favorite parts of that story is is not widely known. It is about the significance of the Castilian roses that Our Lady helped place in Juan Diego’s tilma as a sign to Bishop Zumarragu that the apparitions were real.
Nearly 12 years after Hernan Cortes landed with Spanish soldiers, and nine years after the end of their battles, conversions to the Catholic Faith occurred, albeit very, very slowly. It even seemed that the natives were ready to revolt against the Spanish. Bishop Zumarraga prayed for Our Blessed Mother to intervene in the situation. He wrote in his journal that he had asked for a sign that his prayer would be answered: roses from his homeland of Castile, Spain.
When Juan Diego returned a second time with the bishop’s requested with a sign from Our Lady that the apparitions were real, he carried the Castilian roses in his Tilma that the lady had helped place there for him to carry. The existance of these roses growing on the side of the hill, was alone a miraculous sign since they did not grow in Mexico, let alone in the middle of December. Juan did not realize until after he opened his cloak to show the roses, that the image of Our Blessed Mother was emblazoned on his tilma.
The Bishop and others in the room fell to their knees as they saw the miraculous image. But the roses were not a just a decoy, merely serving to hide the bigger surprise. Mary had provided a clear and personal sign to the bishop. Not only did Juan Diego speak the truth about the apparitions, but also Bishop Zumarraga had received a personal message from Our Lady of Guadalupe that his prayer would be answered.
Juan Diego was a simple, humble peasant. Bishop Zumarraga was a bishop of a volatile, developing country. The Blessed Mother was a dear mother to them both. The story gives assurance to us all that she hears our prayers and responds.
Featured image: Pixabay. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.