December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe
We celebrate the feast of Blessed Juan Diego on December 9. With just a few days in between, we celebrate the event of Mary's appearances on Tepyac Hill in Mexico. The heavenly visitor came to her people on December 9, 1531. Juan was a fifty-five year old Catholic convert. He was going to Mass when Our Lady intercepted him as he was making his way down Tepyac Hill. Mary asked him to go to the bishop. She wanted a great church built on the very spot where she was standing. The Indian was overwhelmed. He wanted with all his heart to do what the Lady commanded. But how could he approach the bishop? How could anyone believe such an unusual request? Juan Diego went to the bishop. The bishop must have been pleased with himself when he thought of a way to handle the situation. "Ask for a sign," he told Juan. Juan was caught in the middle. The Lady knew what she wanted; the bishop had the power to make her wish come true, but he wanted proof.
On the early morning of December 12, Juan Diego was hurrying along the path. His uncle was dying and he was going for the priest. Mary met Juan and told him that his uncle was better. In fact, Juan found out a little later that his uncle had been cured at that moment. The Lady asked Juan to go back to the bishop. She wanted him to build a church. Juan remembered the bishop's request and asked Mary for a sign. Mary sent Juan into the rocky area nearby and told him to gather the roses that were there. Juan was puzzled. He knew there were no roses. It was winter and the bushes were bare. But Juan followed the instructions and there really were roses, beautiful roses. Juan picked them all and went to the bishop. He carried them carefully in his tilma (cloak). Juan clutched his cloak and made his way into the room where the bishop was. Slowly he let down his cloak and the beautiful roses fell to the floor. Juan smiled and then realized that something else was capturing the bishop. He followed the bishop's eyes which were riveted to his cloak. And then he saw her, his beautiful lady, on his tilma. Her image was life-size, exactly as she had appeared. The bishop had received his sign and Mary would have her church.
Today a great church, called a basilica, marks the event when Our Lady of Guadalupe came to her people. Our Lady of Guadalupe was named patroness of Mexico by Pope Benedict XIV. She is also patroness of Latin America and the Philippines.
Mary entered the life of Juan Diego in an extraordinary way. As our mother, she wants to come into each of our lives, too. Reflect on Mary's place in your life.