On December 12, people throughout Mexico, and the Americas will be honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. People will be commemorating and celebrating the event that happened on December 12 , 1531, the day of Our Lady’s fourth and last appearance to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico.
Though our Lady had appeared to Juan from December 9th until the 12th and asking him to visit the bishop and give him her message. She wanted a special chapel to be built in her honor. Juan had done what Our Lady requested, but to no avail. The bishop would not concede until Juan brought him a sign to prove that the woman appearing to him was truly The Blessed Mother Mary.
Juan, in his frustration, was trying to avoid meeting Our Lady on his usual route to town. However, she met him on a different route and asked him if he had seen the bishop. Juan told her about the bishop’s request. She told Juan to go up the hill and pick the flowers growing there. The flowers would be the sign that he should take to the bishop.
Juan did as Our Lady bid him. He gathered the roses that were growing when all the ground was frozen. He put them in his tilma and returned to Our Lady to show her what he had found. She instructed him to give the roses to the bishop.
When Juan returned to the bishop, he unfolded his tilma and the roses fell to the floor. The bishop was astounded at the miracle of the fresh roses and what he saw moved him to kneel down and pray. He saw the exact image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as she had appeared to Juan Diego on the tilma. A shrine made of adobe was erected at that site just in time for Christmas. At present, there is a basilica in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City where the original image is on display.
What is the significance of the appearance Our Lady of Guadalupe? At the time when she appeared, our Lady heralded the beginning of a new era that would rise up out of the ashes of the Indian civilization that had been destroyed by Spanish conquerors. She would give birth to a new people who would be known as the Mexican people.
As she told Juan Diego, she is a mother and is here to right the wrongs of her children and remedy what is wrong; she is a mother who is with us in the struggle to liberate ourselves from sin and oppression. Our Lady of Guadalupe is a symbol of liberation and walks alongside her children in their struggle for fullness of human life.
The great celebrations taking place on December 12, especially by the poor and those who have struggled for a long time, is one of joy and thanksgiving to the great Mother who appeared as an Indian maiden and gave the gift of LIBERATION.
Josie Sanchez, OSB