The miracle that converted a nation
On Dec. 9, 1531, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an indigenous Catholic convert, was walking to the city of Tlaltelolco in central Mexico to attend Mass. As he approached a hill called Tepeyac, a rainbow appeared amid shimmery white clouds and he heard a woman calling his name.
“Her dress shone as the sun, as if vibrating, and the stone where She stood, as if shooting rays,” according to the “Nican Mopohua,” one of the earliest written accounts of the Guadalupe apparitions.
“Her splendor was like precious stones, like a jewel, everything that is most beautiful, She was. The ground dazzled with resplendence of the rainbow in the fog. The mesquites and the cacti and all the other plants that usually grow there looked like emeralds, the foliage like turquoises, and their stems and thorns shone like gold.”
Speaking in the Aztec language, the dark-complected woman requested that a church be built in her honor on the hilltop.
Juan Diego brought the woman’s request to the bishop, who asked him to return with proof of his claim.
Patroness of the Americas
Our Lady of Guadalupe is patroness not just of Mexico but of all the Americas and of the unborn.
Pope Pius XII declared her patroness of the Americas, and in 1999 her Dec. 12 feast day was raised to the rank of feast for all the countries of the Americas.
“America, which historically has been a melting pot for people, has recognized ‘in the mestizo countenance of the Virgin of Tepeyac’. . . in Holy Mary of Guadalupe, . . . a great example of evangelization, perfectly enculturated,” Pope John Paul II said.
Again Mary appeared to Juan Diego at Tepeyac and asked him to gather flowers blooming on the normally barren hillside. Placing the flowers in his cloak, she instructed the humble peasant to present them to the bishop.
When Juan Diego opened his cloak at the bishop’s residence, the men were astonished to find the Virgin’s image imprinted on the fabric.
As word of the miracle spread, people flocked to the site to venerate the image, which the Franciscans named after the dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe in Extremadura, Spain. Soon thousands of indigenous Mexicans sought to be baptized.
Today, St. Juan Diego’s cloak is displayed in Mexico City’s Basilica of St. Mary of Guadalupe, one of the world’s most visited Catholic shrines.
Pope John Paul II proclaimed Juan Diego a saint on July 31, 2002. He also declared Our Lady of Guadalupe “Queen of All America.” Her feast day is Dec. 12.
Source: “Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego: The Historical Evidence” by Eduardo Chávez, postulator for the canonization cause of Juan Diego.