The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of hope, love, and salvation for all her children all over the world. But on the day of December 12, 1531, she appeared to a humble indian by the name of Juan Diego on a hill at Tepeyac (a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City). Like many of the works of our Lord, there is a reason for everything that happens, and when His works occur they send such a strong message that not only does it further deepen the faith of the faithful, but it goes beyond by giving faith to those who were without. To understand the significance of the appearance of our Blessed Mother to Juan Diego we must also understand the situation of the people to which our Mother appeared to.
In 1521 the Aztec empire fell under Spanish forces. Hernan Cortes and his soldiers, who were all Christian, brought with them Franciscans who set out to Christianize the indians. The religion that the Aztecs practiced involved worshiping many gods and making human sacrifices. The Aztecs were people of tradition that were deeply rooted in their civilization and in their beliefs. The new religion that the Spaniards & Franciscans were trying to introduce seemed very foreign to them. To add to the frustration, the native language was difficult to learn and presented a great challenge to the Franciscans who were given to great task of converting the indians to Christianity. For several years the Franciscans labored unsuccessfully at their task. The Spaniards and indians clashed and the indians were soon being oppressed by the Spaniards. This only made their conversion to Christianity more difficult because they viewed the Spaniards as brutal and greedy as they brought great suffering to their people. Despite this great conflict the Franciscans baptized Juan Diego and many Aztec Indians.
On a December morning in 1531, Juan Diego heard the beautiful sounds of many birds singing. As he walked to the hill on Tepeyac, there he saw a vision of Our Blessed Mother, Mary, revealing herself as the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the true God from whom we live, of the creator of all things, Lord of Heaven and earth. He saw before him a vision of a woman with olive skin, black hair, and magnificently colored clothing. She spoke very affectionately to Juan Diego bringing a message of hope and compassion which was contradictory to what they were experiencing at the hands of the Spaniards. Mary asked Juan Diego to take her message to his Bishop asking for a temple (church) to be built on the hill (Tepeyac) and for his cooperation and participation. The Bishop did not believe Juan Diego and asked him for proof- a sign. Mary appeared to Juan Diego again and told him to go to Tepeyac to collect some roses. Even though it was mid December, there among the rocks, Juan Diego found Castillian roses. He gathered the roses in his pancho (tilma) and took them to Mary. She arranged the roses in his tilma and instructed Juan Diego to take them to the Bishop.
When Juan Diego unfolded his tilma to present the roses to the bishop, not only was the bishop presented with the beautiful roses, but he was also presented with a beautiful image of the Virgin Mary mirroring the image that Juan Diego saw at Tepeyac. The church was built at Tepeyac and in the seven years following her appearance, eight million Aztecs were baptized. So why after so many years of struggling to Christianize these indians did the mere site of this image of our Blessed Mother convince so many Indians of the validity of Christianity? The answer is magnificently and meticulously inscribed in the image itself (a breakdown of the image with all the individual details and their significances are explained in the videos below).
The tilma itself has been subjected to scientific scrutiny. The tilma is made of two pieces of cactus cloth which rarely last longer than 20 years, yet it has survived intact for centuries. All who have tested the authenticity of the image cannot explain how the image was transferred onto the tilma, but all have agreed that it defies all scientific explanation.
In 1999, in Pope John Paul II’s homily from the Solemn Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (church built at Tepeyac), he declared December 12th as a Liturgical Holy Day for the whole continent. Pope John Paul II also entrusted the cause of life to her loving protection, and placed under her motherly care the innocent lives of children, especially those who are in danger of not being born. So why would the day of Our Lady of Guadalupe be declared a Holy Day for all of the
Our Blessed Mother has come to the aid of her children on several occasions and has been given many names, i.e. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, and also Our Lady of La Vang (as well as many others). On August 21, 1798 during the time when the Vietnamese ruler was martyring Catholics for their “belief in a foreign religion,” Mary appeared to the refugees who were in hiding in the rain forests of