Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe
In December of 1531 a Mexican Indian named Juan Diego was on his way to Church in Tlateloco to attend Mass and Catechism classes. As he passed a hill named Tepeyac he heard many birds break into song. The beautiful music stopped as suddenly as it began. Then the Indian saw a beautiful girl „with tan complexion and bathed in the golden beams of the sun”. She called to him by name and said, „Dear little son, I love you, I want you to know who I am. I am the Virgin Mary, Mother of the one true God, of Him who gives life. He is Lord and creator of Heaven and of earth. I desire that there be built a temple at this place where I want to manifest Him, make Him known, give Him to all people through my love, my compassion, my help and my protection. I truly am your merciful Mother, your mother and the mother of all who dwell in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, and of those who seek and place their trust in me. Here I shall listen to their weeping and their sorrows. I shall cure their many sufferings, afflictions, and sorrows. So run now to Tenochtitlan and tell the Lord Bishop all that you have seen and heard”.
So Juan Diego went to the Bishop’s palace. The servants of the Bishop were very rude to the Indian, but Juan Diego patiently bore all of it and was eventually granted an audience with Bishop Juan de Zumarraga. The Bishop was very courteous, and told Juan Diego that he would consider the request and invited him to come and visit again. Dismayed, Juan Diego returned to the hill and found the Lady waiting for him. He begged her to find someone else to deliver her message, someone more suitable, „for I am nobody”, he said. The Lady calmly replied „Listen, little son. There are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen for this task. So, tomorrow morning, go back to the Bishop. Tell him it is the ever holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God who sends you, and repeat to him my great desire for a Church in this place”.
So, the next morning, Juan Diego went again to the Bishop’s house and was granted an audience. The Bishop was surprised to see him again and asked him to bring back a sign from the lady.
Juan Diego returned to the hill and told the Lady what the Bishop had said and she told him to return the following morning for the sign. But when Juan Diego returned to his home he found his uncle gravely ill. So, instead of returning to Tepeyac the next morning he stayed with his dying uncle.
The next morning, December 12, Juan Diego rose early to bring a priest, so that his uncle could receive the Last Sacrament, making sure to go around the spot where he knew the Lady would be waiting for him. But as he was walking, she came down to meet him. „Juanito”, she said, „what is the matter?”.
Juan was embarrassed and answered: „My Lady, why are you up so early? Are you well? Forgive me. My uncle is dying and desires me to find a priest for the Sacraments. It was no empty promise I made to you yesterday morning. But my uncle fell ill”.
The Lady said, „My little son. Do not be distressed and afraid. Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the fountain of your joy? Are you not in the fold of my mantel, in the cradle of my arms? Your uncle will not die at this time. There is no reason now for your errand, so you can peacefully attend to mine. Go up to the top of the hill, cut the flowers that are growing there and bring them to me”.
Juan Diego did not understand. Flowers in December? But he went and to his surprise found beautiful Castilian roses there. He cut them, carefully placed them in his tilma and ran back to the Virgin who rearranged them and tied the tilma carefully around his neck so that none would fall out, and said „You see, little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that now that he has his sign, he should build the Church I desire in this place. Do not let anyone but him see what you are carrying. Hold both sides until you are in his presence and tell him how I intercepted you on your way to fetch a priest to give the Last Sacraments to your uncle, how I assured you he was perfectly healed and sent you to cut these roses, and myself arranged them like this. Remember, little son, that you are my trusted ambassador, and this time the Bishop will believe all that you tell him”.
And Juan Diego went for the third time to the Bishop’s palace. The servants tried to open his tilma to see what was there, but they could not get it open and Juan Diego went straight to the Bishop. He opened his tilma and the flowers tumbled out on the floor. The Bishop fell to his knees for as the roses fell, the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, just as Juan Diego described, was imprinted on his tilma.
Meanwhile, Juan Bernardino, the dying uncle, suddenly found his room filled with light. A young woman was standing there and assured him that he would get well, and that she had sent his nephew, Juan Diego, to the Bishop, then added, „call me and my image the ever Virgin Saint Mary of Guadelupe”.