On Tuesday, December 12, Catholic dioceses across the United States will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the Unborn. Many events are taking place throughout December, “to honour the accomplishments, hopes, fears, and needs of all families who have come to the US seeking a better life.”
Who is Our Lady of Guadalupe?
In the year 1531, on three occasions during the month of December, Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego as Our Lady of Guadalupe. Appearing on the Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City as a beau-
tiful young indigenous woman, Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to Juan Diego in his native Nahuatl tongue asking him to deliver a message to Bishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga. Mary told Juan Diego
that she wanted a church built on the spot where she appeared so that people would have a place where she could show them her Son and where they could experience her compassion and
At first, the Bishop did not believe Juan Diego and demanded a sign. Juan Diego went back to Tepeyac Hill and implored the Virgin Mary to provide such as sign. Mary instructed him to
gather the roses from the hillside, which is in itself surprising, since blooming roses are rare in December. Juan Diego filled his cloak, or “tilma,” with the roses, and returned with them to theArchbishop. Upon opening his tilma , the fresh roses fell to the ground, miraculously revealing an imprint of Our Lady’s image. A church was built on the site, and Juan Diego lived out his days nearby, helping others, praying, and doing penance.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico at a pivotal time when the Spanish and indigenous groups, particularly the Aztecs, were in continual conflict. From her physical representation as a mestizo woman speaking Nahuatl, Our Lady of Guadalupe became an instrument of peace and unification. The image of Our Lady includes colors, patterns, and symbols that hold special significance for the indigenous community, conveying a message of compassion and love.
Now more than 500 years later, people continue to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe for her intercession to protect and guide them. St. Juan Diego’s tilma is visited by numerous people every
day at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Mary, as the mother of God, also makes her mother to all God’s people. When she appeared to Juan Diego, she assured him: “Let your face and heart not be troubled, don’t be afraid … Am I not
here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and bosom?” Our Lady of Guadalupe has become an eminent image throughout Latin America and even North America and is often
seen as an advocate for migrants and vulnerable populations across the Americas. The Catholic faithful often turn to her to ask for safekeeping as they embark on their long migration journey.
Pope Pius X declared her as the “Patron of all Latin America”, Pope Pius XII called her the “Empress of the Americas”.
Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe
Most merciful mother, you came to tell
us of your compassion through St. Juan
Diego, whom you called the littlest and
dearest of your sons. Give your strength
and protection to all who live in poverty
today, especially the young, elderly, and
vulnerable. Plead for them to the Father,
that they might experience the Divine
Love tangibly in their daily lives, and that
all who work for justice on behalf of the
poor might grow in fortitude and humility.
In these ways, manifest your charity and
concern in our lives, that the weeping of
humanity may be heard, and all our
suffering, pain, and misfortune may be filled
with divine comfort and healing. May we
always know the peace of being in the
cradle of your arms, and bring us safely
home to your son, Jesus.