In 1531 in Mexico, when the land was still under the bloody influence of the Aztecs who practiced human sacrifice at the tune of 50,000 lives every year and on those special occasions when they dedicated a new temple, the human sacrifice was about 80,000 people offered to the serpent god, Our Lady appeared to a poor Indian by the name of Juan Diego. He was a very humble and devout Christian. On a certain occasion, in December of 1531, when he was on his way to mass, he heard a young woman’s voice call out to him “Juanito, Juan Diegito, and the most humble of my children”.
She identified herself as the Mother of God, the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth. She requested Juan Diego to ask the bishop to erect a church in that place. The bishop hesitated and demanded a sign of the Lady to be sure that the request was truly from Mary Mother of God. Juan Diego returned to Our Lady and told her what the bishop asked for.
Our Lady invited Juan Diego to go on top of a hill and to pick-up the flowers that he finds. He did so. There were beautiful roses growing on that hill, something amazing first of all because this was December and flowers did not grow that time of year. But also, because these roses were native of Spain and there were none like them in the region. Our Lady arranged the roses with her own hands in Juan Diego’s “tilma”, a poor quality, coarse, cactus cloth.
Juan Diego hurried to the bishop’s house to give him the “sign” which he had requested. Upon entering the living area where the bishop was, he awkwardly dropped the end of his “tilma” and the roses came cascading down and revealed the most amazing image… Our Lady herself appeared on this cloth! She looked like a young Indian girl clothed with the radiance of the sun, the moon under her feet, and she is carried by an angel. She is wearing a mantle like the star studded night sky, and she appears to be with child wearing the black ribbon around her waist as was the custom of the Indians at the time.
The Tilma which should have deteriorated after 20 to 40 years at most, still shows no sign of decay whatsoever, to this day almost 500 years later! It has been examined by many experts and the image is still a mystery and baffles all who have inspected it. It does not penetrate the fiber, but rather seems to “float” over it. Expert ophthalmologists, who have scrutinized the eyes of the image, have testified that they seem to be looking into a “living eye” and not an image. Also, reflected in her eyes are various human figures who appear to be Juan Diego, the bishop and others, including a family with a woman carrying a child on her back, as was the custom of the Indians of that day.
In our times, when families are under attack, and children in the womb are particularly at risk of abortion, which is the new bloody sacrifice of the ancient serpent, Our Lady comes to remind us the value of life and of family.
There have been innumerable miracles attributed to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There is a stream of pilgrims, between 18 and 20 millions yearly, who visit the basilica which now enshrines the image, making it Christianity’s most visited sanctuary.
“Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness (his uncle was very sick at the time), nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”
(Words of Our Lady to Juan Diego)