The feast of December 12th in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe / Virgen de Guadalupe) goes back to the 16th century. Catholic chronicles tell us the following story.
According to those chronicles, the first apparition occurred on the morning, December 9, 1531. A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego. He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City. On Saturday morning December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music. Suddenly a radiant cloud appeared, and within it stood an Indian maiden who spoke to him in his own native Nahuatl language (the language of the Aztec Empire). The beautiful lady identified herself as the Virgin Mary, "mother of the very true deity." She told him that a church had to be built on that site in her honor.
Based on her words, Juan Diego sought out the archbishop of Mexico City, a Franciscan named Fray Juan de Zumárraga. Juan Diego told the bishop what had happened, but he did not believe him. After the bishop disbelief, on the same day Juan Diego saw the young woman again for a second time (the second apparition) and she told him to keep insisting. On Sunday, December 10, Juan Diego talked to the archbishop for a second time. This time, the bishop, instructed Juan Diego to return to Tepeyac Hill and to ask the lady for a miraculous sign to prove her identity. That same day, the third apparition occurred when Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. The lady appeared again, and Juan Diego told her about the bishop's request for a sign. She accepted to provide one and asked him to return the next day (December 11).
Unfortunately, by Monday (December 11), Juan Diego's uncle, Juan Bernardino, became seriously ill and failed to meet the lady. In the very early hours of Tuesday, December 12, Juan Diego went to fetch a Catholic priest to hear Juan Bernardino's confession on his death-bed. Juan Diego chose another route around the hill, but the Virgin intercepted him and asked where he was going (fourth apparition). Juan Diego explained the situation to the Virgin and from this encounter is the famous phrase when she asked him "¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre?" (Am I not here, I who am your mother?). She assured him that his uncle had recovered and told him to go to the top of Tepeyac Hill (that was normally barren in December) to gather flowers. Juan Diego followed her instructions and he found Castilian roses (not native to Mexico) blooming there. He arranged the roses in his “tilma” (cloak) and went to see the archbishop again.
On December 12, when Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground, and the bishop sank to his knees. On the tilma was imprinted an image of the Virgin exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac. It is the same image that is now venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe.
The next day (December 13), Juan Diego found his uncle fully recovered. Juan Bernardino told Juan Diego that he too had seen the Virgin at his bedside (fifth apparition). She had instructed him to inform the bishop of this apparition and of his miraculous cure. She also told him she desired to be known under the title of Guadalupe.
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The story of Juan Diego became a powerful sign. Not only did the Virgin appeared to a poor Indian, but the her image imprinted on his tilma had brown skin. Devotion for Our Lady of Guadalupe quickly spread through the native people of the New World. A shrine to the Virgin has existed on the site since at least 1556, when the archbishop of New Spain promoted devotion to the image of Mary at a chapel in Tepeyac. Later, in 1754 Pope Benedict XIV approved her patronage and granted her a proper feast and mass in December 12. Pope Pius X also proclaimed her patroness of Latin America in 1910. During 1935 Pius XI approved her patronage over the Philippines. Our dear Pope John Paul II, finally canonized Juan Diego and declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of the Americas.
Our beloved Lady of Guadalupe holds a special place in the religious life of Mexico and is one of the most popular religious devotions. Her image has played also an important role as a national symbol of Mexico. In 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla promoted her as the patroness of the revolt he led against the Spanish (Independence War). The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared on the rebels banners, and the battle cry was “Long Live Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe) remains a powerful symbol of Mexican identity and faith, and her image is associated with everything from motherhood to feminism to social justice. Her powerful message was: “If you love me, trust me and believe in me, I will respond.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe (Virgen de Gudalupe) has also become a cultural symbol. She has a huge appeal in people without being specifically religious. After all, she is the ultimate symbol of motherhood and that make her relevant to all kinds of people. She is the protector of the vulnerable, the unprotected, the indigenous population, the poor, to those who lack power in society. She is the mother and protector of all us and that is the powerful reason she is one of the most venerated Catholic figures around the world.
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BASILICA OF GUADALUPE,
The Basilica of Guadalupe, officially Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe or Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, is the main religious centre of Mexico. The church is located in Villa de Guadalupe Hidalgo, a northern neighbourhood of Mexico City. The church was erected on the site where Our Lady of Guadalupe is said to have appeared to Juan Diego.
The “Old” Basilica was constructed on the site of an earlier 16th-century church and was finished in 1709. Unfortunately, the “Old” Basilica became dangerous owing to the sinking of its foundations. A new modern structure called the “New” Basilica was built nearby. The original tilma (cloak) bearing the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is now displayed in the New Basilica. This modern basilica was designed in a circular fashion, so that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe may be seen from any point in the church.
This “Basilica de Guadalupe” holds the honor of being the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, attracting millions of pilgrims every single year.
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