There are three different but connected stories about Our Lady of Guadalupe.
FIRST: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Spain, 1326. There is the Statue which was buried for SIX HUNDRED YEARS in a cave at Guadalupe in Spain that was revealed by Our Lady to a shepherd man in 1326. Here is what happened:
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a richly decorated statue made of dark wood, a so-called black virgin. It was given in the year 580 by Pope Gregory the Great to Bishop Leander of Seville Spain. During the Moorish invasion of 711, when the priests of Seville fled north, they took the statue with them. A fifteenth century account says that when they came to the mountains near the Guadalupe River, “the saintly priests dug a cave that was like a tomb, surrounded the cave with large boulders, and placed inside it the image of our Lady Saint Mary.”
The statue was lost and forgotten during the long struggle by Christian forces to take Spain back from the Moors. The expulsion of the Moors was largely complete when, in 1326, a cowherd named Gil Cordero found one of his cows lying dead near a spring. As he started to butcher it, opening it’s breast in the traditional way with a cut in the form of a cross, the cow, to the herdsman’s astonishment and fear, stood up very much alive. Then the Virgin Mary appeared and said to him: “Have no fear, for I am the Mother of God by whom the human race achieved redemption. Take your cow and go…to your home and tell the clergy, and other people to come to this place where I appear to you and to dig here, and they will find a statue of Me.”
The herdsman did as he was told, and when others mocked him, he convinced them he was telling the truth by pointing to the cow and saying, “Friends, do not dismiss these things; if you will not believe me, then believe the mark the cow bears on her breast.” And he told the clergy where to dig to find the statue, adding that the Virgin also told him that “she would have many people come to Her house from many regions because of the many miracles She would work on sea as well as land.” So the clergy and others went there and found the statue of Mary just where it had been buried some six hundred years before.
The clergy immediately, began building a crude chapel to house the Madonna, later the King of Spain ordered that a chapel be built on the site, which soon became a shrine. Over the centuries, members of the ruling class donated elaborate garments for the statue, including a headdress containing thirty thousand jewels. It is believed that Christopher Columbus prayed here before making his first voyage to the New world, where he named a West Indian island Guadeloupe in honor of the Virgin. + (This article was taken from ‘Miracles of Mary’ by Michael S. Durham).
SECOND: There is the story of CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS.
This great man and his crew went to Holy Mass where they all received Holy Communion at the hands of Padre Juan Perez. Columbus renamed his flag ship ‘Santa Maria’ – (Holy Mary). The other ships were called ‘Pinta’ (Paint) and ‘Nina’ (Girl). If we put the names together we see the prophesy to be fulfilled in 1531 at Guadalupe, Mexico, ‘Holy Mary Paints Girl.’
Notice in the previous article that Our Lady said: ‘the many miracles She would work on sea as well as land’, well the renaming the flag ship to Santa Maria was a prophetic event which in the next article is fulfilled in the Tilma.
THIRD: Again – Our Lady of Guadalupe, this time in Mexico, 1531.
It was the Heavenly sounds something like a choir of songbirds, most unusual for a cold winter day that brought the Mexican peasant Juan Diego to a sudden stop as he ran over a hill called Tepeyac. The date was Saturday December 9, 1531.
Then he heard a woman’s voice of incomparable sweetness calling him from above: “Juan, Juan Diego, Juanito, Juan Dieguito.” Climbing to the top of the rock-strewn hill, Juan beheld a beautiful Mexican girl, “radiant as the sun, emerging from a golden cloud of light.” She spoke to him in his native dialect, “Juan, smallest and dearest of my little children, where were you going?” After Juan explained that he was on his way to the town of Tlaltelolco to hear Mass and receive religious instruction, the young woman identified herself: “I am the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God Who gives life and maintains it in existence.”
The apparition asked that a church a trecoali in Juan’s Aztec dialect-be built on that spot and promised, “I will show my compassion to your people and to all people who sincerely ask my help in their sorrows.” The Virgin then told him to go Tenochtitlan, the native word for the settlement that was to become Mexico City, and relay her request to the bishop. Juan Diego, was now prostrate on the ground before her, agreed to do this at once,
Juan Diego was then fifty seven years old. He lived near his uncle, Juan Bernardino, who had raised him from childhood, in a nearby village called Tolpetlac. The two men had been converted to Christianity, a faith that had been brought to Mexico by Cortez during his conquest in 15l9-21, just a few years before. Juan Diego knew nothing of the world beyond his own village. He had never been to Tenochtitlan, although the island city was only five miles away
When Juan arrived at the palace of Fray Juan de Zumarraga, the Bishop-elect of Tenochtitlan, suspicious servants kept the rustic, who insisted that his message was for the bishop’s ears only, waiting for hours. Finally Juan was ushered into the bishop’s presence. No one knows exactly what was said; apparently Bishop Zumarraga humored Juan Diego by promising he would think about the Virgin’s request for a church at Tepeyac and he ended the interview on an encouraging note: he said that Juan Diego could return later if he wanted.
Juan was not happy about the message he had to relate to the Virgin, who was waiting for him in the same place on the hill. He implored her to send someone else, insisting, “I am nobody.” But the Virgin was not to be dissuaded. Addressing him as “My little son,” she replied: “There are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen.” She told him to return the next day to the bishop and repeat the request.
At the palace on Sunday, the bishop again listened patiently, then told Juan to ask the Virgin for a sign as proof of who she was. Back at Tepeyac, the Virgin told her “little son” to return the next morning and she would provide a sign.
Juan returned home to find his uncle deathly ill with fever. To nurse him, Juan stayed by his side and did not meet the Virgin, as he had promised, on Monday morning. On Tuesday his uncle implored Juan to go to Tlaltelolco for a priest. Juan set off immediately, but, in crossing Tepeyac, he veered around the other side of the hill in hopes of avoiding the Virgin. But, as he had feared, there she was blocking his path.
Juan was afraid the Virgin would be angry, but she reassured him: “Do not be distressed and afraid.” His uncle had already recovered from his illness, she said. Now Juan was free to go on to the bishop and repeat her request that a church be built. But first he needed a sign, so she sent him to the top of the mountain to pick the flowers growing there.
Juan Diego must have wondered what sort of flowers he would find growing there among the cacti in the middle of December. But there they were – Castilian roses growing in profusion. He made a pouch from his tilma, the traditional blanket-like cape he was wearing, filled it with blossoms, and hurried back to where the Virgin waited. She neatly rearranged the flowers, tied the lower corners of the tilma around his neck so the flowers would not fall out, and sent him on his way with the promise that, this tine, the bishop would believe him.
At the palace, Juan came before the bishop and members of his entourage. He told his story then untied the cape and let the flowers tumble to the floor. But it wasn’t the winter roses that caused the bishop and others to fall to their knees. It was the cape. For there on the outside of the rough woven garment was a picture of Mary just as Juan Diego had described her: a radiant figure bathed in golden rays of light, wearing a bluish mantle bordered in gold and adorned with golden stars.
The next day, Wednesday, the tilma was taken to the cathedral where crowds came to see and worship. Juan took the bishop to the spot where he first saw the Virgin and then returned to his village, where his uncle was waiting, completely cured. He told Juan that while he was near death, a young woman surrounded by a soft light, appeared out of the darkness and told him that she had sent his nephew to Tenochtitlan with a picture of her self. Just before She vanished, She said, “Call Me and call My image Santa Maria de Guadalupe.” When the Spanish clergy heard that, they were delighted, for Guadalupe, in that era was the name of the most famous shrine to Mary in Spain.
It took only thirteen days to build a simple chapel at the site. On the day after Christmas, a procession brought the tilma to Tepeyac. Until he died in 1548, Juan Diego lived in a hut next to the chapel, where he spent his days telling his story and showing the picture on the cape to pilgrims. After his uncle died in 1544, his simple dwelling in Tolpetlac became a chapel.
The Virgin’s image continued to work miracles. In 1544, the presence of the tilma is believed to have ended a pestilence that was decimating the population of Mexico City. In 1546, when heavy rains threatened to flood the city, a lay sister dreamed she saw the Virgin of Guadalupe propping up the walls of the convent, and so the picture was returned to Mexico City until the waters subsided. In 1921, with the tilma was now in a large cathedral at Tepeyac, anticlerical forces detonated a powerful bomb that was hidden in flowers at the altar. The blast miraculously killed no one and caused no damage to the image of Mary
There have been many scientific inquiries into the structure of the tilma, including one in 1977 that used infrared photography and computer enhancement to examine the picture, but none has produced a satisfactory explanation of how an image of such startling clarity could be superimposed on material woven from crude cactus cloth. Under ordinary circumstances, such material should have disintegrated within twenty years. Nor has the cloth been sized or the paint varnished, but still the image has not faded or cracked in more than four and a half centuries. The artists and scientists who have examined the Virgin of Guadalupe over the years mostly agree with the inquiry of 1666 that concluded, “It is impossible for any human craftsman to paint or create a work so fine, clean, and well formed on fabric so coarse as that of this tilma.”
It is also believed that the name Guadalupe might have been the result of linguistic confusion or perhaps it was divine design. In speaking to the uncle, Juan Bernardino, in dialect, the Virgin might have used a word, Coatlallope, that sounded like Guadalupe to the Spaniards but to the natives meant “who treads on the snake.” The Spaniards were pleased because the word, as they heard it, linked the miracle at Tepeyac to the most famous shrine to Mary in Spain, and the natives were delighted because the word in their language predicted the demise of a dreaded god, a feathered serpent, whom they would happily be rid of.
The Virgin of Guadalupe helped the Mexican people achieve a national and religious identity. In 1754, Pope Benedict XIV declared her Patroness and Protectress of New Spain, and during the Mexican Revolutionary Wars, the insurgents rallied to the cry “Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe and down with bad government.” And they carried her image on their banners into battle.
Today, the influence of the Virgin of Guadalupe is felt throughout the hemisphere, especially in the southwestern United States. In 1945,she was again coronated, this time as “Queen of Wisdom of the Americas.”
At Tepeyac the original chapel holding the tilma was rebuilt several times until it was replaced by a twin towered basilica in 1709. The tilma was moved again in 1976 to a new round cathedral, built next to the old, with a capacity of ten thousand people. Twelve million people visit Guadalupe, long ago swallowed up by Mexico City every year. It is, by far, the most popular shrine to the Virgin Mary in the western Hemisphere.
(This article was taken from ‘Miracles of Mary’ by Michael S. Durham).
MAYBE A FOURTH: I conclude this article with a story of a faithful friend and his family. I received them all into the Church – married them, baptized their six children, and heard the oldest First Confession and gave them their First Holy Communion.
Where do they live? On Guadalupe Mountain, part of the Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range, (Blood of Christ) on the Red River (Blood of Christ)! Their Family Name? Perez, same as Padre Juan who celebrated Mass for Christopher Columbus!
God bless you all.