This coming Tuesday, December 12, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! The history of our Blessed Mother’s appearance to St. Juan Diego is beautiful and can inspire us. Here is an account of the apparitions:
“The following account of the five apparitions in three days is based on the oldest written record of the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Nican Mopohua, written in Náhuatl about 1540 by Don Antonio Valeriano, one of the first Aztec Indians educated by the Franciscans at the Bishop's Colégio de la Santa Cruz. An illustration of the apparition event with the signatures of Don Antonio Valeriano and his teacher Father Bernardino de Sahagún with the date 1548 was recently uncovered in a private collection in 1995, now referred to as the Codex 1548. The Codex 1548 has been scientifically determined to be genuine, and substantiates the historical basis of the apparition of Guadalupe.
The Jesuit Father Miguel Sanchez published the first Spanish work on Guadalupe, Imagen de la Virgen Maria Madre de Dios de Guadalupe in 1648. Brother Luis Lasso de la Vega published in Náhuatl the Nican Mopohua; the Nican Motecpana, an account of fourteen miracles of Our Lady; and other documents in a collection known as Huey Tlamahuizoltica in 1649. The theologian Luis Becerra Tanco published his work on the tradition of Guadalupe in 1675. Finally, the Jesuit professor of theology Francisco de Florencia produced his account of the apparition in 1688. These four writers have been important in the preservation of the tradition of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The history of the event is of prime importance. The precipitous conversion of over 8 million Aztec Indians to Catholicism in seven years is highly indicative of the miracle of Guadalupe. Dr Alan Schreck of Franciscan University has pointed out that great historical movements do not result from non-events.
The Miracle of Tepeyac: Cuauhtlatoatzin, which means "the one who speaks like an eagle," was born in 1474. He married a girl named Malintzin, and they lived with an uncle near Lake Texcoco. The three were among the few to be baptized in the early days, most likely by Father Toribio in 1525, and given the names Juan Diego and Maria Lucia, and the uncle Juan Bernardino. Maria Lucia was childless, and died a premature death in 1529. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin was a widower at age 55, and turned his life to God. It was his custom to attend Mass and catechism lessons at the Church in Tlatelolco. At daybreak, on Saturday, December 9, 1531, Juan Diego began his journey to Church. As he passed a hill named Tepeyac, on which once stood a temple to the Aztec mother god Tonantzin, he heard songbirds burst into harmony. Music and songbirds presaged something divine for the Aztec. The music stopped as suddenly as it had begun. A beautiful girl with tan complexion and bathed in the golden beams of the sun called him by name in Náhuatl, his native language, "Juan Diego!" The young woman 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 take them all to my heart, and 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."
Juan Diego went to the palace of the Franciscan Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, and after rude treatment by the servants, was granted an audience with the Bishop. The Bishop was cordial but hesitant on the first visit and said that he would consider the request of the Lady and politely invited Juan Diego to come visit again. Dismayed, Juan returned to the hill and found Mary waiting for him (second apparition). He asked her to send someone more suitable to deliver her message "for I am a nobody."
She said on this second visit, "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, Sunday morning, December 10, Juan Diego called again on the Bishop for the second time. Again with much difficulty, he was finally granted an audience. The Bishop was surprised to see him and told him to ask for a sign from the Lady. Juan Diego reported this to the Virgin (third apparition), and she told him to return the following morning for the sign. However, when Juan Diego returned home he found his uncle Juan Bernardino gravely ill. Instead of going back to Tepeyac, he stayed home with his dying uncle on Monday. Juan Diego woke up early Tuesday morning, December 12th, 1531 to bring a priest from the Church of Santiago at Tlatelolco, so that his uncle might receive the last blessing. Juan had to pass Tepeyac hill to get to the priest. Instead of the usual route by the west side of the hill, he went around the east side to avoid the Lady. Guess who descended the hill on the east side to intercept his route! The Virgin said, "Least of my sons, what is the matter?" Juan was embarrassed by her presence (fourth apparition). "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." Mary 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 mantle, in the cradle of my arms? Your uncle will not die at this time. This very moment his health is restored. 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." Flowers in December? Impossible, thought Juan Diego. But he was obedient, and sure enough found beautiful Castilian roses on the hilltop. As he cut them, he decided the best way to protect them against the cold was to cradle them in his tilma - a long, cloth cape worn by the Aztecs, and often looped up as a carryall. He ran back to Mary and she rearranged the roses and tied the lower corners of the tilma behind his neck so that nothing would spill, and said, "You see, little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that now he has his sign, he should build the temple 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 up 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." This fourth apparition was the last known time Juan Diego ever saw the Virgin Mary. Juan called for the third time on the Bishop and explained all that had passed. Then Juan put up both hands and untied the corners of crude cloth behind his neck. The looped-up fold of the tilma fell; the flowers he thought were the precious sign tumbled out on the floor. The Bishop rose from his chair and fell on his knees in adoration before the tilma, as well as everyone else in the room. For on the tilma was the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary just as described by Juan Diego. Meanwhile, in the course of these events, Juan Bernardino, the dying uncle, suddenly found his room filled with a soft light. A luminous young woman filled with love was standing there and told him he would get well. During this fifth apparition, she told him that she had sent his nephew, Juan Diego, to the Bishop with an image of herself and said, "Call me and my image the ever Virgin Saint Mary of Guadalupe."
The Impact: The news of the appearance of the Indian mother who left her imprint on the tilma spread like wildfire! Three points were appreciated by the native population. First, the lady was Indian, spoke Náhuatl, the Aztec language, and appeared to an Indian, not a Spaniard! Second, Juan Diego explained that she appeared at Tepeyac, the place of Tonantzin, the mother god, sending a clear message that the Virgin Mary was the mother of the true God, and that the Christian religion was to replace the Aztec religion. And third, the Indians, who learned through pictures and symbols in their culture of the image, grasped the meaning of the tilma, which revealed the beautiful message of Christianity: the true God sacrificed himself for mankind, instead of the horrendous life they had endured sacrificing humans to appease the frightful gods! It is no wonder that over the next seven years, from 1531 to 1538, eight million natives of Mexico converted to Catholicism!” (www.maryourmother.net)
Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Joseph and our patron, and St. Columbkill, may God bless you, your families and our parish! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel
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