Our Lady of Guadalupe, Madonna of the Americas
One of the most striking apparitions of Our Lady took place on our own American Continent; She appeared to a lowly Aztec Indian, Juan Diego, in Mexico in 1531. On that occasion, as a proof of her identity, she caused a picture of herself to appear on Juan Diego's cloak. Further, she has continued to preserve this self-portrait which, though executed on poor material that should have perished centuries ago, remains intact to this day. Thus we can still see our beautiful Mother exactly as She appeared over 460 years ago. More important, perhaps, than the picture, is the manifestation which Our Lady gave to us all of Her loving maternal heart through Her words to Juan Diego: "I urgently desire a temple to be built here... to bear witness to my love and compassion, my succor and protection. For I am a merciful Mother to all who love me and trust me and invoke my help. I will hear their weepings and supplications that I may give them consolation and relief."
Our beloved country, America, is dedicated to Our Lady under the glorious title of Her Immaculate Conception. How very fitting, then, that when the Mother of God deigned to appear on the North American continent, the symbols of Her Immaculate Conception were included in the apparition. Our Lady of Guadalupe, "She who crushed the head of the serpent," symbolizes Her triumph over Satan's seduction of Eve and the resultant original sin, Her triumph over the serpent-god of the pagan Indians, and the ultimate triumph of Her Immaculate Heart over the legions of Hell and the forces of Anti-Christ. "Let us gather 'round Her altar -- let us raise Her banner high." O Immaculate Virgin of Guadalupe, protect our homes, our families, our country, against the raging tide of materialism and moral decay, the threatening menace of the police state and the oppressive slavery of world-wide Socialist domination. May our nation and all the nations of the Americas one day soon acknowledge Thee as their Mother and Queen, and may all the peoples of the Americas be converted to Thy Immaculate Heart and begin to live lives of fervent Catholicism in consecration to the Sacred Heart of Thy Divine Son.
Prayer to the Madonna of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mystical Rose, make intercession for Holy Church, protect our Most Reverend Bishop, help all those who invoke thee in their necessities, and since thou art the ever Virgin Mary, and Mother of the true God, obtain for us from thy most holy Son, the grace of keeping our Faith, of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life, burning charity, and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Guadalupe, strictly speaking, is the title of a miraculous picture of the Mother of God, but in time the name was extended to the church containing the picture, and also to the town that grew up around the shrine. The word is Spanish-Arabic, but in Mexico it represents certain Aztec sounds. It is located three miles north-east of old Mexico City. Pilgrimages have been made to this shrine almost uninterruptedly since 1531-32. In the latter year, there was a shrine at the foot of Tepeyac Hill which served for ninety years, and later formed part of the parochial sacristy. In 1622 a rich shrine was erected; a new one, much richer, in 1709. In the eighteenth century several other structures were built adjacent to the Shrine: a parish church, a convent and church for Capuchin nuns, a Well Chapel, and a Hill Chapel. About 1750 the shrine received a canonry, and regular choir service was established there. It was associated with the Basilica of St. John Lateran in 1764; and, finally, in 1904 it was created a Basilica. Before the erection of the "new basilica" after Vatican II -- an ugly monstrosity -- the beauty of the original Basilica was renowned. Around the beginning of the twentieth century the shrine itself had undergone a complete interior renovation in gorgeous Byzantine style, presenting a striking illustration of the history of the apparitions of Guadalupe.
The miraculous picture itself really does constitute Guadalupe. It makes the shrine: it occasions the devotion. It represents the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, being the lone figure of the Woman with the accompaniments of the great apocalyptic signs -- the sun, the moon, and the stars, and in addition a supporting Angel under the crescent. Its tradition is, as the Breviary lessons (compiled at the order of Pope Leo XIII) declare, "long-standing and constant." Oral and written, Indian and Spanish, the account is unwavering. To a neophyte, fifty-five years old, named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac hill to hear Mass in Mexico City, on Saturday, December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared and sent him to Bishop Zumrraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the Bishop's answer. The cautious Prelate had not immediately believed the messenger; having cross-questioned him, he had him watched. He finally bade him ask a sign of the Lady, who said she was the Mother of the true God. The neophyte agreed so readily to ask any sign desired, that the Bishop was impressed, and left the sign up to the apparition.
Juan Diego was occupied all Monday with Juan Bernardino, his uncle, who was dying of a fever. All remedies having failed, daybreak on Tuesday, December 12, found the grieved nephew running to St. James' Convent for a priest. To avoid the apparition having to deliver an untimely message to the Bishop, he slipped round where the Well Chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin had crossed down to meet him and said: "What road is this thou takest, my son?" A tender dialogue ensued. Reassuring Juan Diego about his uncle -- whom at that very instant she cured, appearing to him also and calling herself Holy Mary of Guadalupe -- she bade him go again to the Bishop. Without hesitating he joyously asked for the sign. She told him to go up to the rocks and gather roses. He knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many of them into the lap of his tilma -- a long cloak used by Mexican Indians -- he came back. Our Holy Mother, rearranging the roses, bade him keep them untouched and unseen until he reached the Bishop. Having come into the presence of Bishop Zumrraga, Juan offered the sign. But as he unfolded his cloak, the roses fell out, and he was startled to see the Bishop and his attendants kneeling before him, for the figure of the Virgin Mother, just as he had described her, was glowing on the rough cloth of the poor tilma.
A great mural decoration in the old Basilica commemorates this touching scene. The picture was venerated, carefully guarded in the Bishop's own chapel, and soon after carried in procession to the preliminary shrine.
The coarsely woven material upon which the picture is imprinted is as thin and open as poor sacking. It is made of vegetable fiber, probably maquey. It consists of two strips, about seventy inches long by eighteen wide, held together by weak stitching. The seam is visible up the middle of the figure, turning aside from the face. Skilled artists have not yet been able to discern the manner in which the colors are laid upon the tilma. They have declared that the "canvas" was not only unfit but unprepared; and they have marveled at the appearance of various oil, water, distemper, etc. coloring techniques, all in the same figure. They are left in equal awe by the flower-like tints and the abundant gold. They and other artists find the proportions perfect for a beautiful young maiden. The figure and the attitude are of one advancing forward. There is both flight and rest in the eager supporting Angel. The chief colors are deep gold in the rays and stars, blue green in the mantle, and rose in the flowered tunic.
Sworn evidence was given at various commissions of inquiry corroborating the traditional account of the miraculous origin and influence of the picture. Juan Diego's own will was part of the documentary evidence used, as well as Bishop Zumrraga's letter to his Franciscan brethren in Spain concerning the apparitions. It was his successor, Bishop Montufar, who instituted the canonical inquiry in 1556. In 1568, the historian Bernal Daz, a companion of Cortez, refers to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and its daily miracles of grace and healing. Upon their inauguration to public office, a pilgrimage was customarily made to Guadalupe by Viceroys and other chief magistrates.
The clergy have been remarkably faithful to the devotion towards Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Bishops especially fostering it, even to the extent of making a Profession of faith in the miracle a matter of occasional obligation. Pope Benedict XIV and Pope Leo XIII were two of its strongest supporters. The former Pope decreed that Our Lady of Guadalupe should be the national patron, and made December twelfth a Holyday of Obligation with an Octave. He also ordered the composition of a special Mass and Office. Pope Leo XIII approved a set of complete historical lessons for the second Nocturn of the Office, and ordered the picture to be crowned in his name, composing a poetical inscription for it. Pope St. Pius X granted to Mexican priests the privilege of celebrating the Mass of Holy Mary of Guadalupe on the twelfth day of every month, and granted indulgences which may be gained in any part of the world for praying before a copy of the miraculous picture. A miraculous Roman copy -- for which Pius IX ordered the construction of a Chapel -- was annually honored in the Eternal City, as a magnificent token of the pious devotion with which the Holy Fathers have cherished the Madonna of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe.