Our Lady of Guadalupe, Madonna of the Americas



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.

Salve Regina

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.

Salve Regina
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Ten Amazing Facts About the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

In honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, [December 12th] here are ten amazing facts about the image of Our Lady as seen on Saint Juan Diego's tilma that defy scientific explanation and argue in favor of its miraculous origin and divine provenance. Mary’s message of faith still speaks to us, 485 years later.

Our Lady of Guadalupe first appeared on December 9th, 1531. According to the account, the Virgin Mary told Juan Diego, an Indian convert, to tell Bishop Juan de Zumárraga to build a chapel. Bishop Zumárraga asked Diego for a sign as proof that it was truly the Mother of God. Our Lady instructed Diego to gather some roses in his tilma [popular piety attests that Mary arranged the roses in the tilma herself] and present them to the bishop. As Diego did this, the roses fell to the floor, revealing the miraculous image of Mary as she appeared in real life.

1. There is no under-sketch or under-drawing on the image.

Infrared photography has demonstrated that there is no sketching on the image whatsoever. Dr. Philip Callahan, a research biophysicist from the University of Florida explains: "It is inconceivable that an artist in the 16th Century would paint a portrait without first doing a drawing on it." Making an under-sketch prior to painting a portrait goes back to antiquity. Such an exquisite depiction on textile made from cactus fiber is inexplicable given the lack of sketching.

2. The image has lasted and shows no signs of deterioration.

Juan Diego's tilma is made of a rough cactus fiber which normally disintegrates in 15 to 30 years. Yet, the image of Guadalupe has remained intact for 484 years without fading or cracking. Moreover, it was subjected to candle smoke for many years, which should have accelerated the process of deterioration.

In 1778, a worker accidentally spilled strong nitric acid onto a large portion of the image. To everyone's astonishment, only slight stains appeared which can still be seen in the upper right side. Additionally, in 1921 a bomb concealed in some flowers was placed on the altar directly under the image. When the bomb detonated, the marble altar rail and windows 150 feet away were shattered, a brass crucifix was twisted out of shape, but the image was left unharmed.

3. The stars that appear on the image are astronomically correct.

In 1983 Dr. Juan Homero Hernandez and Fr. Mario Rojas Sánchez discovered that the stars on the image correspond precisely to the constellations of the winter sky on December 12th, 1531. Incredibly, the constellations are shown as viewed from outside the heavens, in other words in reverse. It is as if we have a picture from someone looking at it from outside the universe, it is a snapshot of heaven and earth from the very moment that Juan Diego saw Our Lady.

Also, the constellation Virgo, representing virginal purity, appears over the area of Mary's heart signifying her immaculate and virginal purity, and the constellation Leo the lion is over her womb. The lion represents Jesus Christ, because Christ is the lion of the tribe of Judah. This emphasizes that Christ the King is present in Mary's womb. The perfect placement of stars in their various constellations illustrates the infinite intelligence behind the miraculous image.

4. Mary's eyes are astonishingly life like.

Of all the characteristics of the image, this is perhaps the most astounding. The microscopic likeness of a bearded man was discovered in the pupils of the Virgin; first in 1929, and again in 1951. The bearded man corresponds to contemporaneous pictures of Juan Diego. No human painter could have foreseen putting infinitesimally small images of Juan Diego in the eyes of the Virgin so that later advances in human technology could detect them. Furthermore, it is impossible for any human to have painted the images because they are simply too miniscule to produce.

Jose Aste Tonsmann, a Peruvian ophthalmologist, examined Mary's eyes at 2,500 times magnification. He was able to identify thirteen individuals in both eyes at different proportions, just as a human eye would reflect an image. It appeared to be the very moment Juan Diego unfurled the tilma before Bishop Zumárraga.

Dr. Jorge Escalante Padilla a surgical ophthalmologist considers these reflections to belong to the type which have been described by Cherney on the back surface of the cornea and by Watt & Hess at the center of the lens. Such reflections are very difficult to detect. Dr. Escalante also reported the discovery of small veins on both of the eyelids of the image. In the 1970s, a Japanese optician who was examining the eyes fainted. Upon recovering he stated: "The eyes were alive and looking at him." [Janet Barber, Latest Scientific Findings on the Images in the Eyes, page 90.] Incredibly, when Our Lady’s eyes are exposed to light, the retinas contract. When the light is withdrawn, they return to a dilated state.

5. Mary assumes a different ethnicity depending on one's vantage point.

It is remarkable that at one distance Our Lady appears to be a Native American, but at another distance she appears of European descent. This miraculous feature is meant to show the unity of the two peoples and the two cultures in light of the true faith of Christ. Mary implored the peoples of the New World to live as one.

Dr. Philip Callahan explains that the image achieves this effect of appearing to be different colors at different distances by a trait that is only seen in nature:

At a distance of six or seven feet the skin tone becomes what might best be termed Indian olive, grey green in tone, it appears somehow the grey and caked looking white pigment of the face and the hands combines with the rough surface of the un-sized hue, such a technique would be an impossible accomplishment in human hands, it often occurs in nature however, in the coloring of the bird feathers and butterfly scales and on the elytra of brightly colored beetles. This change in color at different distances occurring in nature happens on the tilma in a miraculous way. The pigment combines with the rough surface of the cloth to impart alternating colorations. No human artist can duplicate this effect. Such evidence strongly suggests the image was fashioned by a divine hand.

6. The image is always 98.6°F; the temperature of the human body.

The sixth miraculous feature concerning the image is its temperature. It is a demonstrable fact that no matter what the surrounding temperature, season, or weather, the image remains at an even 36.5°C or 98.6°F, the normal temperature of the human body. [Janet Barber, The Tilma and Its Miraculous Image.]

Also, Dr. Carlos Fernandez del Castillo, a Mexican gynecologist, after carefully examining the tilma and the image of the pregnant Madonna concluded that the dimensions of her body were that of an expectant mother at the end of gestation.

7. How the native Indian population interpreted the image of Our Lady.

The indigenous Indian population recognized in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe specific signs that Christianity was superior to other belief systems, including their own. As recorded by Fr. Harold Romm in, Am I Not Here, page 56:
The Indians saw something in the image of Our Lady that the Spaniards did not comprehend. In that period, the Indians did their writing in hieroglyphics, so to them the image was a hieroglyphic letter. The fact that the natives read the image is most important in understanding the purpose of Our Lady’s apparitions. To the Indians the image depicted a beautiful lady standing in front of the sun, a sign to them that she was greater than the sun god Huitzilopochtli whom they worshiped; the crescent or the moon beneath her feet showed that their moon god Tezcatlipoca was less than nothing since she was standing on it; the stars they thought so much of were only a part or portion of her mantle. At her throat was a brooch with a small black cross in the center reminding them that this was the emblem of the Spanish Friars and there was one greater than she. The intelligence that constructed the image of Guadalupe conveyed exactly the message that the Indians needed to hear and to see to abandon their false notions of God and their idolatrous practices. It is infinitely insightful, well beyond anything humans could imagine. Reading the image caused millions of Indians to convert to the Catholic faith.

8. A 2007 miracle emphasizes Our Lady as the Patroness of the Unborn.

Among Our Lady of Guadalupe’s many designations, she is venerated as the patroness of the unborn. The image shows Mary as pregnant with Christ. She is an unmistakable witness to the sanctity of life and the protection of the unborn.

On April 24, 2007, an unusual luminosity in the famed image of Mary at the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City immediately after that city legalized abortion became visible. According to one account: "At the end of the Mass, which was offered for aborted children... While many of the faithful were taking photographs of the tilma of Tepeyac, exposed and venerated in the Basilica... the image of the Virgin began to erase itself, to give place to an intense light which emanated from her abdomen, constituting a brilliant halo having the form of an embryo. Below, centered and enlarged, one can appreciate the location of the light which shone from the stomach of the Virgin and is not a reflection, or [otherwise] an artifact."

Engineer, Luis Girault, who studied the picture and confirmed the authenticity of the negative, was able to specify that it had not been modified or altered, i.e: by superimposition of another image. He determined that the image does not come from any reflection, but originates from inside Mary. The produced light is very white, pure and intense, different from habitual photographic lights produced by flashes. The light, encircled with a halo, appears to float inside Mary's abdomen. The halo has the form and measurements of an embryo. If we again examine the picture by making it turn in a sagittal plane, we perceive inside the halo some areas of shade that are characteristic of a human embryo in the maternal womb.

9. The Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the miraculous roses.

The Spanish rulers of the native population were brutal, and war between them seemed inevitable. In 1531, the archbishop of Mexico City, Juan de Zumárraga prayed to Our Lady for peace. As a sign that his petition would be granted, he asked to receive roses native to his home region of Castile, Spain.

Our Lady told Juan Diego to present Bishop Zumárraga her request that a church be built for her on the hill of Tepeyac (now part of Mexico City) where people could receive God's grace. Bishop Zumárraga was skeptical of Diego's account and asked that Our Lady produce a sign verifying her identity.

That afternoon, Mary told Juan Diego to return the following day (December 11th) and she would provide proof. That night, however, Diego's uncle became deathly ill, and Diego never returned. Early the morning of December 12th, Diego journeyed to Tlatleloco to find a priest so his uncle could confess his sins before dying. In doing so, he passed Tepeyac Hill. Afraid Mary would interrupt his errand, he went to the other side of the hill, but Our Lady came to meet him.

Mary assured Diego his uncle would recover. She told him to go to the top of the hill and gather the flowers there. Diego discovered, growing in the frozen earth, a miraculous garden of castilian roses not native to Mexico. Diego brought them to Mary, who arranged them in his tilma, with instructions that he take them to the bishop. Before Bishop Zumárraga, Juan Diego opened his cloak. The roses fell to the floor revealing the image of Mary. The Bishop's prayers had been answered.

10. Mary’s conversion of millions counteracted Luther’s Reformation.

Our Lady’s urgent message was one of faith, hope and comfort to the indigenous population oppressed by their Spanish overseers. In a matter of months, she ended the Aztec culture’s cult of death. The Aztec religion involved human sacrifice on an unthinkable scale. In the decade following her appearance, ten million Indians converted to Catholicism, creating a vibrant community of faith that persists to the present day.

In Europe, the Protestant Reformation raged, dividing the Church and causing millions to turn to Protestantism. At the moment that millions in Europe were being torn from the Church founded by Christ, God was arranging for twice as many in the New World to be brought into it. By divine Providence, Our Lady was creating unity and a wellspring of deep devotion among the faithful in Mexico. Her words to Juan Diego, “My dear child. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?”, made him, and his fellow Indians, in every way the Spaniards equals in dignity.