Our Lady of Guadalupe: Empress of the Americas

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Empress of the Americas December 12, 2018
Our Lady of Guadalupe, via Wikimedia.org

Feast: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Day Celebrated: December 12

What Is the Feast About?

The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is particularly important to the Americas, especially the indigenous peoples of the Americas, because this feast celebrates when Mary appeared to demonstrate her particular love and patronage of American peoples.

The story of the apparition is that early Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, Juan Diego, a member of the  Chichimeca people living near modern day Mexico City,  was walking to Mass and catechism lessons in Tlalteloclco at the first Franciscan convent in Mexico City. As he reached Tepeyac Hill at the outskirts of Mexico City, our Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego in what he described as a shining white cloud and rainbow of many colors and to a chorus of beautiful music.

Our Lady called him to her saying, “Juanito, Juan Dieguito,” and asked her son where he was headed. He replied “My Lady, Queen, My Little Girl, I go there, to your little house in Mexico, Tlaltelolco, to follow the things of God which are given to us, that we are taught, by those who are the image of Our Lord, our priests.” The Blessed Mother told Juan Diego that she desired that her “little sacred house be erected” at the foot of the hill, so that she might show her Son and “give Him to all the people in my personal love, in my compassionate sight, in my shell, in my salvation; because I am truly your compassionate mother, yours and those men in this land who are one.” She then instructed Juan Diego to go to the Bishop of Mexico’s palace, telling the bishop that Mary had sent him and wished them to build a church at the sight of the meeting.

Juan Diego went to tell the bishop, Juan de Zumarraga, but Bishop Zumarraga was skeptical of the vision. So, on that same day, Juan Diego returned to the hill where Mary had appeared to him, and told her that the bishop did not believe his report.

He spoke to Mary, begging “my Lady, Queen, my Little Girl, that you send one of those noble persons, who is well-known, respected, honored, to take your kind word so that it will be believed.” Our Lady, however, replied that it was Juan Diego that she “must entrust the delivery of [her] message” with, and she told him to return to the bishop again with her message. So that Sunday, Juan Diego again spoke with the bishop, who instructed Juan Diego to ask for a miraculous sign to prove the veracity of the vision. When Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac, he asked her for a sign, and Our Lady promised to provide one the next day.

However, Juan Diego’s uncle, Juan Bernardino fell sick the next day, and Juan Diego stayed to care for his uncle. By December 12, Juan Bernardino was in danger of death, and Juan Diego set out to find a priest who could provide his uncle with last rites. Juan Diego took a different route to Tlatelolco, avoiding Tepeyac Hill, because he was ashamed he had failed to meet Mary the previous day. Nevertheless, Our Lady, appeared to Juan Diego and encouraged him, healing his uncle. Then, she asked Juan Diego to climb to the top of Tepeyac Hill and cut the flowers he found there, bringing them before her. The diversity of roses would be a sign to the bishop that the vision was true.

So again Juan Diego went to the bishop’s house, where he met with the bishop and relayed his vision. When he handed the bishop his tilma filled with flowers to prove the vision, the flowers fell to the floor, revealing that the tilma had been impressed with an image of the Holy Virgin Mary. The bishop then believed Juan Diego, and asked to see the place where “it is the will of the Queen of Heaven to have her temple built.”

The image of Our Lady can still be seen on the tilma today, and it proves itself more remarkable the more we learn about it. Besides the tilma remaining intact for 484 years, despite that it should have disintegrated long ago, there are many other fascinating facts about the about the image. For example, the stars on the image correspond precisely to the constellations of the winter sky on December 12, 1531. Of particular note is that Mary appears to assume a different ethnicity, either Indigenous American or European, depending on one’s vantage point,

When Did the Church Begin Celebrating It?

Celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe became part of Church tradition in the Americas almost immediately; the earliest procession in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe occurred on December 26, 1531 to move the miraculous image back Tepeyac and install it in the quickly erected chapel at the site of the apparitions. Miracles associated with Guadalupe are recorded by historians like Bernal Diaz as early as 1568. By 1666 a formal inquiry was conducted by the Church to give authority to the tradition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1910, Pope Pius X declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the Patroness of Latin America, and in 1945, Pope Pius XII declared her to be the Empress of all the Americas. By 1988, the liturgical celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe was raised to a solemnity in all the diocese of the United States, and in 1999, Pope Saint John Paul II declared December 12 to be a liturgical feast for the entire continent of North America.

Traditions Associated with the Feast:

Many traditions are associated with this feast, particularly in Mexican Catholic communities. These traditions range from Marian processions, some of which include wearing traditional indigenous American clothing, singing of Marian hymns and las Mañanitas, parish feasts, traditional dancing and music, and attending liturgical services. Many families to prepare will participate in a special novena or rosary novena leading up to the feast day. Some parishes choose to put on dramatic presentations of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In parishes that have images or statues venerating Our Lady of Guadalupe, those images will often be crowned with flowers.

Prayers for the Feast:

O Immaculate Virgin,

Mother of the True God

and Mother of the Church!

You, who from this place reveal your clemency and your pity

to all those who ask for your protection;

hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust,

and present it to your Son Jesus, our sole Redeemer.

Mother of mercy,

Teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice,

to you, who come to meet us sinners,

we dedicate on this day all our being and all our love.

We also dedicate to you our life, our work,

our joys, our infirmities and our sorrows.

Grant peace, justice, and prosperity to our people;

for we entrust to your care

all that we have and all that we are,

Our Lady and Mother.

We wish to be entirely yours

and to walk with you

along the way of complete faithfulness to Jesus Christ in His Church:

hold us always with your loving hand.

Virgin of Guadalupe,

Mother of the Americas,

we pray to you for all the bishops,

that they may lead the faithful

along paths of intense Christian life,

of love and humble service of God and souls.

Contemplate this immense harvest, and intercede with the Lord

that he may instill a hunger for holiness

in the whole People of God,

and grant abundant vocations of priests and religious,

strong in the faith and zealous dispensers of God’s mysteries.

Grant to our homes

the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings,

with the same love with which you conceived in your womb the life of the Son of God.

Blessed Virgin Mary,

Mother of Fair Love,

protect our families,

so that they may always be united,

and bless the upbringing of our children.

Our hope, look upon us with compassion,

teach us to go continually to Jesus

and, if we fall,

help us to rise again,

to return to him, by means of the confession of our faults and sins

in the Sacrament of Penance,

which gives peace to the soul.

We beg you to grant us

a great love for all the holy Sacraments,

which are, as it were,

the signs that your Son left us on earth.

Thus, most holy Mother,

with the peace of God in our conscience,

with our hearts free from evil and hatred,

we will be able to bring to all

true joy and true peace,

which come to us from your Son,

our Lord Jesus Christ,

who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit,

lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

Pope John Paul II

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