Our Lady Of Guadalupe Patroness Of The Americas
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Our Lady of Guadalupe
Don Antonio Valeriano

 Our Lady of Guadalupe is very popular. Studies, devotional literature, pictures and even web sites abound. However, there is a document about Guadalupe which is not often mentioned. It was written in 1545, fourteen years after the Guadalupe event of December 9 to 12, 1531. Called Nican Mopohua because of the exact chronological order in which it relates the various phases of the apparitions, this account is also the first and oldest written source on Guadalupe. It is considered a masterpiece of Nahuatl literature and was written by Don Antonio Valeriano (see: Nican Mopohua). The following text is a condensed version of the translation made by Primo Feliciano Velazquez from the original in Nahuatl. Elise Dac translated the Spanish text into English. The story was published 1951 by Publisher Dac, Mexico/Paris, under the title Stream of Light, Queen of Tepeyac. Fernando Leal made the illustrations inspired by native Indian codices. In the Nahuatl language of symbols birds, as well as winged angels, are expressions of divine mediation and flowers point to the truth of things. Because hill of Tepeyac where Juan Diego first met Our Lady has the shape of a face, it is known as the "Hill of the Nose."

Guadalupe is more than a shrine. It is a national monument. Its message has been imprinted on the soul of the Mexican people. Pope Leo XIII expressed this in 1895 when he wrote, "The Mexican people rejoice before your wonderful image ... may it preserve its faith, strong and immovable."

Nican Mopohua

 Don Antonio Valeriano, a descendant of the royal house of Tacuba that stemmed from the Emperor Moctezuma II, was a figure of great importance in the middle of the sixteenth century.

Born about 1520, he received education and enlightenment from the Franciscan friars in the College of the Holy Cross at Tlaltelolco.

He later became Governor of the Indians in Mexico city for thirty-six years. He was remarkable for his understanding of men's minds, thanks to which he became famous as an arbitrator between the two races. He had the aristocratic spirit of the high-class, intelligent Indian.

He had a profound knowledge of Latin and of spiritual and ecclesiastical matters. He inherited from his ancestors numerous hieroglyphs and documents on the Guadalupe tradition, referring to the appearances of the Most Holy Virgin in Tepeyac. Having known and had dealings with Juan Diego, Juan Bernardino, and Bishop Zumirraga as well, he was the first to write down the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Queen of Tepeyacac

In 1531, ten years after the capture of Mexico City, peace allowed the mission fathers to teach the Catholic faith among the Indians and to baptize their children. At the beginning of December, a poor Indian named Juan Diego left his house one Saturday morning to attend divine service. On the way, as he passed the hill of Tepeyacac ("Hill of the Nose," in Nahuatl), he was startled by a song coming from the summit. The sweet, tender singing surpassed the trilling of the most exquisite birds. Juan Diego stopped, entranced, and mused, "Is it my luck to be worthy to hear such music? Is it a dream perhaps? Did I get up from my bed? Where am I? In Paradise, in heaven perhaps? I don't know."

The singing ceased and a heavenly sweet voice called him from the hill-top, "Juan, my little one, Juan Diego." Filled with joy, Juan Diego was not at all frightened, but climbed the hill in search of the mysterious voice.

When he reached the top, he saw a lady who bade him approach. It was a wonderful lady of superhuman beauty. Her raiment shone like the sun; the rock on which she set her foot seemed to be hewn from precious stones and the ground red like the rainbow. The grass, the trees and the bushes were like emeralds; the foliage, fine turquoise; and the branches flashed like gold.

Juan Diego bowed before her and the lady spoke: "Juan, my little one, the humblest of my children, where goest thou?"

"My lady, my child, I go to listen to such divine matters as our priests teach us," he replied.

"I am," said the wonderful Lady,"the Holy Mary, the eternal Virgin, Mother of the true God. I wish a shrine to be built here to show my love to you. I am your merciful mother, thine, and all the dwellers of this earth. To bring to pass what I bid thee, go thou and speak to the bishop of Mexico and say I sent thee to make manifest to him my will."

"My Lady," answered Juan Diego, "I go to fulfill thy command. I bid thee farewell, I thy humble servant."

The bishop received Juan, listened carefully to him, but did not believe the poor Indian's words. Juan Diego was very sad. That same day, he returned to the hill-top of Tepeyac.

Lady and Mistress Mine

The Mother of Heaven was standing in the very same place where he had first seen her. He knelt before her and said:

"Lady, my Child, tiniest of my children, I went to fulfill thy command. I saw the prelate and related to him thy message. By his reply I realised he did not think it to be thy order. Send, Lady, a person of mark that he may believe it. My lady, I am a paltry fellow, a man of straw, a bumpkin, a commoner and Thou my child, my lady, didst send me to a place I go not, where I stay me not. Forgive me the great grief I cause thee, lady and mistress mine."

"Listen, my son, least of my sons," the Most Holy Virgin answered him, "Many are my servants whom I can charge with my message; yet I wish it to be thou to make my petition, to help by thy mediation my will to be accomplished. I charge thee, go again to the bishop, tell him again that the Holy Mary, Virgin Eternal, Mother of God, sends thee."

"My Lady," Juan Diego answered, "let me not bring thee vexation. With right goodwill shall I go to fulfill thy command and tomorrow evening at sunset I will come to give account of thy message. Now I take my leave of thee, my daughter, tiniest of my daughters, my daughter and lady."

Lady of Heaven

Next day, Sunday, Juan Diego left his house very early to take knowledge of divine matters. The mass over, he turned his steps at once to the Lord Bishop's palace and once again, with great difficulty, he was conveyed into his presence. He knelt at his feet and repeated the Virgin's message with sobs and entreaties. The Bishop put many questions to him about the apparition and he related everything with accuracy. The Bishop believed him not a whit more this time, thinking that the story was the product of the Indian's piety, and told him he must have some sign from the lady of heaven herself.

"Sir," said Juan Diego, "show me what sort of a sign thou dost want and I will go straight and ask for it of the lady of heaven who sent me."

The bishop sent some of his house-hold, whom he could trust, to follow him. Juan Diego went straight to the hill. When he had crossed the ravine near the Tepeyac bridge, the attendants lost sight of him and could not find him. So they returned to tell the Bishop he had mysteriously disappeared.

Meanwhile the good Juan was with the Lady of Heaven, giving her the Bishop's reply. The lady dismissed him saying,

"It is well, my son; thou shall return here tomorrow to take to the bishop the sign he has asked of thee. Then will he believe thee, and know, my son, that I shall reward thee for thy pains."

The next day Juan Diego did not return, for his uncle, Juan Bernardino, was gravely ill. He called a doctor in the morning and at night his uncle, feeling that his hour had come, asked him to go early to Tlaltelolco to find a priest. Juan did as he was bid, leaving at dawn, by his usual road; but drawing near to the hiil of Tepeyac, he stopped and thought. "If I go forward, I shall meet Our Lady, who will divert me to give the sign the prelate has asked for." So he turned to the west from the easterly road he was following, believing it paramount to fetch the priest to his dying uncle. As he circled the hill, he saw Our Lady treading majestically down the slope: she drew right near him and said, "What is happening, my son? Where goest thou?"

 "My daughter," replied Juan Diego,--it will grieve thee to know that one of thy poor servants, my uncle, is very ill and dying of plague. I am going in a great hurry to call the priest to confess him and will come back here to take your message. Forgive me, lady and daughter mine, be patient with me, I am not deceiving thee, I will come tomorrow in aIl haste."

Am I not here, I thy mother?

"Be not troubled nor afraid" replied the Virgin. "Am I not here, I thy mother? Art thou not beneath my protection? Am I not thy shield? Let not the sickness of thine uncle distress thee anymore, for he will not die yet. Thou canst rest assured that he is well even now."

When Juan heard these words, he felt comforted and happy.

"Go to the hill top, my son," the Virgin went on. "There shalt thou find flowers in plenty; pluck them, gather them into a bouquet, and come down at once to bring them here to me."

Juan Diego at once went off and, when he reached the top, he stood astonished before a choice variety of flowers blooming before their due season. They were fresh, covered with the night's dew, whose drops shone like precious pearls. Juan plucked the flowers and, descending at once, he offered the Virgin the heavenly blooms.

"My son," Our Lady said to him, "these flowers are the sign thou shalt take the bishop. Thou shalt tell him in my name to see my will in them. Thou shalt be my emissary, full worthy of my whole trust. I charge thee strictly to unfold thy cloak only before the bishop and show him the flowers. Thou shalt tell him all thou hast seen and wondered at."

In haste and with joy Juan Diego took the road to Mexico, with the wonderful flowers he was carrying in his arms.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In the bishop's palace he had a long time to wait. The servants, suspecting from his attitude that he was hiding something in his arms, began to bait him. Seeing his refusal to show them what he was carrying, they began to tug at his cloak, in spite of the tearful petitions the poor Indian put up. Terrified the flowers would fall to the floor, he lifted a corner of his cloak to placate his tormentors. But a miracle! the blooms, fresh and fragrant before, to the gaze of the servants seemed as if stuck to Juan Diego's cloak. Then it was that the head steward and the servants rushed to announce that the Indian had come with the sign. The Lord Bishop commanded at once that he should be brought before him. Juan Diego prostrated himself before him and said:

"Sir, I have done thy command. I went and told the Lady of Heaven thou wast asking for a sign that thou mightest believe me."

The Indian related what the Holy Mother of God had told him and described the glory in which she had lately appeared to him. Then he unfolded his white cloak and, as the lovely blooms were strewn on the floor, the miraculous image of suddenly appeared on the cloth just as it is to be seen today, painted by a divine hand on the cape of Juan Diego.

The bishop and all the onlookers knelt down. Immediately thereafter the cape was hung in the chapel.

Mother of Life

Juan Diego returned home and found his uncle happy and free of any pain. Juan Bernardino explained how the Lady of heaven had healed him and had asked that she should be called HOLY MARY OF GUADALUPE.

From that time there was raised in the spot chosen by Our Lady the Shrine of Guadalupe. The image was borne thither in unearthly pomp, in a procession from the bishop's chapel to Tepeyac hill.

Then there came, in pilgrimage, firstly Indians dancing followed by native warriors; Spaniards, and the civil authorities with the banner of Castile; some men carrying fans, as was the custom at that time, marched behind the Spanish ladies and the women of the country.

Then there followed the two religious orders of evangelistic friars: Dominicans and Franciscans. Preceding the sacred image carried by Bishop Zumirraga and Juan Diego, went Indians burning incense. After them an enormous multitude rendered an indescribable homage to the Virgin.

Thereafter the church was built in all its glory, and from alI parts come the pilgrims to perpetuate each day that procession; they comprise all races of mankind who kneel and pray beside the Indians, who link time past with the present in one faith and hope before the miraculous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

¿No estoy aqui, yo, que soy tu madre? 
“Am I not here, who am your Mother? 
Are you not under my shadow and protection? 
Am I not the fountain of your joy?”


The History of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Aztec Indian Juan Diego in December of 1531 generated the conversion of Mexico, Central and South America to Catholicism. Indeed, the Blessed Virgin Mary entered the very life stream of Central America and became an inextricable part of Mexican life and a central figure to the history of Mexico itself. To this date the most important religious celebration in Mexico and Central America is December 12, the feast-day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her appearance in the center of the American continents has contributed to the Virgin of Guadalupe being given the title "Mother of the Americas." 1-3
The Setting

It is important to understand the historical background and setting at the time of the apparition to fully appreciate the impact of the Virgin of Guadalupe. 

The Aztecs 

The Aztecs ruled most of Central America in 1500, and their Empire known as Mesoamerica extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean and included the lands of Mexico, Guatamala, Belize, and portions of Honduras and El Salvador. Montezuma (or Moctezuma) the Younger, considered the earthly representative of the sun god Huitzilopochtli, became King of the Aztecs in 1503, and ruled from the capital Tenochtitlan and its sister-city Tlatelolco, both situated on an island in Lake Texcoco, the site of modern Mexico City. The inhabitants of the island were called the Mexica. 

Montezuma demanded heavy tribute from the surrounding Indian tribes, and was poised to conquer the few remaining regions of the dying Mayan civilization. 

The city of Tenochtitlan was the center of religious worship for the Aztecs. Since the Mexica believed that the gods required human blood to subsist, the priests sacrificed thousands of living humans a year, generally captured Indians from surrounding tribes, in order to appease the frightful deities. 4-7

Two other gods important to understanding the events of history were Quetzelcoatl, the stone serpent, and Tonantzin, the mother god. Quetzelcoatl was the god who founded the Aztec nation, but left when human sacrifice began, as he was opposed to the terrible ritual; but he vowed to return one day to reclaim his throne and redeem the Aztecs in the year 1-Reed, which occurred every 52 years in the Aztec time cycle. 
Tonantzin was depicted as a terrifying figure, with her head comprised of snakes and her garment a mass of writhing serpents; her eyes projected fathomless grief. Tonantzin was worshipped at a stone temple in Tepeyac, about five miles from the capital Tenochtitlan. 

Montezuma’s sister, Princess Papantzin, lapsed in a coma in 1509. Upon her recovery, she related a dream that profoundly influenced the superstitious King. In her dream a luminous being with a black cross on his forehead led her to a shore with large ships that would come to their shores to conquer the Aztecs and bring them the true God. It was only ten years later, in the year 1-Reed, a year when Quetzelcoatl could return, that the Conquistadors of Spain arrived on the shores of Mexico.2

Hernando Cortez and the Conquistadors 

The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 led to the exploration and colonization of the entire Caribbean by the Spaniards. The Conquistadors, much like the Crusaders, were variably in search of fortune, personal glory, and God, and often all three. 

The Spaniard Hernando Cortes landed on the Gulf shore of Mexico on Good Friday, April 22, 1519. According to one of his men, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who recorded the events of the expedition, Cortes arrived with 508 soldiers on eleven ships, 100 sailors, 16 horses, a few cannons, crossbows and other pieces of artillery.4 They named the landing site Veracruz, "The True Cross." Their Chaplain, Father Bartolome de Olmedo, perfomed Mass on Easter Sunday. Cortes worked alongside his men to build a fort and left a contingent to protect the new settlement. He then sent one ship back to Spain with a letter that detailed their discovery for King Charles V. In an historic move to strengthen their resolve to conquer the land, Cortes burned his last ten ships in the harbor, cutting off any avenue of retreat. 

Three reasons have been given for the conquest of Mexico by this small but formidable force. The arrival of the Spanish conquistadors with their metal breastplates, snorting horses, loud smoking guns, and vicious dogs proved a frightening spectacle to the Indians. Cortes, through the Indian interpreter Dona Marina, cleverly won over outlying Indian tribes, such as the Tlaxcalans, who resented the heavy tribute demanded by the Aztecs. In addition, the Aztecs and others had no immunity to smallpox brought to American shores by the Europeans, and were decimated in a smallpox epidemic that began in 1520. 8

The expedition first arrived in Cempoala, where the heavily taxed tribe pledged their allegiance to Cortes. They continued through Jalapa, and headed towards Tlaxcala. They continued to find evidence of human sacrifice everywhere they went. This only strengthened their determination to stop the diabolic practice. At first the Tlaxcalans resisted the Spaniards. Cortes fought right alongside his men and forever earned their respect. Unable to defeat the Spaniards, the fierce Tlaxcalans finally joined forces with Cortes, and ultimately proved to be most valuable allies. 
On the way to Tenochtitlan, Montezuma planned a trap in Cholula for Cortez, but the Spaniards overwhelmed the Chululan tribe, allies of the Mexica, and left 5000 dead. Montezuma recalled the dream of his sister when he learned that a black cross adorned the helmets of the Spaniards. Because he believed that he was the returning god Quetzelcoatl, Montezuma refused to attack Cortes, and actually welcomed him on his arrival into Tenochtitlan 8 November 1519, and housed the Spaniards in the palace of Montezuma’s father. 

The Spaniards were appalled at the horrible spectacle of human sacrifice, and Cortez asked Montezuma to stop. But sacrifice of adults and even children continued, and the Spaniards were awakened each morning by the screams of sacrificial victims. Cortez boldly placed Montezuma under house arrest one week after his arrival, and confined him to his palace. 

Montezuma presented many gifts of gold, silver, and jewels to Cortez, but would not stop the demonic rituals. Finally, Cortes climbed the stairs of the main temple, had the priests remove the Aztec gods, and placed a Cross and image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Father Olmedo said Holy Mass. 

The Aztec rituals stopped for three months. 
War was about to begin.

Soon afterwards, Cortes had to leave the city for political reasons, and placed Pedro de Alvarado in charge of Tenochtitlan. During the festival of the sun god Huitzilopochtli in the spring of 1520, Alvarado decided to surround the Aztecs during their ritual ceremony in the temples, and slaughtered the unarmed celebrants. Outraged at this violation, the Mexica rose up in arms. Montezuma's brother Cuitlahuac assumed leadership and fiercely attacked the Spaniards. Montezuma died in the battle. Cortes returned to Tenochtitlan to find the city in open warfare. The Spaniards and Tlaxcalans were soundly defeated and driven from the city on the Night of Sorrow, June 30, 1520. 

However, Cortes returned to Tenochtitlan in May of 1521 with a massive army of native Indians, mostly Tlaxcalans. They were surprised to find half the population had died of a smallpox epidemic, including King Cuitlahuac. The new leader Cuauhtemoc fought Cortes for 93 days, but had to surrender the city on August 13, 1521. The once glorious city of Tenochtitlan was destroyed, and with it, the Aztec practice of human sacrifice. The conquest of Mesoamerica was complete. 

The Early Church in New Spain 

Cortes’ first action as conqueror was to place the region under the Spanish crown and demolish the temples of sacrifice and build Catholic churches in their place, such as the Church Santiago de Tlatelolco on the site of the Temple of the sun god in present-day Mexico City. 

Cortez did call for missionaries to convert the native Indians, and shortly after the Conquest, the Franciscan Peter Ghent from Belgium arrived in New Spain in August of 1523. He become known as Fray Pedro de Gante, and adopted the ways of the Indians and lived a life of poverty among the natives. He learned Nahuatl, the native Aztec language, and soon appreciated that communication with the natives was through images, music, and poetry. He first began to educate the young, and the natives soon learned to trust him and listen to the Christian message. 

In August of 1524, twelve Franciscan missionaries arrived, including Father Toribio Paredes de Benevente, who affectionally became known as Motolinia or “poor one” by the natives for his self-sacrificing ways. Many of the others attempted conversion by formal catechetical methods through translators. But they found the natives highly resistant to Christianity, the religion of the Conquistadors, who had killed thousands of Indians, raped their women, and destroyed Tenochtitlan. 

The Dominicans, including Father Bartolome de las Casas of the West Indies, the first priest ordained in the New World, and the Jesuits arrived considerably later. 

In 1528 Charles V of Spain sent a group of five administrators known as the First Audience to govern Mexico. The First Audience was headed by Don Nune de Guzman, who quickly proved cruel and ruthless in his treatment of the native population. He forced the native population either to abandon their villages or be reduced to slavery, branded them on the faces, and sold them in exchange for cattle. 

To offset the First Audience, Charles V appointed Fray Juan Zumarraga as the first Bishop of Mexico City and Protector of the Indians in December of 1528. He accomplished much in his 25 years as Bishop, which included the establishment of the first grammar school, library, printing press, and the first college, Colegio de la Santa Cruz at Tlatelolco. However, he spent much of his first year in Mexico objecting to the ruthless treatment of the Indians by de Guzman, who by then had sold 15,000 Indians into slavery. The First Audience applied strict censorship, and forbade both Indians and Spaniards from bringing complaints to the Bishop. The Bishop countered with stern sermons against their use of military force, torture, and the imprisonment of Indians. 

Finally, in 1529, some Indians managed to smuggle a protest to Bishop Zumarraga concerning the heavy taxes and slave conditions in nearby Puebla. The Franciscan Father Antonio Ortiz delivered a spirited sermon on the Feast of the Pentocost on the subject, and was arrested while preaching from the altar by de Guzman’s men and thrown into jail. Bishop Zumarraga managed to send a message hidden in a crucifix back to Spain, and de Guzman was recalled. A Second Audience was appointed which proved judicial to the Indians, but did not arrive in Mexico until 1531. 

However, the Conquistadors and the First Audience had done grave damage to their relationship with the native population. The Indians were fed up with Spanish occupation, and resentment had reached a flash point. Isolated outbreaks of fights with the Spaniards had become inevitable, and Bishop Zumarraga feared a general insurrection. Such was the setting when the event of Tepeyac took place. 



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 Nahuatl about 1540 by Don Antonio Valeriano, one of the first Aztec Indians educated by the Franciscans at the Bishop’s Colegio de la Santa Cruz.1-3 An illustration of the apparition event with the signature of Don Antonio Valeriano and 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 studied and determined to be genuine, and substantiates the historical basis of the apparition of Guadalupe. 1

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 Nahuatl the Nican Mopohua and other documents in a collection known as Huey Tlamahuezoltica 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.1-3

The tradition 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. It has been pointed out that “great historical movements do not result from non-events.” 9

The Miracle of Tepeyac 

The Aztec Indian Cuauhtlatoatzin (or Cuauhtlatohuac), which means “the one who speaks like an eagle,” was born in 1474. He married a girl named Malitzin, 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 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 Nahuatl, his native language, “Juan Diego!” 
The girl 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 Don Fray Juan de Zumarraga, 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. 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 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, 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, 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. “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. 

While Juan Diego was calling on the Bishop, 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 call my image Our Lady 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 Nahuatl, 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, understood the image 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 

The natives of Mexico converted to Catholicism! The Image on the Tilma  imprint of Mary on the tilma is striking, and the symbolism was primarily directed to Juan Diego and the Aztecs. The description that follows is that related by Father Elizondo,7 who references earlier writings. Mary appears as a beautiful young Indian maiden with a look of love, compassion, and humility, her hands folded in prayer. Her pale red dress is that of an Aztec princess. Her blue mantle symbolized the royalty of the gods, and the blue color symbolized life and unity. The stars on the mantle signified the beginning of a new civilization. Mary stands in front of and hides the sun, but the rays of the sun still appear around her, signifying she is greater than the sun god, the greatest of the native divinities, but the rays of the sun still bring light. Twelve rays of the sun surround her face and head. She stands on the moon, supported by an angel with wings like an eagle: to the Aztec, this indicated her superiority to the moon god, the god of night, and her divine, regal nature. 

Most important are the two crosses and the black maternity band that were present in the image. Mary wore a black maternity band, signifying she was with child. At the center of the picture is found an Indian cross, the center of the cosmic order to the Indian. This symbol indicated that the baby Mary carried within her, Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, is the new center of the universe. On the brooch around her neck was a black Christian cross, indicating she is both a bearer and follower of Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, who died on the Cross to save mankind. 

In summary, the image signified Mary bringing her Son Christ to the New World through one of their own! 

To the Christian one cannot help but identify Our Lady of Guadalupe with the Woman of the Apocalypse. This interpretation was first recorded by Father Miguel Sanchez in 1648. 

"A great sign appeared in the sky, 
a woman clothed with the sun, 
with the moon at her feet, 
and on her head a crown of twelve stars." 
Revelation 12:1 12


The tilma itself was made of ayate, a coarse fabric made of cactus fibre, a cape worn by the Indians of the time. The cape measures 5.5 x 4.6 feet, and is made in two parts sewn by a vertical seam made with thread of the same material. The natural life of the fiber is roughly 30 years, yet the tilma and the image remain intact after 470 years, in spite of moisture, handling, and candles! 1-2

The Immediate Aftermath 

Bishop Zumarraga was overwhelmed by the miracle of the tilma, and this time extended his hospitality to Juan Diego and invited him to spend the night. He gently removed the tilma and placed it in his private chapel, where all prayed in thanksgiving for the miracle. 

The following day, they set out for Tepeyac, and Juan Diego showed Bishop Zumarraga where Mary had appeared. The Bishop directed that a small chapel be erected at the site. The enthusiasm from the event produced so many volunteers that a chapel in Tepeyac was constructed by Christmas Day. 

Juan Diego then asked leave of the Bishop that he might see his uncle. The Bishop insisted that Juan Diego be escorted back to his home and then returned to his palace. Juan Diego and Juan Bernardino were joyfully reunited, and both recounted to each other the miraculous events. Juan Diego brought his uncle back to the Bishop’s residence to show him the tilma, and they stayed as guests of the Bishop until Christmas. The convergence of the curious multitude led the Bishop to move the tilma to the Cathedral so that all could marvel and pray. 

On December 26, 1531, a solemn procession with the Bishop, Juan Diego, Franciscan priests, and the faithful brought the tilma from the Cathedral to the Chapel at Tepeyac. Thousands attended the procession. In the excitement, some Indians shot arrows into the air, and one mortally wounded a man in the procession. A priest tended to the wound, and prayers were said to the Virgin, and the man was reported to have been miraculously healed. This only added to the fervor of the procession. 

Juan Diego lived in a hermitage built for him next to the chapel at Tepeyac, and showed the tilma and explained the apparition and its Christian significance over and over to pilgrims who visited the shrine. He died peacefully on May 30, 1548 and was buried at Tepeyac. Bishop Zumarrage died only three days after Juan Diego. 

The miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe led to a tidal wave of conversions. The few missionaries that initially were met with resistance became overwhelmed with baptisms, preaching, and instruction in the faith. An early missionary, the Franciscan Father Toribio de Benavente, recorded in his Historia de los Indios, published in 1541, that “I have to affirm that at the convent of Quecholac, another priest and myself baptized 14,200 souls in five days. We even placed the oil of catechumens and Holy Chrism on all of them.” 2

Recent Developments 

The Virgin of Guadalupe is literally intertwined with both the history of the Catholic Church in the new world and of Mexico itself. To mention a few events, the great floods of 1629 claimed 30,000 lives and threatened the destruction of the valley of Mexico, until the waters abated when the image was taken in solemn procession from Tepayac to Mexico City. A horrible plague in the early 1700s claimed the lives of 700,000 people, and, once the Virgin of Guadalupe was declared the Patroness of Mexico on 27 April 1737, the disease dissipated. But before that, as Mexico became mestizo, the union of the creoles, Spanish born in Mexico, and the Indians, the dark Virgin became the symbol of the people, and they love her as one of their own. 6

On November 24, 1921, during a period of government persecution, a powerful bomb hidden in flowers exploded directly underneath the tilma during High Mass, and destroyed stone and marble in the sanctuary and shattered the stained-glass windows of the Basilica. When the smoke cleared, the congregation was amazed to find that the tilma remained untouched, and the thin protective glass covering was not even cracked, nor was anyone hurt. 

Scientific studies of the tilma have been undertaken through the years, which have only served to confirm its supernatural nature. The tilma remains just as vibrant as ever, having never faded. Famous Mexican artists such as Miguel Cabrera (1695-1768) determined that it is impossible for the rough surface of the tilma to support any form of painting. One of the unusual characteristics of the tilma is that up close the features are unremarkable, but the tone and depth emerge beyond six or seven feet and the image becomes more radiant and photogenic. 

The astonishing discovery that reflections of people in Mary’s eyes, perhaps Juan Diego and Bishop Zumarraga or the interpreter Juan Gonzalez, were confirmed by two scientists in 1956. This phenomenon is seen only with human eyes, not in a painting.
Studies by infra-red photography in May of 1979 were undertaken by Philip C. Callahan, a research biophysicist at the University of Florida. He ruled out brush strokes, overpainting, varnish, sizing, or even preliminary drawings by an artist in the body of the image. Damage from the 1629 flood was apparent at the edges of the tilma. He concluded that the original image on the tilma has qualities of color and uses the weave of the cloth in such a way that the image could not be the work of human hands.

Scientific analysis
In 1979 Philip Serna Callahan investigated the composition of the image through infrared photography (used to detect sub-surface layers not visible to the naked eye).[25] He identified the moon, sun-rays and sash, stars and nahui olin, among other elements, as standard "International Gothic" additions, possibly from the second half of the 16th century.[26] The original image beneath these, namely the hands, face, blue mantle and rose-coloured robe, showed no underdrawing, sizing or overvarnish.

How did Our Lady identify herself? Bishop Zumarraga understood the Spanish name Guadalupe, a Marian shrine in Spain. But Mary spoke Nahuatl to Juan Diego, and some writers suggest that she may have said “Coatlalupej,” or one “ who treads on the snake.” On the other hand, Juan Gonzalez, the interpreter present for conversations between Juan Diego, his uncle, and the Bishop, was reported to be fluent in both Nahuatl and Spanish, so any misinterpretation would seem unlikely.4 Either may be possible, as Mary is our Mother [John 19:25-27] everywhere, both in Europe and the New World. 

The tilma of Juan Diego is the only known divine image of the Blessed Virgin Mary that exists on our planet! 

Seven million people from the Americas visit the Virgin of Guadalupe every year, especially on December 12, the annual celebration of the miracle. If one visits Mexico City, one can plainly see who has the heart of the people. One finds the Virgin of Guadalupe pictured everywhere in Mexico City, in the airport, taxis, bakeries, even on streetcorners. Our Lady has been the factor that has preserved the Aztec Indians from the cultural disintegration observed with other Indian populations such as in North America.3

Popes through the ages have recognized Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Pope John XXIII was the first to call the Virgin Mother of the Americas on October 12, 1961. John Paul II was the first Pope to visit the Guadalupe shrine on January 27, 1979. On January 23, 1999, Pope John Paul II, referring to all of the Americas as one single continent, called the Virgin of Guadalupe the Mother of America. 

Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego a Saint on July 31, 2002. Juan Diego certainly deserves sainthood, as he was both humble and obedient to the request of Our Lady. The Catholic Church remains firmly entrenched in Mexico, Central and South America, which today are at least 90% Catholic. The Catholic Church of the United States with 60 million Catholics can attribute much of our recent growth to the Hispanic population of North America. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, please pray for us.


1 Testoni, Manuela. Our Lady of Guadalupe - History and Meaning of the Apparitions . St. Paul - Alba House, Staten Island, New York, 2001. 

2 Johnston, Francis. The Wonders of Guadalupe, or El Milagro de Guadalupe . Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, 1981; update (in Spanish), 1996. 

3 Demarest D, Taylor C. The Dark Virgin - The Book of Our Lady of Guadalupe . Coley Taylor Publishers, Freeport, Maine, 1956. 

4 Carroll, Warren H. Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness. Christendom Press, Front Royal, Virginia, 1983 and 2002. 

5 Boone, Elizabeth. The Aztec World. St. Remy Press and the Smithsonian Institution Books, Washington, D. C., 1994. 

6 Krauze, Enrique. Mexico - Biography of Power . Harper-Collins Publishers, New York, 1997. 

7 Elizondo, Father Virgilio. La Morenita - Evangelizer of the Americas . Mexican American Cultural Center, San Antonio, Texas, 1980. 

8 Berkin C, Miller CL, Cherny RW, Gormly JL. Making America - A History of the United States , Second Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1999. 

9 Schreck, Alan. Historical Foundations, Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio, 2003. 
Compact History of the Catholic Church . Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1987. 

10 Rengers, Christopher OFM Cap. Mary of the Americas . St. Paul - Alba House, Staten Island, New York, 1989. 

11 Eliot EC. Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Delaney JJ (ed): A Woman Clothed with the Sun. Image Doubleday, New York, 1961. 

12 The Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible. Catholic Edition, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1971.

Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Feast Day: December 12
Our Lady of Guadalupe, who blessed Mexico and all the Americas by your appearance to Juan Diego, intercede for the holy Church, protect the pope, and help everyone who invokes you in their necessities.
O mystical rose, hear our prayers and our petitions, especially for the particular one we are praying for at this moment (mention your request).
Since you are the ever Virgin Mary and Mother of the true God, obtain for us from your most holy Son the grace of keeping our faith, sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life, burning charity, and the precious gift of final perseverance.

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
Mystical Rose,
make intercession for holy Church,
protect the sovereign Pontiff,
help all those who invoke you in their necessities,
and since you are the ever Virgin Mary
and Mother of the true God,
obtain for us from your most holy Son
the grace of keeping our faith,
of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life
of burning charity, and the precious gift
of final perseverance.

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
my mother,
into your hands joined in prayer,
take my prayers,
petitions and hopes,
and present them to Jesus for me.

Remembering the love
and care your hands rendered to him,
he will not refuse what they hold now,
even though they are from me.

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
mystical rose, make intercession for the Holy Church, protect the Sovereign Pontiff, help all those who invoke thee in their necessities, and since thou art the ever Virgin Mary and Mother of God, obtain for us from thy most holy Son the grace of keeping our faith, sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life, burning charity and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen.


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, that in thy celestial apparitions on the mount of Tepeyac, thou didst promise to show thy compassion and pity towards all who, loving and trusting thee, seek thy help and call upon thee in their necessities and afflictions.
Thou didst promise to hearken to our supplications, to dry our tears and to give us consolation and relief. Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, either for the common welfare, or in personal anxieties, was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, we fly unto thee, O Mary, ever Virgin Mother of the True God! Though grieving under the weight of our sins, we come to prostrate ourselves in thy august presence, certain that thou wilt deign to fulfill thy merciful promises. We are full of hope that, standing beneath thy shadow and protection, nothing will trouble or afflict us, nor need we fear illness, or misfortune, or any other sorrow.
Thou hast decided to remain with us through thy admirable image, thou who art our Mother, our health and our life. Placing ourselves beneath thy maternal gaze and having recourse to thee in all our necessities we need do nothing more. O Holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer us.
[Here mention your petition.]

Five Hail Marys.

Litany of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God our Heavenly Father, Creator through whom we live,
have mercy on us.
God the Son, the One who owns what is near and beyond,
have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit,
have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
have mercy of us.
Holy Mary of Guadalupe,
pray for us.*
Holy Mary, Mother of America,
Holy Mary, Star of the New Evangelization,
Holy Mary, Perfect and Ever Virgin,
Holy Mary, Mother of the True God,
Holy Mary, Mother worthy of honor and veneration,
Holy Mary, Mother most merciful,
Holy Mary, Mother of those who love you and have confidence in you,
Holy Mary, Mother of those who cry to you and search for you,
Holy Mary, Mother who cures all our pains, miseries, and sorrows,
Holy Mary, Mother who remedies and alleviates our sufferings,
Holy Mary, Mother who keeps us within her compassionate and merciful gaze,
Holy Mary, Mother who shows us her help, love and compassion,
Holy Mary, Mother who chooses those who are humble and simple,
Holy Mary, Mother who graciously repays all who serve her,
Holy Mary, Mother who has us under her shadow and protection,
Holy Mary, Mother who carries us in her embrace,
Holy Mary, Fountain of our joy,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let Us Pray

Almighty and Eternal God, your message of mercy, entrusted to Our Lady of Guadalupe, invites all your children to place all their trust in you. Through the intercession of the mother of your Son, may your message of Merciful Love inflame our hearts that we may be faithful heralds and instruments of this Divine Mercy to the world.
(Mention your intentions)
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, according to THY message in Mexico I venerate THEE as the Virgin Mother of the true God for whom we live, the Creator of all the world, Maker of heaven and earth. In spirit I kneel before thy most holy image which thou didst miraculously imprint upon the cloak of the Indian Juan Diego, and with the faith of the countless numbers of pilgrims who visit thy shrine, I beg thy for this favor:
[Mention your request].

Remember, O Immaculate Virgin, the words thou hast spoken to thy devout client: “I am a merciful mother to thee and to all thy people who love me and trust in me and invoke my help. I listen to their lamentations and solace all their sorrows and sufferings.” I beg thee to be a merciful mother to me, because I sincerely love thee and trust in thee and invoke thy help. I entreat thee, our Lady of Guadalupe, to grant my request, if this should be the will of God, in order that I may bear witness to thy love, thy compassion, thy help and protection. Do not forsake me in my needs.

Recite “Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us” and Hail Mary three times.