This week we share stories of December saints, as we continue our Advent retreat.
December 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On December 9, 1531, a 57-year-old Aztec, Juan Diego, saw the Blessed Mother on a hill in Mexico City. She told Juan to have a church built in her honor. When Juan went to ask Bishop Zumarraga about this, the bishop did not understand the native dialect—and he did not believe in the vision Juan described.
Three days later, on December 12, Mary appeared again to Juan Diego, and this time she gave him a sign for the bishop. “Take these roses to the bishop,” she said, as she arranged in his cloak beautiful roses she had Juan Diego pick from the hillside—although it was winter. When he was admitted into the bishop’s room, Juan Diego opened his cloak, and out dropped the roses. On the cloak there remained an image of Mary as she had appeared to Juan Diego.
The image of Mary on the cloak is known as Our Lady of Guadalupe for an interesting reason. On that same day, Mary appeared to Juan’s uncle and cured him, giving him a message for the bishop, saying that she would “crush the serpent’s head.” The bishop did not understand the native language. Their phrase for “crush the serpent” sounded to him like “Guadalupe,” the name of Mary’s shrine in Spain. Thinking that the Virgin wanted the new shrine to have the same name, the bishop called her Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Mary appeared to Juan Diego dressed as an Aztec woman to show her love and compassion to an oppressed group of people. Mary had heard the prayers of these people and knew their pain, and she came to give them hope.
Mary’s visit to Guadalupe is a reminder that God will remember his mercy for all people. In Mary’s song of joy, the Magnificat, she praised God because he has put down the mighty, exalted the lowly, filled the hungry, and sent the rich away empty. People honor Our Lady of Guadalupe because they recognize her motherly concern for them.
If Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared in your town, what do you think she would look like, and why?