Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico as the pregnant Mother of God to St. Juan Diego, on December 9, 10 and 12, 1531, she left a Miraculous Image of her appearance on his cactus fiber cloak (Tilma) which still exists today for all to see in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Saint John Paul II said, “Our Lady is brilliantly seen in the mestizo countenance of this image of Mary of Guadalupe who appeared in the beginning of the evangelization of the Americas…. I ask her to ‘visit’ as a ‘pilgrim of faith’ – each and every diocese, parish and family in America, repeating to her children what she did at Cana, ‘Do whatever He tells you.’ (Jn: 2:5). May she cross this continent bringing it ‘life, sweetness and hope!’ ”
The Pope had a great devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. In January of 1979 he made his first pilgrimage to Mexico and consecrated his papacy to her. He stressed her evangelistic role at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions. On December 12, 1981, he talked about Our Lady leading us to Christ from the Basilica Shrine in Mexico City as a center “from which the light of the Gospel of Christ will shine out over the whole world by means of the miraculous image of His Mother.” He prayed to her, “Since you are the Empress of the Americas, protect all the nations of the American continents and the ones that brought faith and love for you there.”
On the same day, Cardinal Casaroli, the Papal Legate, was present at the Basilica Shrine in Mexico representing the Pope. During his homily he said: “From that humble height [Tepeyac Hill] the Virgin’s eye turned to the immense expanses of the Americas, from the impassable peaks to the deep valleys, from the wind-swept plateaus to the boundless plains, as far as the extreme end of the continent, where the two oceans that surround it unite in a stormy embrace. It was as if the Mother’s gentle smile illuminated them all with love and hope. Just as the sun, reflecting its brightness in the rivers and lakes, brings forth, as it were, new suns, so the Virgin’s smile, beaming from Tepeyac Hill, seemed to be reflected in every part of this continent.” He prayed to her, “O our Merciful Mother! From this house of yours and from all your sanctuaries scattered all over the Americas and throughout the world, lend your ears and your help to those who invoke you. O Mother of God and our Mother: give us peace! Amen.”
Cardinal Casaroli also dedicated a statue of Pope John Paul II located on the Basilica grounds. He said, “Today we inaugurate this monument, which will perpetuate in your midst, in the Marian center of Mexico and of the Americas, his mild and beloved fatherly figure. Perhaps you do not need this, you who have carved his effigy in your hearts; but the monument is addressed to the future generations which will come here, so that they will remember that Pope John Paul II came here one day, a pilgrim like them, to lay his supplications and his hopes at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
One day, when he paused before a replica of the tilma the Pope said, “I feel drawn to this picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe because her face is full of kindness and simplicity… it calls me.”
He responded to this call and on May 6, 1990 he made another pilgrimage to the Basilica Shrine. There he proclaimed Juan Diego as “Blessed.” On this occasion he said, “The Virgin chose him from among the most humble as the one to receive that loving and gracious manifestation of hers which is the Guadalupe apparition. Her maternal face and her blessed image which she left us as a priceless gift is a permanent remembrance of this.”
On May 12, 1992, Pope John Paul II dedicated a chapel to Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome below the main altar and near the tomb of St. Peter. He referred to Our Lady as the “Star of Evangelization and consequently the symbol of unity….” He prayed, “Most Holy Virgin of Guadalupe, . . . always defend the gift of life, make truth and justice reign; promote industriousness and the Christian sharing of resources. May there be a joyous fulfillment of the civilization of love in the great family of the children of God. Amen.”
Our Queen and Mother of Hope, Star of the New Evangelization
In contrast to the Culture of Death with its loss of hope, Saint John Paul II called Our Lady of Guadalupe the Mother of Hope and the Mother and Evangelizer of America. He did this at the historical First Synod of all of the Bishops of America in Rome in December 1998 that closed on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Pope likened the Synod to the upper room where Mary and the apostles prayed before Pentecost. The Synod began the year 1998 dedicated by the Pope to the Holy Spirit toward the joyful celebration of the Great Jubilee Year 2000. He announced a new mission “to undertake the New Evangelization of the American continent”. He saw America as one continent “from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, from the Pacific to the Atlantic…, a continent called in its various sectors to integration and solidarity.”
He proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Mother of All America. “Now is the time”, he said, “of the New Evangelization to lead the People of God in America to cross the threshold of the third millennium with renewed hope.” He entrusted to her, as the Star of the New Evangelization, the “future path of the Church on the great continent of America.” He referred to America in the singular to emphasize the call to all Americans to unity and solidarity.
In 1999, he made his fourth pilgrimage to Mexico and consecrated the entire Continent to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Pope was invited to come to the Basilica to deliver his Summary of the American Bishops’ Synod. Providentially, he arrived in Mexico on January 22, 1999, the anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the United States. He signed the Summary, his Apostolic Exhortation, The Church in America, and symbolically laid it at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Pope wrote, “In this moment of her history, the Church in America is called to respond with loving generosity to the fundamental task of evangelization. (No.1). . . . I announced the theme of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod in these words: Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America. Put this way, the theme makes clear the centrality of the person of the Risen Christ, present in the life of the Church and calling people to conversion, communion and solidarity. The starting-point of such a program of evangelization is in fact the encounter with the Lord. Given by Christ in the Paschal Mystery, the Holy Spirit guides us towards those pastoral goals which the Church in America must attain in the third Christian millennium.”(No. 3).
The Pope referred to America as one continent and said that Americans are called to unity. “Open to the unity which comes from true communion with the Risen Lord, the particular Churches, and all who belong to them, will discover through their own spiritual experience that the encounter with the Living Jesus Christ is the path to conversion, communion and solidarity. To the extent that these goals are reached, there will emerge an ever increasing dedication to the New Evangelization of America.” (No. 7). . . .
“From the beginning invoked as ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’, Mary, by her motherly and merciful figure, was a great sign of the closeness of the Father and of Jesus Christ, with whom she invites us to enter into communion.”
“The appearance of Mary to the native Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization. Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading to the whole Continent. America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting-pot of peoples, has recognized in the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, ‘in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization’. Consequently, not only in Central and South America, but in North America as well, the Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as Queen of all America.”
“With the passage of time, pastors and faithful alike have grown increasingly conscious of the role of the Virgin Mary in the evangelization of America. In the prayer composed for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, Holy Mary of Guadalupe is invoked as ‘Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization’. In view of this, I welcome with joy the proposal of the Synod Fathers that the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Evangelizer of America, be celebrated throughout the continent on December 12. It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples (see Jn. 2:11), will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church (see Acts 1:14), so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life.” ( No 11).
The Pope’s Exhortation concludes with a prophecy and a prayer. “In America, the mestiza face of the Virgin of Guadalupe was from the start a symbol of the inculturation of the Gospel, of which she has been the lodestar and the guide. Through her powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their cultures, transforming them from within. (No. 70). . . . I therefore invite all the Catholics of America to take an active part in the evangelizing initiatives which the Holy Spirit is stirring in every part of this immense continent, so full of resources and hopes for the future. . . . Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, pray for us!” (No. 76).
The day after he signed his Exhortation, the Holy Father concelebrated Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe with five hundred Bishops and five thousand priests. He virtually declared the end of the culture of death and preached at the Basilica, “The Church must proclaim the Gospel of Life and speak out with prophetic force against the Culture of Death. This is our cry: life with dignity for all. . . . The time has come to banish once and for all from the Continent every attack against life. . . . As a matter of urgency, we must stir up a new springtime of holiness on the Continent so that action and contemplation will go hand in hand.”
He concluded his homily with a prayer, “Oh, Sweet Lady of Tepeyac, Mother of Guadalupe! We present to you this countless multitude of faithful who pray to God in America. You who have come into their hearts visit and comfort all homes, parishes and dioceses of all the Continent.”
The Pope’s request for her Visitations was similar to one that he made in 1996 in Venezuela when he said, “I ask her to visit, as if on a pilgrimage of Mary, as a ‘pilgrim of faith’ – each and every diocese, parish, ecclesial community and family in America, repeating to her children what she said at Cana: ‘Do whatever he tells you’ (Jn. 2:5). May she cross this continent bringing it ‘life, sweetness and hope’! May she enliven and protect the work of the New Evangelization, so that Christians may live their faith with consistency and fervor, and that those who have abandoned it may return. May she promote the unity of the Church, reuniting as in a new Pentecost those who believe in Jesus Christ and those who need to be renewed by the Spirit.” (L’Osservatore Romano February 11, 1996).
It is through Visitations of the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Basilica Shrine that we may realize the fulfillment of a prophecy of the Pope that the light of the Gospel of Christ will shine out over the whole world. He said, “. . . the sanctuary (of Guadalupe) may become a sort of center from which . . . the light of the Gospel of Christ will shine out over the whole world by means of the miraculous image of His Mother.” (L’Osservatore Romano, January 25, 1982).
In 1999, the Pope said, “The Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as Queen of all America.” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, The Church in America). He consecrated the entire continent to her as our Queen and Mother.
Saint John Paul II made his last pilgrimage to Mexico to canonize Juan Diego as a saint on July 31, 2002. He established his feast day as December 9, the date of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s first apparition to him. In his homily he said, “ ‘The Guadalupe Event’, as the Mexican Episcopate has pointed out, ‘meant the beginning of evangelization with a vitality that surpassed all expectations. Christ’s message, through his Mother, took up the central elements of the indigenous culture, purified them and gave them the definitive sense of salvation’. Consequently Guadalupe and Juan Diego have a deep ecclesial and missionary meaning and are a model of perfectly inculturated evangelization.”
He also said, “With deep joy I have come on pilgrimage to this Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Marian heart of Mexico and of America, to proclaim the holiness of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, the simple, humble Indian who contemplated the sweet and serene face of Our Lady of Tepeyac, . . . . Blessed Juan Diego, a good, Christian Indian, whom simple people have always considered a saint! …
“In this new saint you have a marvelous example of a just and upright man, a loyal son of the Church, docile to his Pastors, who deeply loved the Virgin and was a faithful disciple of Jesus.”
Before his final blessing, he said, “You have now in your new saint a remarkable example of holiness. . . . May he be a model for you and others that you may also be holy.”
The year 2003 marked Pope John Paul II’s twenty fifth anniversary as Pope. He credited Our Lady of Guadalupe as his guide. He said, “Ever since I went on pilgrimage for the first time to the splendid Shrine of Guadalupe on January 29, 1979, she has guided my steps in these almost twenty five years of service as Bishop of Rome and universal pastor of the Church. I wish to invoke her, the sure way to encounter Christ, and who was the first evangelizer of America, as the ‘Star of Evangelization,’ entrusting to her the ecclesial work of all her sons and daughters of America.”
Saint John Paul II named Our Lady of Guadalupe as Queen and Mother of America, established December 12 as her feast day throughout America and canonized St. Juan Diego. He prayed at her Basilica, “Holy Virgin of Guadalupe, Queen of Peace, save the nations and peoples of this continent!”