Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico as the pregnant Mother of God to Saint Juan Diego, a Chicemeca Indian, on December 9, 10 and 12, 1531. She left a Miraculous Image of her appearance on his tilma (cloak), which still exists today for all to see in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The Aztec Indians practiced human sacrifice as an offering to their false gods. Hernando Cortez and the Spanish conquered and evangelized them.
After the conquest, the Spanish rule of the natives was so severe that a bloody revolt was imminent. Bishop Zumarraga prayed for Our Lady to intervene to prevent an uprising, to reconcile the Spanish and the natives and to bring peace. It is believed that he asked that he would receive roses native to his homeland of Castile, Spain as a sign that his prayer would be answered.
Our Lady came to offer faith, hope and consolation to the oppressed natives of Mexico and to reconcile them with their Spanish rulers. She put an end to the bloody human sacrifice of the Aztecs and converted them to the Catholic faith.
Ten years after the Conquest on Saturday, December 9, 1531, fifty-seven year old St. Juan Diego began his nine-mile walk from his home in to Mexico City.
As he walked at dawn near Tepeyac Hill, the former site of worship to the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, he heard the music of singing birds.
Then, from the top of the hill, he heard a sweet feminine voice affectionately call him by name, “Juan, dearest Juan Diego.” He quickly climbed to the top of the hill to see who was there. He saw a beautiful young lady. Her dress shone like the sun and transformed the appearance of the rocks and plants on the barren cactus hill into glittering jewels. The ground glistened like the rays of a rainbow in a dense fog.
The lady identified herself to him and entrusted to him a mission to request Bishop Zumarraga to build a church on the hill so that she could manifest her Son to all of the people. She said,
Know for certain, dearest of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the one true God, through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of heaven and earth. I ardently desire that a sacred house be built here for me where I will show Him, I will exalt Him and make Him manifest, I will give Him to the people and offer all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection. I am your merciful Mother, the merciful Mother of all who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping and their sorrows, and I will remedy and alleviate their sufferings, necessities and misfortunes. Therefore, in order to realize my intentions, go to the house of the Bishop of Mexico City and tell him that I sent you and that it is my desire to have a sacred house built here. Tell him all that you have seen and heard. Be assured that I shall be very grateful and will reward you for doing diligently what I have asked of you. Now that you have heard my words, my son, go and do everything as best as you can.Our Lady had identified herself, stated her desire and gave Juan Diego his mission. This is the only apparition in which Our Lady identified herself, through her image and words, by all privileges conferred on her by God: her Immaculate Conception, her Perpetual Virginity, her Motherhood of God and of the Church and her Glorious Assumption. Our Lady wanted to show her merciful love to all of her children. Juan went to the Bishop as he requested but the prudent Bishop asked Juan to ask the lady for a sign. Juan did so and Our Lady promised to give him the sign.
On December 12, Our Lady again appeared to Juan on Tepeyac Hill. She said:
Listen and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son, let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? What else do you need?She told him to pick the Castilian roses which miraculously appeared there and bring them to the Bishop as a sign for him to believe her request. Juan gathered the roses into his tilma and brought them to the Bishop.
Juan opened the tilma to show them and, to everyone’s astonishment, the Image of Our Lady appeared on it. The Bishop then built the church as Our Lady had requested. Nine million natives were converted and baptized to the one, true faith within the next nine years. Human sacrifice ended in Mexico forever and the Indians and Spanish reconciled, inter-married and became the Mexican people.
Bishop Zumarraga later wrote to Cortes, “In our day, God and His Blessed Mother deigned to shower the land which was won by you, with His great mercy.”
For more information on the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, please read Dan Lynch’s book, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hope for the World.