Justice and Peace Issues
Dec. 12 ~ Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
In Mexico in 1531, Spanish forces had violently taken over the land and oppressed the indigenous people there. It is in this context that the Blessed Mother appeared and chose a poor, indigenous man to bring her message of compassion and peace to his nation and all the world. On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to Mass, when beautiful music coming from Tepeyac hill caught his attention.
Suddenly, a beautiful lady dressed as an Aztec princess appeared to him, spoke to him in his own language, and – declaring herself to be “Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live” – sent him to the bishop of Mexico to request that a chapel be built on the hill in her honor. Juan Diego obeyed, and persisted in making this request of the bishop, who initially dismissed him. On December 12, Our Lady instructed Juan Diego to fill his cloak (tilma) with roses that miraculously bloomed on the rocky hillside and to take them to the bishop as proof of her presence. When he did so, he emptied the roses onto the ground and discovered a perfect image of Our Lady imprinted on his tilma. Then the bishop believed, and a chapel was built in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has remained a beacon of hope to all who look to her.
The story of the Tilma
The image of the Virgin on Juan Diego’s tilma is preserved today at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, with up to twenty million believers visiting per year.
The image is rich with symbolism. It draws not only upon the Bible but upon the culture and symbols of indigenous people like Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, speaking directly to them. For example, in Tenochtitlán, the color of the Virgin’s mantle was reserved for royalty, so the miraculous image shows that the Virgin is royal. The flowers on her dress are glyphs, carrying messages about truth, civilization, and life which indigenous people would have immediately understood.
It is significant that Our Lady of Guadalupe is mestiza, with both European and indigenous features. She speaks to and represents those who are not from the dominant culture, making her truly the mother of all people.
Here are some ways to observe the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
• Tell your elected leaders that you support immigrants and the programs that help them, including DACA and TPS. Mail letters, make phone calls, or meet with their staff. You could even invite them to your celebration.
• Use social media or write a Letter to the Editor to voice your support for migrants. Explain why Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day is an important reminder to love and advocate for immigrants and refugees.
• Donate money or requested items to help immigrants and refugees through your local Catholic Charities.