The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Even before the sun breaks through the horizon on December 12, the burst of firecrackers rings throughout Mexico to announce the greatest national fiesta of the year—the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
At la Villa de Guadalupe, the National Sanctuary near Tepeyac Hill, pilgrims begin to arrive days earlier to camp out on the plaza surrounding the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Many travel for days to get there, entering la Villa on their knees as a sign of their devotion and gratitude for la Virgen Morenita’s protection. Much like a family member holding a beloved’s picture close to the heart, pilgrims carry images of their Mother Guadalupe on their backs, banners, and bodies.
Celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe always culminates with the reenactment of the familiar story. In 1531, just a few decades after Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World, the Mother of God appeared three times to a humble Chichimeca Aztec baptized as Juan Diego. Our Lady asked him to be her special messenger and provided proof of their encounters for a skeptical bishop in the form of two signs: a cloak full of fresh roses in December and a miraculous image of herself on Juan Diego’s tilma, or shawl. Yet the Guadalupe apparition is not only one of the earliest Marian apparitions. It is also the only time in history that Our Lady has shared her portrait.
The Heart of the Guadalupe Message
“The Blessed Mother has an interesting way of empowering the poor like Juan Diego,” explains Mark Zwick, founder and director of Casa Juan Diego Catholic Worker House in Houston. “You can’t speak that kind of empowerment. She chooses an indigenous person—and that’s revolutionary!”
Throughout history, Our Lady “chooses to appear almost exclusively to those who wouldn’t have a respectable place in society.”
Patroness of the Americas
It is hardly a coincidence that in 1945, the year that World War II ended, Pope Pius XII looked at the suffering, fragmented world and declared Our Lady of Guadalupe Patroness of the Americas.
He knew that both continents North and South, in many ways, share a common heritage—and future. In the words Our Lady spoke to Juan Diego: “I am your Compassionate Mother, yours, for you yourself, for everybody here in the land, for each and all together, for all others too, for all folk of every kind . . . here I shall listen to their groanings, to their saddenings; here shall I make well and heal up their each and every kind of disappointment, of exhausting pangs, of bitter pain.”
Let us pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of our Guadalupe Province, in a special way on her feast day and each day that she may guide and protect our ministries, all those who serve within, and all those whom we serve.