December 12 is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here is her story:
Juan Diego was a poor widower living near Mexico City, and on December 9, 1531, he was on his way to Mass. All of a sudden, he heard the sound of music and a voice calling his name, so he climbed a nearby hill, Tepeyac, in search of its source. To his amazement, the sound led him to an apparition of the Virgin Mary.
Mary appeared as a native princess from Juan’s own people, and told him to go to his bishop and ask for a temple to be built on Tepeyac. She explained to him that this temple would allow her to hear the prayers of the Mexican people and to help heal them.
Juan obeyed Mary and went to his bishop, who listened but did not agree to build a temple. Hoping to seek guidance from Our Lady, Juan headed back to the site of her apparition. She greeted him once again and told Juan to go back to the bishop the next day.
At the second meeting, the bishop asked Juan for a sign from Our Lady. Juan promised to deliver one the following day, but his uncle suddenly became sick so he was delayed. When searching for a priest to anoint and pray for his uncle, Juan avoided Tepeyac, but Mary again appeared to him. After hearing Juan’s concerns, she said to him, “Am I not here — I who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow of protection?”
Encouraged by her presence, Juan asked for the sign he was to deliver to the bishop. Mary told him to go to climb Tepeyac again, pick the flowers he’d find there, and hide them before giving them to the bishop.
Slight problem: it was December. No flowers should have been growing at that time of the year. So, Juan was uncertain, but he trusted Our Lady.
At the site, he found an abundance of roses and collected them in his cloak.
When Juan met the bishop for the third time, he brought the roses, which were amazing in themselves. His cloak was the true sign, however, as it bore an image of Our Lady.
Meanwhile, Mary appeared to Juan’s uncle and healed him of his illness. To him, she explained that she wished to be known as “Santa Maria de Guadalupe.”
In accordance with Mary’s instructions, a temple was built and it still stands today as the site of many miracles — millions of people make pilgrimages there to see it and pray for Mary’s assistance. The basilica there is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. At more than 500 years old, Juan’s simple cloak should have decayed with age, but it miraculously remains, and its image of Our Lady continues to fill us with awe.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of the Americas and Mexico.