Our Lady of Guadalupe

Written by Barb Spies, OFS, Director of Mission Services and Pastoral Care

I grew up in California where the Franciscan Missions are all up and down the coast and cities are named for the patron saints of their mission. I remember going into Mission San Juan Bautista for an 8th grade history field trip. It was the first time I had seen the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I learned about her story then. It was the detail of that trip that I recall the most.

Juan Diego was on his way to Mass when Mary appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill on December 9, 1531. She requested that he approach the bishop and ask for the construction of a shrine in her honor. This shrine would serve as a place where she could bless those who sought her intercession. However, when Juan Diego relayed this request to the bishop, he asked for proof of the vision. To provide evidence, an image of Mary miraculously appeared on Juan Diego's clothing after he dropped the flowers that Our Lady had instructed him to take to the bishop. My favorite part of the story is how the image that appeared on Juan Diego’s tilma looked like a local indigenous woman, one of the Chichimeca people. She wrapped Juan Diego’s people in her love by showing herself to look like them. Franciscan Media offers this reflection:

“Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary—and the God who sent her—accept all peoples. In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for the indigenous population. While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves. According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time. In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.”

Juan Diego's cloak was placed in the chapel. He resided in a modest abode adjacent to the chapel constructed to pay homage to Mary on Tepeyac Hill. In this space, he diligently fulfilled his duties as the caretaker, warmly welcoming pilgrims, and dedicating his time to prayer and devout practices.

Blessed Angela: “O beloved Heart of y Immaculate Mother, I desire to make an offering of myself to you, for belonging to you, I belong to Jesus also. Accept me, O Heart of my Mother, for you never reject anyone.”

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