NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church and our Holy Father. This "little work" is purely a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mary's Perpetual Apparition

The Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

My devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe extends way back to 1994 when I started a prayer group and weekly prayer meetings centered around a garden statue of the Blessed Mother of Guadalupe. The meetings lasted for almost nine years, for the duration of my stay at my former studio, and I affectionately called the place 'Guadalupe House' after the statue. When I moved to another home, I kept the name for this current ministry as a way of commemorating the wonderful blessings received at Guadalupe House. For those not familiar with this particular title of the Blessed Mother, this is its history...

In December 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared four times to an Aztec Indian convert, baptized and named, 'Juan Diego'. She appeared on a hill outside of Mexico City called Tepeyac and requested that a chapel be built there in her honor. The Virgin sent the visionary to deliver her request to the local bishop but he was met with skeptism and speedily dismissed.

In her second appearance to Juan Diego the Virgin charged him to once again deliver her words to the bishop, and this time, Juan was taken a little more seriously than at his previous visit. The bishop listened intently as Juan repeated the message but he demanded a sign from the Blessed Mother before he agreed to build the requested church.

The bishop's sign came in the form of fresh Castillian roses, which Our Lady caused to bloom on Tepeyac Hill despite the brisk winter weather, and more wondrous still... through a beautiful image of herself that she miraculously imprinted on Juan Diego's 'tilma' (a native garment similar to a cloak or apron). The bishop was completely convinced by the miracle he witnessed and immediately erected a chapel on the site of the apparitions. In a separate (fifth) apparition to Juan's seriously ill uncle, who the Mother of God cured, she expressed her desire to be honored in Mexico as the ‘Virgin of Guadalupe’, which originated the title given to her sacred image. 

Following the great sign, other graces - including the resurrection of a dead man(!) - were granted through the image, prompting millions of the indigenous Indians to request baptism into the Faith... thus, ending the difficulties that the Spanish missionaries were having in coverting them to Christianity.  Again, God had employed our Blessed Mother in leading souls to her Divine Son, Jesus Christ! 

Today Juan Diego's tilma continues to baffle science. Studies conducted on the image confirm that it's NOT a painting, but rather the result of unexplainable color changes to the top-most fibers of the cactus cloth. Furthermore, the survival of the tilma itself is considered inexplicable as the lifespan of this type of cloth is normally about twenty years, yet the tilma has remained perfectly intact for almost five hundred years despite its earlier exposure to harsh conditions (e.g. burning candles), which would've contributed to its speedy deterioration.

The Church has declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the Patroness of the Americas and the Protectress of the Unborn, and the Basilica dedicated to her in Mexico City continues to draw not just the locals, but other pilgrims from around the globe. Each year on December 12th - the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe - massive crowds converge in the Basilica's square to honor the Blessed Virgin with prayer, song, and dance.

Juan Diego, Our Lady's humble instrument, has also been fondly remembered and celebrated throughout the centuries. In 2002, the late Pope John Paul II further honored him by declaring him a Saint; his Feast Day is observed on December 9th.

An old portrait of St. Juan Diego (left) and the right eye of the Virgin of Guadalupe
showing a mysterious image of a bearded man, presumed to be the Saint

Three Remarkable Facts About the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe:  
  • The stars on the Blessed Mother’s dress correspond to the constellations that were present over the Mexican skies in 1531!
  • In 1921, a bomb planted by an anti-clerical group exploded beneath the main altar of the old basilica, directly beneath the image.  The explosion blew out several windows in the church and twisted a large cast-iron crucifix, but the image and the glass covering over it suffered no damage whatsoever!
  • In 1929, a photographer noticed the tiny face of a bearded man in the right eye of the Blessed Mother's image; a man resembling the oldest known portrait of St. Juan Diego!

"... Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness
or anguish.  Am I not here, who is your Mother?  Are you not under my protection?  Am I not your health?
Are you not happily within my fold?  What else do you wish?  Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything."

~ Words of Our Lady of Guadalupe delivered through St. Juan Diego

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