Apparitions of Mary // Guadalupe

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Mother Mary, please guide us in our quest to bring others to conversion of your most Holy Son. Appear to us in spirit as you appeared to Juan Diego so many times. Bestow on us the same patience and love as you did him. Bring us the comfort of your soothing mantle, your gentle mother’s touch, and the calming aroma of your sweet scent- the rose- especially in the times that we need it most  Amen

The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe is so detailed and important to our faith, that I am certain that I will not do it justice within the capacity of this outline. We will start by introducing a deeply devoted Mexican farmer name Juan Diego. On his way to mass one December morning in 1531, he described hearing a musical sound which lead him off of his path and straight to the first apparition of our flawless mother, Mary.

Mary appeared to Juan Diego with a mission. She instructed him to build a temple on the ground where she was standing so that she could hear the prayers of the Mexican people and save them from their sufferings. Juan Diego took this message straight to his Bishop who was rather skeptical of him and sent him off without taking him seriously. This rejection encouraged Juan Diego to return to the place where Mary first appeared to him and she showed herself to him again in full radiance and beauty.

She told him to not be defeated by the rejection and to try again. This second time the Bishop saw Juan Diego, he entertained him and told Juan Diego to bring him a sign that he was telling the truth. Our Lady showed herself a third time and agreed to meet Juan Diego the next day to give him the sign the Bishop had requested. Juan Diego missed the next day’s meeting to tend to a sick uncle. Our Lady intercepted him the next day (her fourth apparition) and scolded him,

“No estoy you aqui que soy tu madre?” which means “Am I not here, I who am your mother?”

She instructed him to climb Tepeyac Hill and gather the flowers he finds there, and hide them in his tilma until he meets with the Bishop once more. When he got to the Bishop and opened his tilma, an abundance of Castilian roses fell about their feet. The small miracles in this sign appealed to the Bishop. First, roses did not grow in December so where else could Juan Diego have gotten these beauties?

Second, these were Castilian roses which were native to the Bishop’s home country of Spain and did not grow in Mexico. Also, Our Lady’s likeness appeared to be painted on the inside of the tilma in great detail and with exquisite precision. She looked to be a native princess, standing eloquently in prayer and draped in a royal blue cloak glittered with magnificent stars. She stood gracefully upon a crescent moon, which was symbolic of the Aztec religion.

The significance of this image did what she intended. Millions of native Aztec people converted to Catholicism once the news of her apparition made its way across Mexico. The temple was eventually built and still stands today in Mexico City and Juan Diego’s tilma with the original image of Our Lady is still preserved and venerated by millions who make the pilgrimage to see it. It is a trusted miracle in the Catholic faith that the tilma, although made of cactus fibers with a typical life-span of 30 years, has maintained its integrity across many centuries including a bombing in 1912.

My devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is equivalent to that of what we feel about our earthly mothers. She is comforting, warm, and natural. I grew up in a southern California in a city with a huge Mexican influence and population. I was raised without religion or spirituality and I converted to Catholicism at the age of 29.

The conversion wasn’t without introduction to aspects of the faith through friends an schoolmates throughout my childhood. Our Lady of Guadalupe was a repeated image throughout my life-even before I understood her story or what her significance was to the Mexican and Aztec people. I would see her on candles at the grocery store or hanging in the homes of my childhood best friends.

As I have grown in my faith and challenged my Marian devotion to deepen, it is Our Lady of Guadalupe that calls to me soothingly and gives me a gentle reassurance that she is my mother and has guided me to her son from the first time I saw her. I yearned to be Catholic for a very long time and I believe that

Our Lady of Guadalupe was hugely influential in my desire for faith, a relationship with Jesus, and a yearning for a heavenly mother’s love. It was as if she arranged Castilian roses around my own feet as my belief in her became real in an instant, as it did to the Bishop back in 1531.

What was the first Marian image you remember seeing that encouraged you to dive deeperinto your faith? Why did the image of that apparition speak to you so?