Today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the greatest stories in human history. It is also one of the greatest proofs of the existence of God and His overwhelming and incredible love for mankind.
In the 16th Century, Catholic missionaries were in Mexico trying to convert the Aztec Indians from their pagan religion to Christianity. The Aztecs engaged in barbarous practices including human sacrifice where they would literally cut the heart out of a living person. As one source relates:
The victim was stretched out over the sacrificial stone. In seconds, a priest with an obsidian knife broke open his chest and ripped out his still beating heart, dashing it against the sacrificial stone.
The Catholic bishop assigned to this area was making almost no headway with the natives. The Aztec Indians, with few exceptions, remained loyal to their pagan beliefs. That is when Our Blessed Mother intervened and without preaching a word, she converted 9 million people to belief in her Son and completely ended human sacrifice. Our Blessed Mother taught us the key to evangelization, and in this age when our world sacrifices millions and millions of unborn babies to the god of convenience and selfishness, we would do well to heed her example.
As she has always done, Mary worked through the poor, appearing to a peasant man who had no power whatsoever in the world. St. Juan Diego was a convert to Catholicism and a daily Mass goer. Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego one day on his way to Mass, which was a trip of several miles from his home. She told Juan to go to his bishop and tell the bishop that she wished for a chapel to be built on the spot where she appeared. It took some coaxing on her part, but Juan went to the bishop and made the request. The bishop, reasonably skeptical, said he wanted a sign that this was coming from the Mother of God. A couple of days later Mary once again appeared to Juan Diego. When he informed her of the bishop's request for a sign, roses appeared on the ground - a miracle in December. Juan Diego picked them and Mary arranged them in his tilma, which he then carried to the bishop.
When Juan Diego got to the bishop and opened his tilma to show the roses, the bishop was amazed, not by the sight of roses in December, but by the beautiful image of Mary on the tilma. This occurred in 1531. The tilma was made of material that should have fallen apart in no more than 15 years, yet almost 500 years later, this tilma still exists and the picture of Our Lady is as bright and vibrant as the day it was first seen by the bishop and those with him.
|Juan Diego's Tilma today in Mexico City|
|St. Thomas Aquinas, Brooklyn, New York|
|Tokens of Love given to Our Lady of Guadalupe|
Scientists have thoroughly examined the image on Juan Diego's tilma, and have concluded that it was not made from paint or any kind of earthly material. There is no evidence of any kind of drawing on the tilma. Scientists cannot identify the source of the image. The tilma itself was rough, cheap material and it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to use as a canvas even if the image had been painted.
The image itself is filled with symbols which were all meaningful to the Aztec people. From an article by catholiceducation.org:
The Image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec Pictograph which was read and understood quickly by the Aztec Indians.
- THE LADY STOOD IN FRONT OF THE SUN - She was greater than their dreaded sun-god "Huitzilopochtli".
- HER FOOT RESTED ON THE CRESCENT MOON - She had clearly vanquished their foremost deity, the feather serpent "Quetzalcoatl".
- THE STARS STREWN ACROSS THE MANTLE - She was greater than the stars of heaven which they worshipped. She was a virgin and the Queen of the heavens for Virgo rests over her womb and the northern crown upon her head. She appeared on December 12, 1531, for the stars that she wore are the constellation of stars that appeared in the sky that day!
- THE BLUEGREEN HUE OF HER MANTLE - She was a Queen for she wears the color of royalty.
- THE BLACK CROSS ON THE BROOCH AT HER NECK - Her God was that of the Spanish Missionaries, Jesus Christ her son.
- THE BLACK BELT - She was with child for she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.
- THE FOUR-PETAL FLOWER OVER THE WOMB - She was the "Mother of God." The flower was a special symbol of life, movement and deity - the center of the universe.
- HER HANDS ARE JOINED IN PRAYER - She was not God but clearly there was one greater than Her and she pointed her finger to the cross on her brooch.
- THE DESIGN ON HER ROSE-COLORED GARMENT - She is the "Queen of the Earth," for she is wearing a map of Mexico telling the Indians exactly where the apparition took place.
Oh, how I wish we could all learn these lessons. So many on the Internet, purporting to preach the Gospel, do so through attack and condemnation. They believe that to preach the Gospel, we must point out people's sins and condemn their way of living. Our Lady of Guadalupe never spoke a word of condemnation nor was there any condemnation seen in her image. She converted 9 million people by pointing them to Jesus Christ and saying, as she as she has for 2000 years, "Do what he says."
If we truly want to reach this world, if we want to do more than stand against them in self-righteous condemnation, then we must follow the example of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We must relate to them in the way that they will understand. We must "speak their language." Don't preach condemnation - preach love. That is the message that we are hearing from our Holy Father, Pope Francis. This is the message Our Lord gave us through St. Faustina when He told us to preach His unfathomable mercy to the world. That is the key to converting the world.