When the Spanish people came to colonize the Americas in the beginning of the sixteenth century they were concerned with sharing the Catholic faith with the Aztecs they found there. The Aztec King, Montezuma might sound familiar to you. That is who Hernan Cortes defeated when they colonized what is now present day Mexico. The Aztec people practiced human sacrifice to their pagan gods and polygamy. Some of the missionaries were successful in bringing Christ to the people though. One of those people was Saint Juan Diego.
When Saint Juan Diego was walking to mass on December 8, 1531 (the feast of the Immaculate Conception) he encountered the Blessed Virgin Mary on a hilltop. She said to him,
“Know and understand well… that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help and protection, because I am your merciful Mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows”
The bishop had been talking to the Blessed Virgin about his love for Castilian roses, which were his favorite flower in Spain, but which didn’t grow in Mexico. When Juan Diego arrived, the bishop told him to go back and ask the Blessed Mother for a sign.
Juan Diego went back, but didn’t walk to the hill he met Our Lady on for two more days because his uncle was terminally ill. After two days he went back to the hill where he met our Queen and found her there. He told her the bishop requested a sign and that he was sorry he didn’t come because his uncle was sick. She replied,
“Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. 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. Your uncle will not die at this time. There is no reason for you to engage a priest, for his health is restored at this moment. He is quite well. Go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that are growing there. Bring them then, to me.”
Flowers do not grow in December but miraculously Juan Diego found them. He brought them back to Our Lady, who arranged them nicely in a bouquet and then told him to bring them to the bishop. He held them wrapped up in his tilma which is like a mantle or cloak.
When he got to the bishop he unfurled his tilma to reveal the flowers. At that time, there appeared the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his tilma. To this day, if you look at our Lady’s eyes with a microscope you can see the reflection of the bishop and his advisors. The flowers were the roses that the bishop told our Queen that he had always admired and missed. The bishop was stunned and two weeks later built a church in our Lady’s honor at the spot where it was requested. When Juan Diego got home and met his uncle who was sick he said a woman clothed in light came to him and healed him and said that he was carrying a picture of her.
The tilma was hung in the Church and when it was erected there was a big party. Some of the Aztecs shot arrows in the air which hit someone in the neck. The people went to get the tilma and wrapped him up in it. The arrow was pulled out and the wound healed that day. The man was saved. In just the next nine years 9,000,000 people from the area converted to Catholic and the human sacrifices stopped.
The tilma was hung in open air for the first 100 years but never deteriorated. Most cactus flesh tilmas like this, which are similar to burlap fall apart in about 10 years. This one is now 450 years old and is still in perfect condition which is a miracle. The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe has always been and is still the largest pilgrimage site in the Western Hemisphere and many providential works came through this unique grace.
Mexico was suffered a persecution which killed 250,000 – 300,000 people between 1910-1935. It was led by the freemasons who tried to destroy the Catholic Church. They burned down Churches, raped and killed nuns and priests and made almost all Catholic activity illegal. In 1921, these freemasons tried to destroy the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe by planting a bomb in a flower vase and laying it under the picture as if they had come to venerate it. The bomb caused major damage including bending this cast iron cross dramatically but the tilma miraculously suffered no damage. The Cross is venerated along with the image to this day to remember God’s protection of his Mother’s image.
Also, on the day that Mexico legalized abortion a fetus began to clearly glow on Our Blessed Mother’s tilma because our Lady is the Most pure and holy Mother of all and She is rightfully opposed to abortion.