Our Lady of Guadalupe is known as the Patroness of the Americas. In December of 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared to an Aztec Indian Man by the name of Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill, outside of what is now known as Mexico City. This was a very significant event in the history of religion in Latin America because the Aztec culture and religion was centered on the gods, while the Conquistadors brought Catholicism; there was a clash between the two for a number of years, and eventually the Indian religions disappeared. Many Indian folks converted to Catholicism due to missionary presence in Latin America.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, as an indigenous woman, asking that a church be built at that location. She told Juan Diego to go to his bishop to tell of this request. His story was only believed after the fourth apparition. Castilian roses appeared on the hill where Our Lady appeared; roses which do not grow in that region, or in December for that matter. To prove that the Virgin had appeared again, he cut the roses and put them in his cloak to show the bishop. When Juan Diego addressed the bishop, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in the cloak after the roses fell on the ground. The fifth and last apparition was to Juan Diego’s uncle who was ill. Juan Diego was worried about his uncle and the Virgin told him that his ill uncle who was on his deathbed would return to good health.
Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe show her wearing a dress with jasmine flowers and a mantle which has stars. These have reference to the Aztec culture and the Winter Solstice, as she appeared to Juan Diego as an indigenous woman. The impact of her apparition was a huge event because this was a turning point in which the indigenous people connected with Catholicism, instead of through the influence from the Europeans.
First Reading: Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.”
Responsorial Psalm: Judith 13:18bcde, 19
- (15:9d) You are the highest honor of our race.
Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
above all the women on earth;
and blessed be the LORD God,
the creator of heaven and earth.
R. You are the highest honor of our race.
Your deed of hope will never be forgotten
by those who tell of the might of God.
R. You are the highest honor of our race.
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
Waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning to go to Church… Who in the world does that? It seems so strange, doesn’t it? I understood why when I lived in Chicago and ministered to the Mexican immigrant population. One of the parishes at which I spent time ministering was named Our Lady of Guadalupe, and every December 12th the community would go to church early in the morning to serenade the Blessed Virgin. This serenade was known to the Mexican people as Mañanaitas; mañana being morning in Spanish. This event is an expression of love for Mary, as her apparition had a significant impact on religion in Mexico.
In the Gospel we find Mary confused as to why she would be chosen to be the mother of the Son of God, but she recognized it was her calling from the Lord. Juan Diego was also confused as to why Mary would ask him to approach the bishop to have a church built, but he did as she asked; and the miracle proved why he was chosen.
People called to ministry sometimes feel unworthy to take on something which is asked of them because it is outside of the box of everyday ministry. Here is an example… A priest knows they are good at preaching because someone affirmed this ministerial gift, but then the archbishop sees potential in leadership of a diocese; so they are chosen to become a bishop. The priest may not feel worthy but understands that they have been chosen for a purpose. It is important for anyone to listen to what is being asked of us in ministry. There is a reason why, and something great will result if willing to accept it.