There are few elements in church history more charming and delightful than the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whom we celebrate on December 12. In 1521, Cortez led his Spanish troops into the Aztec capital, today called Mexico City. Immediately the Franciscan missionaries among the Spaniards began to supplant the blood-thirsty Aztec religion with our Catholic faith. Ten years later, an Indian man was on his way from the countryside into Mexico City to attend catechism class, when a very beautiful young lady dressed like an Aztec princess, appeared to him at the foot of a hill called Tepeyac, and spoke to him very courteously and lovingly. She told him that she was the mother of the true God, the lady who crushes the head of the serpent. “She who crushes the head of the serpent” in the Aztec language sounds something like Guadalupe, the name of a shrine in Spain. So the Spaniards began to call the beauty lady of Tepeyac “Our Lady of Guadalupe.” Meantime, the beautiful lady sent Juan Diego to tell the bishop of Mexico that she wanted a church built on that spot. He went as she requested, but was disappointed when the bishop—understandably—did not show much interest in a beautiful lady on a hillside out in the country who wanted a church, but provided no money, materials, or clergy to staff it.
When Juan Diego sadly reported this to his beautiful young visitor, she was not at all upset. “I will give you a sign for him,” she told him. She instructed him to go to the top of the hill, gather the roses he would find there, and bring them to her. The simple Indian then gave her a brief lecture on Mexican horticulture, explaining that roses do not grow in the valley of Mexico in December. She listened with exquisite atttention, sweetness and patience, and then replied: “My son, go get the roses.” To humor this charming young lady, he climbed the hill and, much to his surprise, found a bush full of fine white roses. The young lady arranged them with her own hands in his apron and then sent him back to the bishop. He was so pleased that now, he had a sign that would no doubt convince the bishop to build the church that the lovely Mother of God wanted. When he opened his apron, the roses fell to the floor—and so did the bishop, on his knees, because there on the apron was an image of the beautiful young lady, the Mother of God who crushes the head of the serpent. That apron hangs in the new basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and has attracted millions down through these nearly 500 years since it was imprinted with the image of Juan Diego’s beautiful young lady. Our Lady of Guadalupe has been proclaimed by the Holy See to be first patroness of Mexico and then patroness of all the Americas. We happily honor her today, this New World madonna who becomes the Mother of our Savior and thus crushes the head of evil. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.