Our Lady of Guadalupe
At dawn on December 9, 1531, Juan Diego, an Indian convert, was going to Tlatelolco to attend catechism class and Mass. As he was passing Tepeyac Hill (in the area of modern Mexico City), he saw brilliant light on the summit and heard the strains of celestial music and a feminine voice asking him to ascend. When he reached the top, he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary standing in the midst of a glorious light. She spoke to him in his native language and revealed herself as the Virgin Mary. She asked that a shrine be built there where she could demonstrate her love for humankind.
Juan Diego approached the Bishop, who was reluctant to believe Juan Diego's story and asked for a sign.
On December 12, as he was going to the Church at Tlatelolco, Juan Diego was stopped by the Lady, who had come down from Tepeyac Hill to meet him in the road. Juan Diego asked for the sign he was to take to the Bishop. He was told to climb to the top of the hill where she had spoken to him previously. She said he would find there blooming flowers which he was to cut and bring to her. Juan Diego did as he was told, though he knew no flowers had ever bloomed on that stony summit. He discovered roses which were foreign to Mexico, but indigenous to the Bishop’s native land of Castille (modern Spain). He cut these as she had asked. Placing them in his rough cloak, or tilma, he brought the flowers to the Lady who rearranged them and told him to take them to the Bishop.
When Juan Diego stood before the Bishop, he opened his tilma and the flowers cascaded to the floor. There appeared upon the coarse fabric of the Indian's mantle an exquisite portrait of the Blessed Virgin.
The mantle on which the image of the Blessed Virgin is imprinted is handwoven from the fibers of the Maguey cactus, a burlap-like fabric which has a life span of thirty years. It is six-and-a-half feet long by forty-two inches wide.
The image, venerated today in Mexico City, depicts Mary brighter than the sun, her foot resting upon the moon. The stars on her mantle are the same configurations as the stars early on the morning of December 12, 1531: the northern constellations on her right, the southern constellations on her left. The golden filigree over her rose colored gown matches the topography of the Mexican lands once ruled by the Aztecs.
In the seven years following this apparition, eight million natives were converted to Christianity. In 1981, Pope John Paul II venerated her as Empress of the Americas.