The Guadalupe Miracle
In the year 1531, the Aztec nation was in a dangerous state of near revolt. The Spanish, led by Cortes, had invaded Mexico 12 years earlier, and conquered it, in bloody battles during which the great Aztec leader Montezuma II was killed.
The "First Audience", a group of five Administrators appointed by Spain's King Charles V in 1528 had been dealing with the Aztec people cruelly and tyrannically, believing them to be soul-less, and little more than animals.
Bishop Zumarraga, a Spanish Franciscan had also been appointed by Charles V in 1528 as Bishop of Mexico. Despite many attempts, he had been unable to curb the violent excesses of the First Audience. He had been fervently requesting Our Lady to prevent a bloody revolt, the result of which would have been the extinction of all Spaniards in Mexico, the extinction of the Church, and a return to paganism.He secretly asked that she send him some Castilian Roses, as a sign that his prayers had been heard.
Into that scene then came the Mexican Indian, Juan Diego.
The stars were still shining brightly in the black sky of that cold, early morning, as 57 year old Juan Diego set out on a fifteen mile walk to attend Mass. Skirting around a low hill, he was surprised to hear soft music floating down from the top of the hill, and even more surprised to hear a beautiful melodious voice calling to him, Juan, Juanito.
Climbing to the top of the hill, he blinked in disbelief at the sight of a beautiful young lady, surrounded by a golden mist.
She spoke to him gently, to set him at ease, and then told him that she was the Ever-Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God, and that she wished to have a Temple built on that spot. Go to the Bishop's place in Mexico City, and tell him what I desire.
With great misgivings, fearful of his lowly status and that the Bishop may not deign to see him, a poor Indian, he withdrew, promising Our Lady he would try.
Juan descended the hill, and continued his long walk to Mexico City, and on to the Bishop's Palace. The Bishop's servants kept him waiting for hours before they finally allowed him in to see the Bishop, who was of course, a very important person.
Juan's words had to be translated by the Bishop's interpreter into Spanish, and after listening to him, the Bishop told him to call again later on. In doing so, he gave Juan the definite impression that he had been completely disbelieved.
Returning towards home again that evening, Juan obediently climbed Tepeyac hill, to sadly report, to Our Lady, his abject failure.
He implored her to get someone else, someone of importance, to deliver her message to the Bishop.
But the Lady commanded him to try again tomorrow for he was her chosen messenger.
The following day Juan set out again before dawn, firstly to Mass and then on to the Bishop's Palace, to repeat Our Lady's request.
This time he had even greater difficulty in getting to see the Bishop - his servants were protecting him from this obviously deranged indian, who claimed he had a message from the Mother of God.
Eventually his quiet persistence prevailed, and he was shown in to the Bishop.
Surprised to see him again so soon, the Bishop decided to question him more closely.
Still unconvinced, Bishop Zumarraga directed Juan to request the Lady to provide him with a sign to prove she really was the Mother of God.
On hearing this, Juan was elated, and left immediately totally convinced that the Lady would provide him with the necessary sign.On top of Tepeyac hill, he again met the beautiful Lady, and passed on the Bishop's request.
The Lady told him to return the next morning to their meeting place, and she would give him a sign for the Bishop, so that he would believe.
Returning home, Juan was startled to find that his beloved uncle, Juan Bernadino, was seriously ill with the dreaded Cocolixtle, a usually fatal disease. All night long he lovingly tended his uncle, seeing to his few wants.
All through the next day, a day he had promised Our Lady that he would return to get the Bishop's sign, he continued to minister to his elderly uncle, comforting him as best he could. But by evening, it became apparent that his uncle was dieing, and he requested Juan to go to the village of Tlaltelolco early next morning, and bring a priest to hear his Confession and administer the Last Sacraments.
At 4.00 a.m. on Tuesday, 12th December, Juan set off, walking as fast as he could, certain that his uncle only had a few hours to live.
Approaching Tepeyac Hill, he was tormented by the thought that Our Lady may see him, and delay him in his urgent mission, and also that she would be displeased with him for not returning to her the previous day. So he determined to skirt around the hill on the opposite side, in order to be sure that he was not seen.
But this was not to be, as Our Lady descended from the hill, in a blaze of light, directly ahead of him. With a sinking heart, and a great feeling of shame, Juan paused, not knowing what to do.
The Lady spoke to him quietly and kindly, and asked him what was the matter. He poured out his story in great haste, the uncle's illness, the need for a priest, and he again promised that he would return for the Bishop's sign after he had taken the priest to his uncle.
Our Lady comforted him, and then, smiling at him, she said, 'Do not let the illness of your uncle worry you.....at this very moment he is cured.'
Filled with joy and gratitude, Juan offered to immediately set out for the Bishop's Palace, with the special sign.
Our Lady told him to climb to the top of the hill, and collect in his Tilma (cloak) the flowers he would find growing there, and bring them back to her. Juan knew that in mid-winter, some 7000 feet above sea level, there could not possibly be flowers growing.
Imagine his surprise when he reached the top of the hill, to find a veritable heavenly garden with beautiful flowers including Castilian Roses (then unknown in Mexico).
He quickly spread out his cloak, filled it with the exotic flowers and descended to where Our Lady awaited him. She re-arranged the flowers, and told him to take them to the Bishop. She also told him not to open his cloak, or to show or tell anyone about the contents until he was in the Bishop's presence.
Juan set out immediately, this time supremely confident that the Bishop would believe him, and would order the Temple to be built as Our Lady had requested.
Arriving at the Bishop's house, he was again delayed, and abused, by the Bishop's servants, who would not let him in. He remained by the gates, determined to stay there until he was allowed in.
Eventually, one of the servants saw him still there, and noticed that he appeared to be concealing something in his cloak.
Letting him in, the servants demanded that he open his cloak, but Juan refused. Threatened with physical violence, Juan decided to give them a small glimpse of the flowers, so that they might more readily usher him into the Bishop's presence. They were astonished at the sight of these brilliant blooms, and their exquisite aroma.
One of the servants quickly reported this unusual happening, and moments later Juan stood before the Bishop, and his visitors and staff, still holding his cloak tightly so that no one could see what it held. In great detail he related the full story of this morning's events, and while he did so, Bishop Zumarraga wondered if this was indeed the Castilian Roses he had secretly requested as a sign from Our Lady.
Then Juan released the end of his cloak, and the flowers cascaded to the floor in a blaze of colour and fragrance.
Stunned, Bishop Zumarraga gazed at the flowers, recognising that Juan's message had truly come from the Queen of Heaven.
He raised his eyes slowly towards Juan's face, and at that instant there appeared on Juan's cloak a miraculous portrait of Our Lady!
As if time had been suspended... they all stood gazing at this vision... this glowing, full colour image of Our Lady, surrounded by the brilliant rays of the sun.
Then slowly, they sank to their knees, realising that they were in the presence of a supernatural gift.
When Juan noticed that all eyes were not on the flowers strewn on the floor, nor were they looking at him, but instead their eyes were fixed on the cloak he held before him, he glanced down and was astonished and ecstatic to see a perfect image of the Blessed Virgin, exactly as she had appeared to him at Tepeyac!
This miraculous cloak, made of a rough material which normally disintegrates after 20-30 years, is now almost 470 years old, and perfectly intact. It is now installed in a "New" Basilica, built in 1976, adjacent to the "Old" Basilica, which has been slowly sinking into the earth. Mexico City is built in an area which was once a series of lakes, and many buildings are slowly sinking. One of the main big stores has sunk so that you now walk straight off the footpath into the first floor, instead of the ground floor.
Over the years, the cloak has survived a deliberate bomb attack, accidental spillage of acid, and hundreds of years exposure to smoke and fumes from votive candles.
The cloak has been examined over the years by leading Artists, trying to determine how it was made, and also by scientists from different fields. All are agreed that this was "not made by human hands"
One of the amazing things about it is that when the eyes were photographed and enlarged, it was discovered that there was a reflection in them of the people present in the room when the image first appeared. Juan Diego has been definitely identified from contemporary paintings of him,and also Juan Gonzales, the interpreter. There is a third person , but it has not been possible to identify him. It is almost as though when Our Lady placed her portrait on his cloak, in the Bishop's office, she photographed the people in the room in her eyes at the same time. The reflections appear in both eyes.
Reading the Cloak
In the Aztec Indian world of that era, there was no written language as we understand it now, but messages were conveyed by means of small drawings or signs. Most Indians could not read any more than this, but what they read in the cloak was a number of things, meant for them to be able to understand.
Firstly, two of their great Gods were the Sun and the Moon. Because Our Lady was standing on the moon, and blotting out the rays of the sun, which shine all around her, she showed that she was greater than those Gods.
Next because she was in an attitude of prayer she was telling them that there was someone much greater than her. From some of her clothing they recognised that she was pregnant
Our Lady's Words
In identifying herself to Juan Diego she said, "Know for certain, least of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God, through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things, near and far, the Master of Heaven and Earth " She continued, "It is my earnest wish that a Temple be built here to my honour. Here I will demonstrate, I will manifest, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people... Here I will listen to their weeping and their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities and misfortunes."
Whilst Our Lady's apparition at that time was for the Americas, and she appeared in the exact geographical centre of the Americas (North, central and South) at that stage the various countries of South and Central America did not exist as we know them today, nor were there any of the States which ultimately became the United States of America, she still appeared as Mother of us all.
She appeared as Mother of us all.
She said to Juan Diego , "I am your merciful Mother, the merciful Mother of all of you who live united in this land, of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who seek me, and of those who have confidence in me."