December 12th is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe; the most important day on the Mexican calendar. The Virgin of Guadalupe has been proclaimed the Patroness of the Americas, Empress of Latin America and Protectress of Unborn Children.
The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is that she appeared to Juan Diego, a humble Aztec Indian who was on his way in to Mexico City for Mass. The year was 1531. The virgin called to Juan as he traversed a hill, and told him to tell the bishop of Mexico City that she wanted a church built on the hill where she appeared. Juan Diego went to the bishop who did not believe the story he was told, and asked Juan to go back and ask the Virgin for a sign. Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac Hill, spoke with Our Lady, and saw that roses were growing nearby; this was the middle of December on a rocky hill, and roses were a strange thing to see there. The Virgin took the roses, arranged them in Juan’s tilma (cloak) and told him to take them to the bishop. Upon entering the bishop’s chambers, Juan opened his tilma, the roses fell to the ground and an image of the Virgin de Guadalupe was imprinted inside the tilma; this took place on December 12th.
The tilma is made of a cactus fiber that should have disintegrated years ago. The tilma has been preserved and is displayed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The cathedral has been enlarged tremendously and modernized, but still remains on Tepeyac Hill.
On this day, many Mexicans will make a pilgrimage to the cathedral, some on their knees as part of a promise made for a favor answered by the Virgin. If people are too far away to make the pilgrimage, will have prayers and celebrations where they live.
The photo above is a personal photo; the iconic photograph, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe found in Juan Diego’s tilma, is shown below and taken from Wikipedia
The Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes said that “you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe. I agree; she has been a source of comfort to me in many difficult times, and I’m not an overly zealous Catholic, just an overly zealous Mexican. I offer this post in gratitude to Our Lady of Guadalupe for the years she has been at my side.