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Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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The Blessed Virgin in the Americas…

On December 12th, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who first appeared to St. Juan Diego, so let us reflect on our Blessed Mother Mary:

And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.” -Luke 1:46-48, NAB

After the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Juan Diego, it is said that 9,000,000 people converted to Catholicism in 8 years.  Yes, 9,000,000 people!  That is not one too many zeroes.  In 2010, 82.7% of Mexicans were Catholic, which is actually down from 1970, when the population was actually closer to 96%.  Today, that is nearly 93,000,000 Catholics!

Before becoming Catholic, I always wondered why our Mexican brothers and sisters had such devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Knowing numbers like these, it is easy to see why Mexicans hold her in such high regard: Our Lady of Guadalupe was the catalyst to the conversion of an entire nation of people.

Our Lady first appeared to St. Juan Diego, a peasant, and asked him to tell the Bishop of Mexico to build a chapel where she had appeared.  The bishop seemed to doubt his story.  Seeing Our Lady a second time, she told St. Juan Diego to try again, but he got a similar response.  This time, however, the bishop had asked for a sign to prove that it was really Mary.

At the same time, St. Juan Diego’s uncle became ill, and he decided to avoid returning to where he had seen the apparition.  Our Lady came to him a third time anyway, said that his uncle would be healed, and gave roses to St. Juan Diego to take to the bishop.

St. Juan Diego had wrapped the roses in his tilma, an outer garment, and took them to the bishop.  When he opened his tilma in front of the bishop, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was permanently emblazoned on the front of his garment.  The bishop received the sign that he was looking for.

To this day, science has not been able to explain the image.  There are no signs of paint or brush strokes, and this peasant’s garment, which should have fallen to pieces years ago, remains in good condition.

As a Protestant, I never fully understood the devotion to Marian apparitions.  Did the mother of Jesus really come to visit us?  But now as a Catholic with an open heart and newfound respect for the Blessed Mother, I can clearly see how the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe means so much to so many.

Today, on this wonderful feast day, let’s reflect on the tremendous impact that Our Lady of Guadalupe has had on Mexico, the Americas, and the world as a whole.  May the Blessed Mother continue to bring the blessings of God to the people.  Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

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