This week in the US, from Los Angeles, California to Des Plaines, Illinois hundreds of thousands of Catholics are celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Thousands are making the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois beginning at 6 PM on Wednesday and continuing for 24 hours ending on Thursday.
The Shrine will host several Masses for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In Mexico, 90% of Mexicans will tell you they are Catholic, but 100% are Guadalupan. And as such, the Virgin of Guadalupe is a cherished part of Mexican national identity.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is also celebrated by hundreds of thousands in the United States each year.
Who is Our Lady of Guadalupe?
Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe, is a Catholic title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary who was said to have appeared before Juan Diego, an Aztec peasant, on a hill called Tepeyac on December 9, 1531.
The Virgin spoke to Diego in his native language of Nahuatl, telling the Christian convert that she wanted him to build a church in her honor on the site of her apparition.
After receiving the miraculous vision, Diego sought out the Archbishop of Mexico City. But the Archbishop was skeptical about the apparition.
However, the Virgin appeared to Diego another time and told him to seek out the top prelate in Mexico to again request that the church be built and named Guadalupe.
Diego made the request of the bishop, and although he was doubtful as well, he asked the peasant to show him a sign that the virgin had appeared at Tepeyac.
The Virgin appeared a third time to Diego, instructing him to gather some Spanish roses that had miraculously bloomed. Diego tucked the roses into his cloak, called a tilma, and returned to the bishop to show him what he had gathered.
When he unfurled his cloak, not only were the blooms there – but another miracle had occurred! The image of the virgin was imprinted on the material.
Diego’s tilma has survived the centuries, and can still be viewed today at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The miraculous tilma
The tilma or cloak possessed by Juan Diego that features the imprinted image of the Virgin still exists today and has several miraculous qualities to it.
First, the cloth itself is made out of plant fibers, an agave called “ixotl.” It is believed to be impossible that the image of the Virgin on the tilma could have been painted onto the fiber, as it has no brushstrokes on it.
Secondly, there is the fact that the cloak has survived intact so long. Even more miraculous, in 1784, acid was accidentally spilled upon it, but it survived. Then another miracle… On November 14, 1921, a bomb was set off underneath it – but nothing happened to it.
Recognized and venerated by the Catholic church
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the tilma of Juan Diego has been venerated several times by the Catholic Church, revered as having a high degree of sanctity or holiness.
On May 25, 1754, Pope Benedict XIV declared Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of what was called New Spain at the time, which corresponds to Spanish central and northern America.
The Pope also approved liturgical texts for the Mass and the Breviary in honor of the Virgin.
On October 12, 1895, Pope Leo XIII granted the venerated image a canonical coronation.
In 1910, Pope Pius X proclaimed the Our Lady of Guadalupe to be the patron of Latin America.
Other proclamations by the Catholic Church occurred from a variety of popes including Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII, Pope John XIII, Pope Paul VI, and Pope John II. In more recent times, Pope Francis granted the image on the tilma a second Golden Rose on November 18, 2013.
The Golden Rose is a golden ornament conferred by the Catholic Church as a token of reverence or affection, and one that popes traditionally bless annually.