Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe has been venerated since the early part of the Sixteenth Century. The famous picture of her that shows her as a dark-skinned woman has reinforced devotion to her as having especial concern for the indigenous people of the Americas and of Mexico in particular.

There is a story which dates from some time after devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe began which tells of a poor farmer who had a series of visions of her. In the telling of the story Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548) goes to Bishop Juan de Zum…rraga to tell him that he saw the Mother of Jesus on the hill of Tepeyac (now part of Mexico City). At first the Bishop is sceptical but after more visions Juan Diego brings to him his cloak which is full of flowers that Mary has arranged herself. As he opens the cloak the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is seen imprinted on the cloth.

Some people are unsure how reliable the story may be but there is no doubt that the idea of Mary being patroness of those who were living under European rule is at the heart of it all.

Over the entrance to the Basilica in Mexico where the picture is kept safe it says in Spanish, 'No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?' The story relates that these are the words Mary said to Juan Diego when he avoided her in order to fetch help for his failing uncle, Juan Bernadino. We are told she reassured him that his uncle was healed and that he was to collect the flowers on the hill to take to the Bishop.

The words over the door mean 'Am I not here, I who am your Mother?' This is a message for us all. When we are distressed or afraid we are encouraged to turn to Mary with confidence. She prays with us and for us with a Mother's love.

When Pope John Paul II canonised Juan Diego in 2002 he pointed out that devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe was an inspiration for defending the indigenous people of Mexico. In modern times there are many groups of people who are exploited by rich and powerful interests in our world. As Christians we are called to speak up for those who are deprived of homes, land and even their own culture to satisfy the demands of big business.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

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