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December 4th, 2003

A Funny Thing on the Way to El Campo…

Celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12

 
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It was just a regular day in the desert outside
of Mexico City in 1531 when Aztec Indian Juan Diego heard a woman’s voice call out to him. Entranced, he followed the sweet sound to a hill called Tepeyac where he found the beautiful, glowing apparition of a woman wearing a rose-colored gown and a star-spangled blue satin cloak.

In Juan Diego’s native language of Nahuatl, she told him that she was the Virgin Mary. She also asked him for his help: she needed Juan Diego to go to the bishop, Juan de Zumarriga, to ask for a temple to be built in the place where she appeared in order for her message of love to be known to many.

So, with doubt in his heart, the humble man set off to visit the bishop. After a long wait, Juan Diego finally got to see the bishop, who dismissed him, not believing a single word that he said.

If at first you don’t succeed…
Juan Diego returned to the Virgin and tried to convince her that he was not the man for the job, but she encouraged him to try again. His second attempt was more successful. While the bishop was willing to hear more details, he still was not convinced. He wanted to see proof. Juan Diego returned to the Virgin, who promised that she would help him prove her existence to the bishop. She directed him to gather flowers on a nearby hill. But instead of finding flowers he was used to seeing, Juan Diego found roses, rare flowers for the Mexican desert. She instructed him to put the roses in his cloak… but not to open it until he was face-to-face with the bishop.

Three’s a charm…or a miracle
At last Juan Diego was granted another audience with the bishop. When he opened his cloak to reveal the beautiful roses, he discovered much more—a true miracle. On the inside of his cloak was an imprint of the image: of la virgen . This cloak—the humbling, electrifying proof that the bishop needed—is still intact, preserved and on display in Mexico City today.

Unifying a culture and a faith
While the Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only certified apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Western Hemisphere, this is not what makes people, especially Latinos, everywhere feel profound connection to her. Many cultures, many communities, feel such a kinship with her that they have special names for her: La Madrecita (little mother), La Virgen de Tepeyac , and La Virgencita (little virgin).

The Virgin of Guadalupe represents more than religious faith and devotion to people; she also serves as a symbol of hope for struggling, poor communities. She didn’t choose an upper-class, influential person to help her; rather, she chose the underdog, the average Joe…er, Juan. In this choice, she lifted up a people and instilled in them pride in their community. While she is most recognized by Mexicans, the Virgin of Guadalupe is embraced by Latinos everywhere. As la lucha, or the struggle, for human rights continues today all over Latin America, la Virgen remains a beacon of hope for justice and peace for millions.

 
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The Author : Lizz Carroll
Lizz Carroll writes from New York City.
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