The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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December 7, 2001 Issue
Saint of the Day

Mary's special tie to Americas

Roses in December marked start of Guadalupe feast

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Next week, the church in the Americas will celebrate a feast that originated in Mexico and is linked to an amazing miracle: Our Lady of Guadalupe and the subsequent conversion of Mexico from natives' religions to Catholicism.

The origin of the celebration on Dec. 12 is Dec. 9, 1531, when the 55-year-old Juan Diego, a poor Catholic Aztec Indian living in the Mexican village of Tolpetlac, was rushing down Tepeyac hill to attend Mass.

Suddenly, he heard music, birds singing and someone calling him by name. He saw a woman wearing a blue veil and a rose-colored dress and knew immediately that it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. She gave him a mission and this message: Tell the bishop to have a chapel built here in her honor for all who need her help.

Juan Diego did as he was told, walking many hours to get to Mexico City (known to Aztecs as Tenochtitlan). As might be expected, the disbelieving bishop sent Juan away.

The disappointed Juan returned home and once again on the hill was met by Mary, who told him to go back to the bishop the next day. He did and again the bishop didn't believe him. He told Juan: If this woman appears to you again, ask her for a sign.

On his way home, she again appeared to him and told him to come back the next day for the sign.

That night, Juan cared for his sick uncle and at dawn on Dec. 12, went for a priest to administer the last rites to his dying uncle. He was so concerned about his uncle that he took another route to avoid Mary.

But again, she appeared to Juan and told him not to worry because his uncle would be fine -- he was cured that moment. Next, she told him to pick her some roses on the rocky, cactus-covered hill. He knew that it wasn't rose season, but he did what he was told and filled his cloak with fresh roses, which she told him to take to the bishop.

Again, he went to the bishop, and opened his cloak so the bishop, seeing the roses, would believe him. Juan was amazed when he opened his cloak and the roses fell out because the bishop fell to his knees. Imprinted on the cloak was a full color figure of Mary, as a pregnant Indian, just as Juan had described her.

Today, the magnificent Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world. Among its attractions is Juan's cloak, the picture as vibrant today as it was nearly 500 years ago.

In 1754, Pope Benedict XIV named Our Lady of Guadalupe the patron of Mexico and ordered a special Mass and Liturgy of the Hours in her honor. Under that title, Pope St. Pius X in 1910 named her patron of Latin America and the Philippines. Pope Pius XII in 1945 called the Virgin of Guadalupe the "Queen of Mexico and the Empress of the Americas."

Increased immigration from Mexico to the U.S. in recent years has led to increasing popularity of the devotion in this country.

(Sources: All Saints, Catholic Almanac, Saints for Our Time and Saints of the Roman Calendar.)

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