Guadalupe, strictly speaking, is the title of a miraculous picture of the Mother of God, but in time the name was extended to the church containing the picture, and also to the town that grew up around the shrine. The word is Spanish-Arabic, but in Mexico it represents certain Aztec sounds. It is located three miles north-east of old Mexico City. Pilgrimages have been made to this shrine almost uninterruptedly since 1531-32. In the latter year, there was a shrine at the foot of Tepeyac Hill which served for ninety years, and later formed part of the parochial sacristy. In 1622 a rich shrine was erected; a new one, much richer, in 1709. In the eighteenth century several other structures were built adjacent to the Shrine: a parish church, a convent and church for Capuchin nuns, a Well Chapel, and a Hill Chapel. About 1750 the shrine received a canonry, and regular choir service was established there. It was associated with the Basilica of St. John Lateran in 1764; and, finally, in 1904 it was created a Basilica. Before the erection of the "new basilica" after Vatican II -- an ugly monstrosity -- the beauty of the original Basilica was renowned. Around the beginning of the twentieth century the shrine itself had undergone a complete interior renovation in gorgeous Byzantine style, presenting a striking illustration of the history of the apparitions of Guadalupe.
The miraculous picture itself really does constitute Guadalupe. It makes the shrine: it occasions the devotion. It represents the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, being the lone figure of the Woman with the accompaniments of the great apocalyptic signs -- the sun, the moon, and the stars, and in addition a supporting Angel under the crescent. Its tradition is, as the Breviary lessons (compiled at the order of Pope Leo XIII) declare, "long-standing and constant." Oral and written, Indian and Spanish, the account is unwavering. To a neophyte, fifty-five years old, named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac hill to hear Mass in Mexico City, on Saturday, December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared and sent him to Bishop Zumarraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the Bishop's answer. The cautious Prelate had not immediately believed the messenger; having cross-questioned him, he had him watched. He finally bade him ask a sign of the Lady, who said she was the Mother of the true God. The neophyte agreed so readily to ask any sign desired, that the Bishop was impressed, and left the sign up to the apparition.
Juan Diego was occupied all Monday with Juan Bernardino, his uncle, who was dying of a fever. All remedies having failed, daybreak on Tuesday, December 12, found the grieved nephew running to St. James' Convent for a priest. To avoid the apparition having to deliver an untimely message to the Bishop, he slipped round where the Well Chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin had crossed down to meet him and said: "What road is this thou takest, my son?" A tender dialogue ensued. Reassuring Juan Diego about his uncle -- whom at that very instant she cured, appearing to him also and calling herself Holy Mary of Guadalupe -- she bade him go again to the Bishop. Without hesitating he joyously asked for the sign. She told him to go up to the rocks and gather roses. He knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many of them into the lap of his tilma -- a long cloak used by Mexican Indians -- he came back. Our Holy Mother, rearranging the roses, bade him keep them untouched and unseen until he reached the Bishop. Having come into the presence of Bishop Zumarraga, Juan offered the sign. But as he unfolded his cloak, the roses fell out, and he was startled to see the Bishop and his attendants kneeling before him, for the figure of the Virgin Mother, just as he had described her, was glowing on the rough cloth of the poor tilma.
A great mural decoration in the old Basilica commemorates this touching scene. The picture was venerated, carefully guarded in the Bishop's own chapel, and soon after carried in procession to the preliminary shrine.
The coarsely woven material upon which the picture is imprinted is as thin and open as poor sacking. It is made of vegetable fiber, probably maquey. It consists of two strips, about seventy inches long by eighteen wide, held together by weak stitching. The seam is visible up the middle of the figure, turning aside from the face. Skilled artists have not yet been able to discern the manner in which the colors are laid upon the tilma. They have declared that the "canvas" was not only unfit but unprepared; and they have marveled at the appearance of various oil, water, distemper, etc. coloring techniques, all in the same figure. They are left in equal awe by the flower-like tints and the abundant gold. They and other artists find the proportions perfect for a beautiful young maiden. The figure and the attitude are of one advancing forward. There is both flight and rest in the eager supporting Angel. The chief colors are deep gold in the rays and stars, blue green in the mantle, and rose in the flowered tunic.
Sworn evidence was given at various commissions of inquiry corroborating the traditional account of the miraculous origin and influence of the picture. Juan Diego's own will was part of the documentary evidence used, as well as Bishop Zumarraga's letter to his Franciscan brethren in Spain concerning the apparitions. It was his successor, Bishop Montufar, who instituted the canonical inquiry in 1556. In 1568, the historian Bernal Diaz, a companion of Cortez, refers to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and its daily miracles of grace and healing. Upon their inauguration to public office, a pilgrimage was customarily made to Guadalupe by Viceroys and other chief magistrates.
The clergy have been remarkably faithful to the devotion towards Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Bishops especially fostering it, even to the extent of making a Profession of faith in the miracle a matter of occasional obligation. Pope Benedict XIV and Pope Leo XIII were two of its strongest supporters. The former Pope decreed that Our Lady of Guadalupe should be the national patron, and made December twelfth a Holyday of Obligation with an Octave. He also ordered the composition of a special Mass and Office. Pope Leo XIII approved a set of complete historical lessons for the second Nocturn of the Office, and ordered the picture to be crowned in his name, composing a poetical inscription for it. Pope St. Pius X granted to Mexican priests the privilege of celebrating the Mass of Holy Mary of Guadalupe on the twelfth day of every month, and granted indulgences which may be gained in any part of the world for praying before a copy of the miraculous picture. A miraculous Roman copy -- for which Pius IX ordered the construction of a Chapel -- was annually honored in the Eternal City, as a magnificent token of the pious devotion with which the Holy Fathers have cherished the Madonna of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
December is Literature & Media Month
The Fatima Cell theme for the month of December focuses on spreading Our Lady's message by actively promoting Fatima literature, books, tapes, and through other forms of communication. One of the chief obstacles that we face, however, as apostles of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in spreading her message, is the veritable flood of heresy being disseminated through erroneous books, magazines, pamphlets, and every other imaginable medium. Since so many would-be Catholics are freely feasting at this horrible banquet of noxious error, we felt that the excerpts from the following infallible decree of Pope Gregory XVI, would be of keen interest to all true Catholics who wish to maintain the integrity of their holy Catholic Faith. The infallible Papal decrees such as this, which condemn and proscribe heretical works, oblige every true Catholic Bishop or Pastor to strictly prohibit his flock from reading, viewing, or even possessing such spiritual poison. Any so-called Catholic priest or bishop who fails to enforce these fundamental safeguards through his own Liberalism or human respect, is thereby shown to be a hireling, who has no real concern for his flock. Here are the words of His Holiness, Pope Gregory XVI in regard to this matter:
Liberty of Conscience is an Error. "This shameful font of Indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. 'But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,' as Augustine was wont to say. (Epis. 166) When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly 'the bottomless pit' (Apoc. 9:2) is open from which St. John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws -- in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty."
False Freedom of Publication. "Here We must include that harmful and never sufficiently denounced freedom to publish any writings whatever and disseminate them to the people, which some dare to demand and promote with so great a clamor. We are horrified to see what monstrous doctrines and prodigious errors are disseminated far and wide in countless books, pamphlets, and other writings which, though small in weight, are very great in malice. We are in tears at the abuse which proceeds from them over the face of the earth. Some are so carried away, that they contentiously assert that the flock of errors arising from them is sufficiently compensated by the publication of some book which defends religion and truth. But every law condemns deliberately doing evil, simply because there is some hope that good may result. Is there any sane man who would say poison ought to be distributed, sold publicly, stored, and even drunk, simply because some antidote is available and those who use it may be snatched from death again and again?
Necessity of Destroying Bad Books. "The Church has always taken action to destroy the plague of bad books. This was true even in apostolic times, for we read that the Apostles themselves burned a large number of books. (Acts 19:19) It may be enough to consult the laws of the fifth Council of the Lateran on this matter, and the Constitution which Leo X published afterwards, lest 'that which has been discovered advantageous for the increase of the Faith and the spread of useful arts, be converted to the contrary use and work harm for the salvation of the faithful.' (Lateran Council v, sess. x) This was also of great concern to the Fathers of Trent, who applied a remedy against this great evil by publishing that wholesome decree concerning the Index of books which contain false doctrine. (Council of Trent, sess. xxii, xxv) 'We must fight valiantly,' Clement XIII says in an encyclical letter about the banning of bad books, 'as much as the matter itself demands, and must exterminate the deadly poison of so many books; for never will the material for error be withdrawn, unless the criminal sources of depravity perish in flames.' (Letter of Clement XIII -- Christianae) Thus it is evident that this Holy See has always striven, throughout the ages, to condemn and to remove suspect and harmful books. The teaching of those who reject the censure of books, as too heavy and onerous a burden, causes immense harm to the Catholic faithful and to this See. They are even so depraved as to affirm that it is contrary to the principles of law, and they deny the Church the right to decree and to maintain it."
—Mirari Vos of Pope Gregory XVI (Nos. 14-16)
Words of the Madonna of the Americas
The words of Our Lady of Guadalupe spoken to the humble Indian, Juan Diego, on the hill of Tepeyac, December 9, 1531: "My dear little son, whom I love tenderly, know that I am the Virgin Mary, Mother of the One, True God, Giver and Maintainer of life, Creator of all things, Lord of Heaven and Earth, Who is in all places. I wish a temple to be erected here, where I can manifest the compassion I have for the natives, and for all who solicit my help."
"Behold thy Mother!" By these words from the Cross, our Divine Lord gave His Mother to St. John, the Beloved Apostle, and to His true followers, who humbly and faithfully stand by the Cross in the company of Mary; who love, trust, and seek Her. The Church teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary is thus our Mother by adoption, and also in the order of grace, through the Incarnation. Mary is the Mother of Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body. As the Mystical Body is one, she is, therefore, the Mother of the members of the Mystical Body, individually. In none of her apparitions has Our Lady more tenderly and clearly expressed and manifested this title than in Her message as Our Lady of Guadalupe, where she promised all the offices of a Mother to those who love, who trust, and confide in Her; where she announced herself and asked: "Am I not here, thy Mother?"
The words of Our Lady spoken to Juan Diego on her fourth and last visit, December 12, 1531:
"Know for certain, littlest of my sons, that I am the Immaculate, the Ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God, through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of Heaven and Earth.
"I wish and ardently desire that in this place my sanctuary be raised. Here I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and protection to the people.
"I am your merciful Mother, the merciful Mother of you who live in this land, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me.
"Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrows, and I will remedy and alleviate all their many sufferings, necessities, and misfortunes. Hear, and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son. Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing disturb your heart or your countenance. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain.
"Am I not here, who am your Mother?
"Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of supernatural life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?"
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