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July 15, 2009
Q: Why is Our Lady of Guadalupe so important to Hispanic Catholics??
A: In 1531, 10 years after the conquest of Mexico City by the Spanish, with only a handful of Catholic missionaries in Mexico, the progress in evangelization of the Aztecs was slow. But then, “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth” (Rev 12:1-3). A Mexican native, Juan Diego Coatlatoatzin, was encountered by a woman on Tepeyac Hill, outside Mexico City. The woman, fulfilling the description given in the Book of Revelation, spoke to Juan Diego in his native language. She told him to go to the bishop, Juan de Zumárraga, with her request that he build a temple in that area, where she would listen to the needs of those who ask her for help.
The woman, Mary, also fulfilled the description of the mother of the Aztec god, Tonantzin. She said she was Coatlasupe—“the one who steps on the serpent.” Later, the name was changed to “Guadalupe.” She was pregnant, as described in Revelation. The bishop asked Juan Diego for proof that Mary had appeared to him. Our Lady asked Juan Diego to gather roses from the hilltop (a place where roses are not common, especially during winter). He did, collecting the roses in his cloak. Later, opening the cloak in the presence of the bishop, the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was discovered to be imprinted on the cloak itself. As a result of Mary’s appearance, thousands of Mexican natives and Spaniards alike recognized in her image God’s plan for the salvation of this new land. Today, the cloak is on display in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
For the Mexican people, and many Hispanics, Our Lady of Guadalupe represents the beginning of the evangelization of the “new world.” Pope John Paul II called Our Lady of Guadalupe, “the star of the New Evangelization and patroness of the Americas”—the symbol of Catholicism in the new world.
This week’s apologist is Luis Soto, director of Hispanic Ministry and of Centro San Juan Diego, the Denver Archdiocese’s center for pastoral and family care for Spanish-speaking Catholics. Send your question to: email@example.com.