FEast: Dec. 12th
Established by: the Americas, indigenous people
Our Lady of Guadalupe
When Juan Diego was born in 1474, he lived in what is now Mexico City. He lived with his uncle and was a very spiritual man in the Aztec religion, but when Franciscan missionaries arrived, he and his wife were among the very first group to be baptized.
One morning while he was on his way to Mass, on the outskirts of the city, a radiant woman stopped him along the way and introduced herself to him in his own language as St. Mary. She told him that not only was she the mother of Jesus, but also the mother of all who lived in this land. She asked him to build a chapel for her on the hill there.
Juan took this request to the bishop, who did not believe him. When he encountered her again on his way back, he told her what the bishop had said, and that perhaps she needed to ask someone else to complete this mission - he did not think he was either worthy or capable enough. She refused, though, and said that she wanted only him. she said she would give him a sign to prove it the next day.
That next day, though, his uncle fell very ill, and Juan had to stay to take care of him. Juan was distraught over the situation, However, on his path, Mary appeared to him and asked him “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” She told him that his uncle had already recovered while he was out, and asked him to instead climb the hill and gather flowers. She blessed them and told him to bring them to the bishop. When he arrived, he poured out the flowers, and they found the image of Mary on the cloth. All immediately believed him and agreed to his wishes.
Juan Diego’s cloak with Mary’s image remained on display in a chapel and then the church while building proceeded on Tepeyac Hill. When the chapel was complete, a procession occurred to take the image to the hill. Juan Diego lived out the rest of his life on the hill, caring for the church and the people who made pilgrimages there. The image is still on display there, perfectly preserved.
In 2002, Pope John Paul II finally canonized Juan Diego, making him the first saint indigenous to the Americas.
As Pope Francis says, “We need to not raise walls, but bridges...” Remind us how it is not only hurtful, cowardly, and ignorant to build walls of any kind, but also that we miss out on so much because of those walls. Mary, be our protector, inspiration, and help as we learn how to tear down these walls and the walls from all the places you love.
This image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has certainly generated some of the most controversy of my pieces, likely because it contains so much symbolism. Mary wears Traditional Mexican clothing and a flower crown that resembles the rays of light in the traditional image. She sheds a tear and holds red rosaries over her heart to symbolize her heart bleeding for the people at the border. In place of Satan as a snake, she crushes the border wall itself beneath her feet. he has a tattoo of a rose like the ones she gave Juan Diego in his miracle, and a Mexican boy takes the place of an angel, his wings the colors of the flag, and his expression just as tearful.