Two days ago was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was not until my daughter came home from high school all aglow and bursting with excitement that I fully appreciated the precious gift God gave us centuries ago. With great enthusiasm and reverence, she told me all the miraculous findings about the story and image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is because of her holy zeal that I am now devoted to her.
The Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego, a poor humble Aztec Indian who had recently converted to the Catholic faith in 1531. She asked him to go to the Bishop and tell him to build a church. She said, “I will show and offer all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to my people.” The Bishop asked for a sign that would prove this message is from the Blessed Mother.
On December 12, she told Juan to gather lovely roses at the top of Tepeyac hill and bring them to the bishop as a sign. This was extraordinary since it was winter, the ground was frozen, and only cactus and thistles grew there. Juan did as he was told and found the most stunning Castilian roses which he gathered in his tilma. She asked him to bring these roses to the Bishop.
The Bishop was astonished when the roses fell down from Juan’s tilma, but something even more miraculous had happened. On the usual plain, tan tilma that Juan Diego wore made out of the fibers from cacti was the most beautiful image of Our Lady wearing a turquoise mantle with stars, a black belt around her waist, a pink tunic, and an angel supporting her.
The Profound Symbolism and Miraculous Nature of the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is described in this article by Viva Guadalupe:
1. There is no under-sketch or under-drawing on the image.
Infrared photography has demonstrated that there is no sketching on the image whatsoever. Dr. Philip Callahan, a research biophysicist from the University of Florida explains: “It is inconceivable that an artist in the 16th Century would paint a portrait without first doing a drawing on it.” Making an under-sketch prior to painting a portrait goes back to antiquity. Such an exquisite depiction on textile made from cactus fiber is inexplicable given the lack of sketching.
2. The image has lasted and shown no signs of deterioration.
Juan Diego’s tilma is made of a rough cactus fiber that normally disintegrates in 15 to 30 years. Yet, the image of Guadalupe has remained intact for 489 years without fading or cracking. Moreover, it was subjected to candle smoke for many years, which should have accelerated the process of deterioration.
In 1778, a worker accidentally spilled strong nitric acid onto a large portion of the image. To everyone’s astonishment, only slight stains appeared which can still be seen on the upper right side. Additionally, in 1921 a bomb concealed in some flowers was placed on the altar directly under the image. When the bomb detonated, the marble altar rail and windows 150 feet away were shattered, a brass crucifix was twisted out of shape, but the image was left unharmed.
3. The stars that appear on the image are astronomically correct.
In 1983 Dr. Juan Homero Hernandez and Fr. Mario Rojas Sánchez discovered that the stars on the image correspond precisely to the constellations of the winter sky on December 12th, 1531. Incredibly, the constellations are shown as viewed from outside the heavens, in other words in reverse. It is as if we have a picture from someone looking at it from outside the universe, it is a snapshot of heaven and earth from the very moment that Juan Diego saw Our Lady.
Also, the constellation Virgo, representing virginal purity, appears over the area of Mary’s heart signifying her immaculate and virginal purity, and the constellation Leo the lion is over her womb. The lion represents Jesus Christ, because Christ is the lion of the tribe of Judah. This emphasizes that Christ the King is present in Mary’s womb. The perfect placement of stars in their various constellations illustrates the infinite intelligence behind the miraculous image.
Of all the characteristics of the image, this is perhaps the most astounding. The microscopic likeness of a bearded man was discovered in the pupils of the Virgin; first in 1929, and again in 1951. The bearded man corresponds to contemporaneous pictures of Juan Diego. No human painter could have foreseen putting infinitesimally small images of Juan Diego in the eyes of the Virgin so that later advances in human technology could detect them. Furthermore, it is impossible for any human to have painted the images because they are simply too minuscule to produce.
Jose Aste Tonsmann, a Peruvian ophthalmologist, examined Mary’s eyes at 2,500 times magnification. He was able to identify thirteen individuals in both eyes at different proportions, just as a human eye would reflect an image. It appeared to be the very moment Juan Diego unfurled the tilma before Bishop Zumárraga.
Dr. Jorge Escalante Padilla a surgical ophthalmologist considers these reflections to belong to the type which has been described by Cherney on the back surface of the cornea and by Watt & Hess at the center of the lens. Such reflections are very difficult to detect. Dr. Escalante also reported the discovery of small veins on both of the eyelids of the image. In the 1970s, a Japanese optician who was examining the eyes fainted. Upon recovering he stated: “The eyes were alive and looking at him.” [Janet Barber, Latest Scientific Findings on the Images in the Eyes, page 90.] Incredibly, when Our Lady’s eyes are exposed to light, the pupils contract. When the light is withdrawn, they return to a dilated state.
5. Mary assumes a different ethnicity depending on one’s vantage point.
It is remarkable that at one distance Our Lady appears to be a Native American, but at another distance, she appears of European descent. This miraculous feature is meant to show the unity of the two peoples and the two cultures in light of the true faith of Christ. Mary implored the peoples of the New World to live as one.
Dr. Philip Callahan explains that the image achieves this effect of appearing to be different colors at different distances by a trait that is only seen in nature:
At a distance of six or seven feet the skin tone becomes what might best be termed Indian olive, grey green in tone, it appears somehow the grey and caked looking white pigment of the face and the hands combines with the rough surface of the un-sized hue, such a technique would be an impossible accomplishment in human hands, it often occurs in nature however, in the coloring of the bird feathers and butterfly scales and on the elytra of brightly colored beetles.
This change in color at different distances occurring in nature happens on the tilma in a miraculous way. The pigment combines with the rough surface of the cloth to impart alternating colorations. No human artist can duplicate this effect. Such evidence strongly suggests the image was fashioned by a divine hand.
6. The image is always 98.6°F; the temperature of the human body.
The sixth miraculous feature concerning the image is its temperature. It is a demonstrable fact that no matter what the surrounding temperature, season, or weather, the image remains at an even 36.5°C or 98.6°F, the normal temperature of the human body. [Janet Barber, The Tilma and Its Miraculous Image.]
Also, Dr. Carlos Fernandez del Castillo, a Mexican gynecologist, after carefully examining the tilma and the image of the pregnant Madonna concluded that the dimensions of her body were that of an expectant mother at the end of gestation.
7. How the native Indian population interpreted the image of Our Lady.
The indigenous Indian population recognized in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe specific signs that Christianity was superior to other belief systems, including their own. As recorded by Fr. Harold Romm in, Am I Not Here, page 56:
The Indians saw something in the image of Our Lady that the Spaniards did not comprehend. In that period, the Indians did their writing in hieroglyphics, so to them the image was a hieroglyphic letter. The fact that the natives read the image is most important in understanding the purpose of Our Lady’s apparitions. To the Indians the image depicted a beautiful lady standing in front of the sun, a sign to them that she was greater than the sun god Huitzilopochtli whom they worshiped; the crescent or the moon beneath her feet showed that their moon god Tezcatlipoca was less than nothing since she was standing on it; the stars they thought so much of were only a part or portion of her mantle. At her throat was a brooch with a small black cross in the center reminding them that this was the emblem of the Spanish Friars and there was one greater than she.
The intelligence that constructed the image of Guadalupe conveyed exactly the message that the Indians needed to hear and to see to abandon their false notions of God and their idolatrous practices. It is infinitely insightful, well beyond anything humans could imagine. Reading the image caused millions of Indians to convert to the Catholic faith.
8. A 2007 miracle emphasizes Our Lady as the Patroness of the Unborn.
Among Our Lady of Guadalupe’s many designations, she is venerated as the patroness of the unborn. The image shows Mary as pregnant with Christ. She is an unmistakable witness to the sanctity of life and the protection of the unborn.
On April 24, 2007, an unusual luminosity in the famed image of Mary at the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City immediately after that city legalized abortion became visible. According to one account: “At the end of the Mass, which was offered for aborted children… While many of the faithful were taking photographs of the tilma of Tepeyac, exposed and venerated in the Basilica… the image of the Virgin began to erase itself, to give place to an intense light which emanated from her abdomen, constituting a brilliant halo having the form of an embryo. Below, centered and enlarged, one can appreciate the location of the light which shone from the stomach of the Virgin and is not a reflection, or [otherwise] an artifact.”
Engineer, Luis Girault, who studied the picture and confirmed the authenticity of the negative, was able to specify that it had not been modified or altered, i.e: by the superimposition of another image. He determined that the image does not come from any reflection, but originates from inside Mary. The produced light is very white, pure and intense, different from habitual photographic lights produced by flashes. The light, encircled with a halo, appears to float inside Mary’s abdomen. The halo has the form and measurements of an embryo. If we again examine the picture by making it turn in a sagittal plane, we perceive inside the halo some areas of shade that are characteristic of a human embryo in the maternal womb.
9. Our Lady of Guadalupe and the miraculous roses.
The Spanish rulers of the native population were brutal, and war between them seemed inevitable. In 1531, the archbishop of Mexico City, Juan de Zumárraga prayed to Our Lady for peace. As a sign that his petition would be granted, he asked to receive roses native to his home region of Castile, Spain.
Our Lady told Juan Diego to present Bishop Zumárraga her request that a church be built for her on the hill of Tepeyac (now part of Mexico City) where people could receive God’s grace. Bishop Zumárraga was skeptical of Diego’s account and asked that Our Lady produce a sign verifying her identity.
That afternoon, Mary instructed Juan Diego to return the next day (December 11th) and she would provide proof. That night, however, Diego’s uncle became deathly ill, and Diego never returned. Early the morning of December 12th, Diego journeyed to Tlatleloco to find a priest so his uncle could confess his sins before dying. In doing so, he passed Tepeyac Hill. Afraid Mary would interrupt his errand, he went to the other side of the hill, but Our Lady came to meet him.
Mary assured Diego his uncle would recover. She told him to go to the top of the hill and gather the flowers there. Diego discovered, growing in the frozen earth, a miraculous garden of Castilian roses not native to Mexico. Diego brought them to Mary, who arranged them in his tilma, with instructions that he take them to the bishop. Before Bishop Zumárraga, Juan Diego opened his cloak. The roses fell to the floor revealing the image of Mary. The Bishop’s prayers had been answered.
10. Mary’s conversion of millions counteracted Luther’s Reformation.
Our Lady’s urgent message was one of faith, hope, and comfort to the indigenous population oppressed by their Spanish overseers. In a matter of months, she ended the Aztec culture’s cult of death. The Aztec religion involved human sacrifice on an unthinkable scale. In the decade following her appearance, ten million Indians converted to Catholicism, creating a vibrant community of faith that persists to the present day.
In Europe, the Protestant Reformation raged, dividing the Church and causing millions to turn to Protestantism. At the moment that millions in Europe were being torn from the Church founded by Christ, God was arranging for twice as many in the New World to be brought into it. By divine Providence, Our Lady was creating unity and a wellspring of deep devotion among the faithful in Mexico. Her words to Juan Diego, “My dear child. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?”, made him, and his fellow Indians, in every way the Spaniards equals in dignity.
An astounding list of miracles and cures are attributed to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the Unborn. Each year, approximately 10 million people visit the Basilica in Mexico City, many of them walking for days and on their knees for the last part of the journey. The same tilma that Juan Diego wore 489 years ago with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe can be seen high above and protected behind bullet proof glass.
Let us remember the words that Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to Juan Diego: “Listen and let it penetrate your heart…do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. 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 life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?“
Let us run to Our Lady of Guadalupe who longs to protect us under her merciful mantle, drive the fear and grief from our hearts, and lead us to Jesus, the way, the truth, and the light.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe,
make intercession for our Holy Church,
protect the sovereign Pontiff,
help all those who invoke you in their necessities,
and since you are the ever Virgin Mary
and Mother of the true God,
obtain for us from your most Holy Son
the grace of keeping our faith,
of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life,
of burning charity,
and the precious gift of final perseverance.” Amen
May the Lord bless you abundantly and may Our Lady of Guadalupe protect you! I am praying for you! Advent blessings to you!