Worship and share a meal with fellow Cathedral parishioners as we celebrate La Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe – the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – on Wednesday, December 11, from 7–9:30 p.m. in Mikell Chapel.
Accounts claim that the Virgin Mary appeared four times before a native Mexican peasant named Juan Diego and once more before Juan Diego's uncle. According to those accounts, the first apparition occurred on the morning of December 9, 1531, when it is said that Juan Diego experienced a vision of a young woman at a place called the Hill of Tepeyac, which would become part of Villa de Guadalupe, in a suburb of Mexico City.
According to the accounts, the woman, speaking to Juan Diego in his native Nahuatl language (Aztec), identified herself as the Virgin Mary, “mother of the very true deity.” She was said to have asked for a church to be built at that site in her honor. Juan Diego then sought out the archbishop of Mexico City, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, to tell him what had happened. The bishop did not believe Diego, but on the same day Juan Diego saw the young woman for a second time.
On Sunday, December 10, Juan Diego talked to the archbishop for a second time. The latter instructed him to return to Tepeyac Hill, and to ask the lady for a truly acceptable, miraculous sign to prove her identity. That same day, the third apparition occurred when Diego returned to Tepeyac and encountered the same woman, he reported back to her the bishop's request for a sign; she consented to provide one on the following day. By Monday, December 11, however, Juan Diego's uncle, Juan Bernardino, had fallen sick so Juan Diego was obliged to attend to him. In the very early hours of Tuesday, December 12, Juan Bernardino's condition having deteriorated overnight, Juan Diego set out to Tlatelolco to fetch a priest to hear Juan Bernardino's confession and help minister to him on his deathbed.
In order to avoid being delayed by the Virgin and having failed to meet her on the Monday as agreed, Juan Diego chose another route around the hill, but the Virgin intercepted him and asked where he was going. Juan Diego explained what had happened and the Virgin gently chided him for not having had recourse to her. In the words which have become the most famous phrase of the Guadalupe event and are inscribed over the main entrance to the Basilica of Guadalupe, she asked, “¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre?” (“Am I not here, I who am your mother?”) She assured him that Juan Bernardino had now recovered and she told him to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill, which was normally barren, especially in the cold of December. Juan followed her instructions and he found Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, blooming there.
The Virgin arranged the flowers in Juan's tilma, or cloak, and when Juan Diego opened his cloak before archbishop Zumárraga on December 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and on the fabric was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The next day, on December 13, Juan Diego found his uncle fully recovered, as the Virgin had assured him, and Juan Bernardino recounted that he too had seen her, at his bedside. Juan Diego's tilma has become Mexico's most popular religious and cultural symbol, and has received widespread ecclesiastical and popular support.
Here at the Cathedral of St. Philip we gather to celebrate this occasion on the evening of December 11. We pray and children who attend the Spanish service present a reenactment of the story of Juan Diego. After the service, we gather for a light evening meal before returning home. For more information, contact Deacon Juan Sandoval, jsandoval@cathedralATL.org.