The Apparitions and The Miracle

The Apparitions and The Miracle

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Feast Day ~ 12 December

Ten years after the seizure of the City of Mexico, war came to an end and there was peace amongst the people; in this manner, faith started to grow, the understanding of the true God began to flourish.

The First Apparition

At dawn, on Saturday 9 December, 1531 Juan Diego, an Indian convert, was on his way to attend Mass.  As he was passing Tepeyac Hill, he heard singing, as if from a great multitude of birds.  Filled with wonder, he stopped, and raising his eyes towards the top of the hill, he looked around and wondered if he was dreaming.

All of a sudden, there was silence and a gentle voice called him: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito!”  He quickly climbed the hill to see where the voice is coming from.  When he reached the top, he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary standing in the midst of a glorious light, asking him, to come closer.  Approaching her presence, he marvelled greatly at the splendour of her heavenly beauty, whose garments shone like the sun; the cliff where she rested her feet, filled with glitter, resembling precious stones, and the earth sparkled like the rainbow.  The beauty of her youthful countenance and her look of loving kindness filled Juan Diego with unspeakable happiness.

Speaking to him in his native language, she said to him, “Juanito, my son, where are you going?”  “Noble Lady, my Queen, I am going to attend the Mass in Mexico City to hear divine teachings that the priest instructs us there.”

“I want you to know for certain, my dear son, that I am the ever Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God from Whom all life comes, the Lord of all things, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

I wish that a shrine be built here in my honour, in which I will show my love, compassion, and protection. For I am your Mother, full of mercy and love, for you and for all those who love me, trust in me, and have recourse to me.  I will hear their supplications and I will comfort their afflictions and their sufferings.

Go to the Bishop in Mexico City and tell him that I am sending you to make known to him my wish – that here on this plain he build and dedicate a shrine to me; you will accurately relate all you have seen and heard.  Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you.  I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for your effort and you will obtain of what I have entrusted.  Behold, you have heard my request, go and make known to him my great desire.”

The Second Apparition

Juan Diego went straight to the Bishop.  Bishop Zumárraga, a Franciscan, the first Bishop of Mexico, was a pious man and full of zeal.  He heard the poor man attentively, but fearing an illusion, did not put much faith in his story.

Towards evening, Juan Diego started on his way home.  At the top of Tepeyac Hill, he had the pleasant surprise of meeting the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was waiting for him, in the same spot where he saw her the first time.  He told her about his meeting with the Bishop, then added, “I beg you to entrust your message to someone more known and respected so that he will believe it.  I am only a simple Indian whom you have sent as a messenger to an important person.  Therefore, he didn’t believe me, and I do not want to greatly disappoint you.”

“My dearest son, you must understand that there are many more noble men to whom I could have entrusted my message and yet, it is because of you that my plan will succeed.  Return to the Bishop tomorrow… Tell him that it is I myself, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who am sending you.”

The Third Apparition

On the morning of Sunday, 10 December, 1531, after the Mass, Juan Diego went to the Bishop’s place.  The prelate asked him many questions, then asked for a tangible sign of the truth of the Apparition.  When Juan Diego went home, the Bishop had him discreetly followed by two servants.  At Tepeyac Hill, Juan Diego disappeared from their sight, and despite all their searches on the hill and in the surrounding area, they could not find him.  Furious, they declared to the Bishop that Juan Diego was an impostor who must absolutely not to be believed.  During this time, Juan Diego told the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was waiting for him on the hill, about his most recent meeting with the Bishop.  “Come back here tomorrow morning to seek the sign he is asking for…”

Returning home, the Indian found his uncle ill, and the next day, he had to stay at his bedside to take care of him.

The Fourth Apparition

At dawn on Tuesday, 12 December, Juan Diego started on his journey to the city.  Approaching Tepeyac Hill, he thought it is best to take a different road so as not to meet the Blessed Virgin Mary.  But suddenly, he saw her coming to meet him.  Embarrassed, he explained his situation and promised to come back when he had found a priest to attend to his dying uncle. 

After hearing Juan Diego’s explanation, the Blessed Virgin answered: “Hear me and understand well, my littlest and dearest of my sons, let nothing frighten nor grieve you.  Let not your heart be troubled.  Am I not here, who am Mother?  Are you not under my protection?  Am I not your health?  Are you not happy within my fold?  Is there anything else you need? 

Do not be distressed about your uncle’s illness, because he will not die from it.  Be assured, he will get well…”

Having heard these words, Juan Diego rejoiced and asked for the sign he was to take to the Bishop.  He was told to climb to the top of the hill where she had spoken to him on three previous occasions.  She said he would find many flowers blooming there which he was to cut and bring to her.  Juan Diego did as he was told though he knew no flowers had ever bloomed before on the stony summit. 

When he had arrived at the top of the hill, the Indian was stunned to find a great number of flowers in bloom, Castillian Roses.  They were very beautiful, fragrant and covered with a morning dew.  Indeed, in the winter, the cold allows nothing to survive, and besides, the place was too dry for flowers to grow there.  Juan Diego gathered the roses, enfolded them in his tilma, then went back down the hill and brought the roses, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as she saw them, arranged them with her hand and placed them back in his tilma, saying: 

“My dear son, these flowers are the sign that you are to give the Bishop… This will persuade him to build the shrine that I have asked of him.  Only before his presence you will unfold your tilma and disclose what you are carrying.  You will relate all that you heard and saw.”

The Miracle of The Image

When Juan Diego arrived at the Bishop’s place, the servants made him wait for hours.  Amazed at his patience, and intrigued, they came near him, to see what he was carrying. Juan Diego, seeing that he could not hide what he had, uncovered his tilma a little and upon seeing the flowers, that they were all different Castillian Roses and out of season, they were thoroughly amazed, also because they were so fresh and in full bloom, so fragrant and so beautiful.  They tried to seize and dared to take them out three times but were not successful because when they tried to get them, they were unable to see real flowers.  Instead, they appeared painted or stamped or sewn on the cloth.  They finally informed the Bishop, what they had seen and that the Indian who had came a few days ago, had reason enough to see him.  Although with visitors, the Bishop immediately ordered his admission.

As he entered, Juan Diego knelt before him, and again related what he had seen and heard.  He said: “Sir, I did as you asked; I told the Blessed Virgin Mary that I had given you my word that I would bring back to you some sign and proof that you might believe. 

Earlier today, she sent me to the top of the hill, where I saw her on three previous occasions, to gather flowers that I would see there.  I knew the hilltop was no place where flowers would grow as there are many crags, thistles, thorns, cactus and mesquites.  Although I had my doubts, I obeyed the Blessed Virgin.

As I approached the top of the hill, I saw that I was in paradise, where there was a great variety of exquisite Castillian Roses, covered with fresh morning dew. After I had cut them, I brought them to the Blessed Virgin Mary; she rearranged them with her hands and she placed them in my tilma, so that I may deliver them to you in person, so that you may see and believe the sign which you have asked, and comply with her wish.  Behold! Receive it!”

Juan Diego unfolded his tilma, the flowers cascaded onto the floor; all different varieties of Castillian Roses; and suddenly there appeared the precious Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the manner as she is today kept in the Shrine at Tepeyac, which is named Guadalupe. 

When the Bishop saw the image, he and all who were present fell to their knees.  Then, they arose to see the image closely, admiring it; the Bishop in tears, prayed and begged for forgiveness.  He then untied from Juan Diego’s neck, the tilma on which appeared the Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He then took it to be placed in his chapel. Juan Diego remained one more day in the Bishop’s house, at his request.

The following day the Bishop asked Juan Diego to show him where the Blessed Virgin Mary wished the shrine to be built.  Immediately, he invited all those present to go.  As Juan Diego pointed out the spot where the Blessed Virgin Mary wanted her shrine to be built, he begged to be excused.  He wished to go home to see his uncle Juan Bernardino, who was gravely ill when he left him.  But they did not let Juan Diego go alone, and accompanied him to his home. 

The Fifth Apparition

Apparition to Juan Bernardino

Earlier that same day, 12 December, The Blessed Virgin Mary, had also appeared to Juan Diego’s uncle, Juan Bernardino, and restored him to health as she had promised Juan Diego.

As they arrived, they saw that his uncle was very happy and nothing ailed him.  He was greatly amazed to see his nephew so accompanied and honoured, asking for the reason such honours were conferred upon him.  His nephew answered that when he went to summon a priest, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him at Tepeyac Hill, told him not to be afflicted, that his uncle was well, for which he was greatly consoled.  She sent him to Mexico, to see the Bishop, to carry out her request. 

Then the uncle manifested that it was true that on that occasion he became well and that he had seen the Blessed Virgin Mary in the same manner as she had appeared to his nephew, knowing through her that she had sent him to Mexico to see the Bishop. 

The Name of Guadalupe

Juan Bernardino told his nephew the Blessed Virgin had ordered him to relate to the Bishop in what miraculous manner she had cured him.  She also told Juan Bernardino her image was to be known as “Santa Maria de Guadalupe” and thus she has been venerated by this title for nearly five centuries.

An 18th-century hagiographic painting of God the Father fashioning the image