Share this story

 | By Father Stan Smolenski

The Message of Guadalupe

The extraordinary facts of Guadalupe prove that Christ is truly the Prince of Peace. His Gospel can permeate peace efficaciously throughout the world, as prophesied in the Scriptures (see Is 9:6). Just as the Prince of Peace was originally given to the world through his mother Mary, so his renewed message was delivered through her to the world in 1531 via a middle-aged Nahuatl Aztec convert.

During a crucial time, when the Aztec kingdom wanted to purge the abusive Spaniards from their land, Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, OFM, wrote to the king of Spain that only heaven could resolve their dreadful situation — and it did.

On Tepeyac Hill (in modern Mexico City) that Dec. 12, Juan Diego was visited by Our Lady several times with a request for Bishop Zumárraga to build her a shrine. There, she would show her maternal love, compassion and protection to all her people. The bishop asked for a sign of authenticity, and it came in the form of roses picked at the site of her apparition. Juan Diego gathered them into his cloak, or tilma, and when he opened the garment before Bishop Zumárraga, as the roses fell out, an image of Our Lady appeared on it. These Castilian roses were a type familiar in Spain, readily identified by the bishop.

Over the centuries since this miraculous occurrence, multiple scientific studies revealed a vast number of unexplainable details. Eye experts in the 20th century discovered reflections of the people present at the moment of the miracle on the image’s curved eyes. The cloak was made of a material woven from a cactus plant whose normal duration was about 30 years before disintegration. It has endured five centuries with no sign of deterioration.

Our Lady appears in a rose colored robe and an aqua blue mantle. The robe has a floral design on it, and the mantle has stars distributed throughout. She stands in front of the sun, slightly turned to her right with hands folded in prayer. Her feet rest on a crescent moon, which can denote victory over the past and the promise of a new future. Our Lady of Guadalupe is an icon — a form of art that encodes a message in its symbols. Importantly, she is praying to God, acknowledging his supremacy. Astronomers have discovered that the pattern of the stars on her mantle is that of the December sky at the time of the apparition.

The Aztec kingdom’s polytheistic religious practices focused on continual human sacrifice, including to the sun god who would not move (or rise) without blood to eat. By standing in front of the sun, Our Lady manifests that she is superior to and in control of it — as was later evident in the miracle of Fatima, Portugal.

The floral pattern on her robe requires special attention, as some of the indigenous religious glyphics and deity names were floral. A flower is located on the area of the robe covering Guadalupe’s womb. With her sash symbolizing pregnancy, the message would have been clear to the Aztec people that she was bearing a divine child.

The stars and flowers recall the biblical passage, “Behold, I will make a new heaven and a new earth” (Is 65:17). The old heaven and earth began at the creation of Adam and Eve, in the perfection of the Garden of Eden where they enjoyed friendship with God (Gen 3:8). After their submission to the enemy, they earned divine punishment. But, God mercifully promised to restore things through a new Adam and a new Eve (Christ and his mother). This was the protoevangelium, or the “first Gospel,” because it contained the first promise of redemption and the foretelling of the defeat of evil.

Our Lady of Guadalupe announced that she was that New Eve bearing the New Adam. Her skin color was that of a mestizo, a woman of European and Aztec parentage, because her mission was unitive in faith and culture. The Aztecs understood her message to them and accepted her freedom from a religion of fear. Her presence converted Spaniards also, calling them to a fervent faith.

Our Lady of Guadalupe came in December when the Church was celebrating the Immaculate Conception, Mary’s total liberation from evil and her perfect formation by the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Ven. Pope Pius XII entitled her Empress of the Americas and St. John XXIII called her the Celestial Missionary of the New World. We know her as the Patroness of Mexico, the Americas and the unborn.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Father Stanley Smolenski, spma, STL, MTh, a canonical Baptistine hermit, is the co-founder and director of the diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina – Our Lady of Joyful Hope in Kingstree.