Patroness of the Americas and the Unborn
On the American continent, Marian devotion is frequently centered around the figure of our Blessed Mother as she appeared in December of 1531 to the native American Saint Juan Diego at Tepeyac Hill in the area of modern-day Mexico City. Our Blessed Mother actually appeared four times to Saint Juan Diego and once to his dying elderly uncle, Juan Bernardino. The fourth appearance to Saint Juan Diego was the most wonderful. A brief account of the apparitions will help to appreciate better God the Father’s purpose in sending the Blessed Mother to the American continent at Tepeyac and the important meaning of devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The first apparition took place on December 9, which at that time was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in the Spanish Empire, of which Mexico was then a part. Our Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Juan Diego, an older native American who had recently lost his dear wife. Juan Diego himself died in 1548, seventeen years after the apparitions, at the age of 74. On 6 May 1990, Blessed Pope John Paul, during his second pilgrimage as Pope to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, declared Juan Diego blessed.
Juan Diego went to the Bishop’s house at which he was received with great respect but also with hesitation regarding his story of the apparition and of our Blessed Mother’s request. The Bishop, who was praying and working to bring together the native Americans and the Spanish conquerors and settlers, requested time to consider the matter.
On Juan Diego’s return home, the Blessed Mother appeared to him for the second time. Disappointed that he had failed in his mission, he asked Our Lady of Guadalupe to send a more esteemed messenger to the Bishop, so that he would believe the message. Our Blessed Mother instructed Juan Diego to return to the Bishop with her request.
The third apparition took place on December 10. Juan Diego had gone to the Bishop for a second time. The Bishop responded by asking for a sign so that he might believe the Blessed Mother’s request. On his way home, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, and he told her of the Bishop’s request of a sign. Our Lady promised to provide the sign for the Bishop when Juan Diego would return to her on the next day.
Juan Diego missed his appointment with Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 11 because he was looking after his uncle Juan Bernardino who was gravely ill. On December 12, he was hurrying to bring a priest to administer the sacraments to his uncle who was dying. He took a different route in order to avoid another encounter with the Blessed Mother, embarrassed that he had missed the appointment on December 11 and not wanting to be delayed in seeking spiritual help for his uncle.
Learn more about the shrine:
Mission & History of the Shrine
Serving the spiritual needs of those who suffer poverty in body and soul.
The Shrine Church
In the tradition of pilgrimage churches, the Shrine Church is located high upon a hill with a campanile and dome which are visible from afar.