I have a special love for Our Lady of Guadalupe and her story. I love the synergy of Native American and Old World; and the fact that Mary appeared to someone the Europeans in Colonial Mexico thought of little importance.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a poor Indian whom the padres had renamed Juan Diego; his birth name was Cuauhtlatohuac. On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to attend a Mass in honor of The Virgin Mary. As he passed a hill, a sacred place to the Aztecs, called Tepeyac, he heard beautiful music like the song of summer birds. A radiant cloud appeared before Juan Diego, and within it, there was a little brown-skinned maiden so like Juan Diego's people, but dressed as an Aztec Princess. She spoke to him in his own language, not Spanish, and asked him to approach the Bishop of Mexico on Her behalf. He must ask the Bishop to build a chapel to Mary in the very place where she now appeared before him.
With much difficulty, Juan Diego finally gained the audience of Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, who received him with some skepticism, requiring that Juan Diego ask The Lady for a sign. Juan Diego, returned home to find his uncle lay dying, and avoided the hill of Tepeyac, in order to care for the old man in peace.
Our Lady of Guadalupe found Juan Diego in his uncle's home, assuring him that the old man would recover, that he should go about getting her the chapel. Juan Diego repeated to her the Bishop's request for a sign. Our Lady asked for Juan Diego's cape or tilma, and filled it with roses for him to carry to the bishop. Again, Juan Diego, an old man himself at 57, trod the long road to Mexico City and the palace of the Bishop.
When Juan Diego opened the tilma, the roses fell to the Bishop's feet. Bishop Juan Zumarraga sunk to his knees, but it was not to gather the roses, but rather in reverence. On the tilma, like a photograph, was the image of Mary as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac: a maiden of brown skin, dressed as an Aztec Princess. This anniversary of this date: December 12, 1531, has been celebrated throughout the Americas ever since. In the 477 years since this miracle, the image on Juan Diego's tilma had not faded. The image of is on display in the chapel built on the hill as Our Lady requested.
In honor of Juan Diego's tilma full of roses, I have made the Virgin Guadalupe Rose Necklace. May you also know the beauty of roses in the dead of winter, the hope that springs eternal. To see more of this necklace, and my other work, please click on this link.