Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (patroness of the Americas). The assigned readings are Zechariah 2:14-17 and Luke 1:26-38. The Responsorial Psalm is Judith 13:18-19.
In December of 1531, a "Lady from Heaven" appeared to an Aztec (whom we now know as Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin) at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City. Juan Diego was on his way to Mass (a fifteen-mile trip).
This "Lady from Heaven," who was dressed as an Aztec princess, identified herself as the Virgin Mary and asked Juan Diego to speak with the bishop and request that a church be built on the site.
The bishop, Juan de Zumarraga (a Franciscan), hesitated (because he was somewhat skeptical), and he asked for something to prove the lady's identity.
However, before Juan Diego went back to the Lady, he learned that his uncle was dying. In his hurry to get a priest, Juan avoided meeting the Lady. However, she met him on his way and told him that his uncle had been cured.
She then told him to go to the top of the hill where they first met. He was surprised to find flowers growing there, and he gathered them in his tilma to bring to the bishop.
Juan met the bishop again and told him what had happened. The he opened his cloak. To the ground fell the flowers - Castilian roses (which grew in Spain, but not in Mexico). Then the bishop saw an image of the Lady imprinted on the inside Juan's cloak.
This image, which may still be seen today (at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City), resists all scientific explanations of its origin, and it shows no sign of decay, although the cloth should have deteriorated within 20 years.
For more information about Our Lady of Guadalupe, please visit:
Cross Publications: Our Lady of Guadalupe
Franciscan Media: Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas
Crossroads Initiative: History of Our Lady of Guadalupe - Nican Mopohua
Pope John Paul II composed a prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe. To view this prayer, please visit:
Crossroads Initiatives: John Paul II's Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe
Additional commentary related to this observance:
Vatican Radio: The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe
YouTube: Word on Fire in Mexico: At Our Lady of Guadalupe