Our Lady Of Guadalupe Honored On Her Feast Day


Following the Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, Bishop Johnston blessed the Grotto at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine. After the blessing, roses were laid on the statue’s pedestal in her honor. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Dawn, Dec. 9, 1531. Cuauhtlatohuac, a poor Aztec Indian who had converted to Catholicism through Franciscan missionaries, and was baptized Juan Diego, was on his way to a Mass honoring Our Lady near his home. A 57-year-old widower, he lived with his uncle, also a Catholic convert named Juan Bernardino, in a small village near Mexico City.

Trudging past the hill called Tepeyac, he paused when he heard the beautiful sound of warbling birds. He decided to investigate the sound and came face-to-face with a radiant apparition of Mary. She stood within a cloud, dressed like an Aztec princess, with olive skin and high cheekbones.

She spoke to him in his native Nahuatl, calming him and assuring him of her identity. She sent the uneducated peasant farmer to Juan de Zumarraga, OFM, Bishop of Mexico, and instructed Juan Diego to ask that a temple be built on Tepeyac, where she would hear petitions and heal the suffering of the Mexican people. “Now go and put forth your best effort,” she said.

When he arrived at the Bishop’s palace, he was kept waiting a long time, but eventually was ushered into Bishop Zumarraga’s presence. He was skeptical of Juan Diego’s tale and sent him away.

Now doubting himself, Juan Diego walked back to Tepeyac Hill, hoping to prove his story. The Virgen appeared again, and asked him to try again the next morning.

This time the bishop demanded proof, a sign from the Lady. Juan Diego promised to return the next day.

But returning home he found his 68-year old uncle terribly ill with a burning fever. Juan Diego spent the next two days trying to save him. When he realized his uncle was dying, he went to find a priest to prepare him for death.

Both saddened and frightened that he might die without making a last confession, Juan Diego hurried off, taking a different route to avoid the Virgen. On the road, she appeared a third time. Upset and afraid, Juan explained what had happened. She gently rebuked him, “Am I not your mother? … Are you not in the crossing of my arms?”

Ashamed but determined, Juan Diego requested the sign he promised to the Bishop. She told him to climb to the top of Tepeyac Hill where he would find roses, pick them and keep them hidden in his tilma (cloak) until he saw the Bishop again. Wondering how flowers could bloom in December, he obeyed and on the hilltop, found a great many flowering roses, and gathered them into his tilma.

Again, Juan Diego was ushered in to see the Bishop, who had waited two days to see what sign Juan Diego’s Lady had sent him. Juan opened his tilma, letting the roses spill to the floor. Both men were astonished to see what was inside the humble cloak – an iridescent image of the Virgin Mary.

In it, she stands as an Aztec princess, olive-skinned with high cheekbones, head bowed over hands folded in prayer to God and a black ribbon around her waist, signifying pregnancy. On her blue cloak, the stars are arranged as they appeared in the dawn darkness at the hour of her first appearance. Under her feet, is another old Aztec symbol — a great crescent moon. Clearly, she is more powerful than the Aztec gods, yet she herself is not God.

At the same time, she appeared to Juan Bernardino, whose fever instantly broke and he felt well. She told him she wanted to be known as “Santa Maria, de Guadalupe.”

The temple built on Tepeyac Hill, is now the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Juan Diego’s cactus-fiber tilma hangs miraculously preserved over the altar.

Juan Diego devoted the remainder of his life to evangelization. He died in 1548.

Patroness of Mexico since 1747, Mary was named “Patroness of all of the Americas” by Pius XII in 1945. Her feast day is Dec. 12. Juan Diego was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1990, and in 2002 became the 463rd saint canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II. His feast day is Dec. 9.

Dawn, Dec. 12, 2017. They came from all over the city. Dressed warmly against the cold, families, couples and individuals imitated St. Juan Diego as they walked from their homes or cars up the steps to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine on Kansas City’s Westside.

Before Mass began, members of the Sacred Heart-Guadalupe Matachines wearing fringed costumes of red and gold featuring wooden tubular beads and feathered headdresses followed by Danza Guadalupe wearing white shirts with black and green beaded aprons and carrying wooden bows and arrows, danced to the rhythm of drum beats and beaded shakers on either side of the shrine’s main aisle.

The Mass honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe was celebrated by Bishop James Johnston, Jr. and concelebrated by Father Darvin Salazar, Sacred Heart-Guadalupe parish pastor, and Father Ramon Gaitan of Kansas City, Kan. They were assisted by Deacon James Olshefski, St. Charles Borromeo Parish.

The high altar was decorated with vases of red and yellow roses. The bishop wore a blue and pale gold chasuble bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and matching miter in her honor; Father Salazar wore a gold and crimson chasuble also bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Father Gaitan wore a white Alb and stole.

In his homily, Father Salazar, in both English and Spanish, reminded the congregation that “On the cross, Jesus said to the disciple and to everyone who would be his follower, BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER. Mary is the mother of every Christian. Like Jesus, she belongs to every race and culture. … For the Mexican, and by extension to all people of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe comes from the culture of the people. The image of Mary unfolded in the tilma of St. Juan Diego is a gift … for the peoples of the Americas. … not to be seen as some kind of goddess who reigns over and above the people, but venerated as one who comes from the people and is for the people, especially the poor. We are the disciples of Christ and Mary belongs to us as our mother.”

Father Salazar said, “Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrates our humanity, our dignity as human beings, and demands the justice which honors the dignity and worth of every human person, with particular attention to those who are poor and suffering. … To honor Our Lady of Guadalupe is to stand right with God; … to respect the dignity and worth of every human being as made in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ; … to care for the earth and its environment as given to us by God.”

Recalling Pope Francis’ homily at the Vatican Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe one year ago, Fr. Salazar continued, “Celebrating Mary is, above all, to remember our mother, to remember that we are not and never will be an orphan people. We have a Mother! And where there is a mother, there is always the presence and flavor of home. Where there is a mother, brothers and sisters may quarrel, but a sense of unity will always prevail. … Celebrating Mary’s memory is to celebrate that we, like her, are called to get up and go toward others with the same vision, with her same bands of mercy, with her same gestures.”

After Mass, Bishop Johnston and the priests led the congregation out to the Grotto, in front of the rectory next door to the shrine. Although still a work in progress by J.E. Dunn Construction, the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego has been moved from the rectory garage rooftop to the front lawn and the lawn redone to become an area in which to pause, ponder and pray to Our Lady and St. Juan Diego. The Grotto is easily accessible from the sidewalk on Avenida Cesar Chavez. Fr. Salazar had earlier commented that the Grotto would beautify the area and attract more hearts to the Lord. “It means so much to the community and to others.”

Bishop Johnston blessed and dedicated the Grotto and statue, and many of the assembly tossed roses onto the statue’s pedestal. As the sun rose, its light gilded the figures of Our Lady and Juan Diego.

Continuing the celebration, the assembly gathered in the lower level of the shrine for Mexican hot chocolate, sweet breads, tamales and burritos, fruit, cheese, laughter and conversation.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine is still accepting donations to complete the Grotto. The project committee would love to have families purchase bricks in memory of deceased family members or special events. For more information or to make a donation, contact Araceli Bernardino or Ramona Arroyo at the parish offices, (816) 599-7242.


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November 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph