Personal Reflection: 10 things to know about Our Lady of Guadalupe
By Father Clodomiro L. Siller Acuña
What we have almost always known about the encounters of San Juan Diego with Our Lady, Mary of Guadalupe is what our mother told us, what we were taught in religious education, or what we have discussed with other people.
However, when one reads the text known as “Nican Mopohua” (“Here is told”) in its original language, one realizes that what is told there is rich and deep. The content of these stories is very important for all Catholics, but especially for Catholics in North, Central and South America.
These 10 things can help us deepen what the Guadalupe event meant for the evangelization of our continent.
1. The story is written in the native language, Nahuatl, and told according to the culture and religious tradition of the indigenous people of Mexico. Sometimes a word is added here and there in Spanish and even in Latin. This is done to help the bishop, the priests and the Mestizo or European Christians to better understand the history and its message.
2. The encounters of San Juan Diego with Our Lady began with an analysis of the social reality: Ten years after Mexico City was taken, the inhabitants are scattered all over. Our God is a God incarnated in the story of its creation. He is Emmanuel: God among us.
3. First it is told that San Juan Diego was a farmer from the area (nicnotlapalzíntli), but Our Lady calls him Juantzin, Juan Diegotzin, which in Nahuatl language gives high dignity, the same that belongs to Our Lady. Our Lady of Guadalupe recognizes the inherent dignity of San Juan Diego, at a time when the Mexican Indians were considered lesser people, who were without human souls.
4. The Guadalupe event is an encounter with God, whose main symbol is the sun. It starts when dawn is breaking, and San Juan Diego is looking in the direction where the sun rises. The Lady shone like the sun, which also appears in her image.
5. For the indigenous people, the truth is expressed by flower and song (in xóchitl in cuícatl). It all starts in the middle of songs of different birds, and ends with the flowers San Juan Diego takes to the bishop. Therefore, all that is told in the story of Tepeyac is true.
6. Our Lady of Guadalupe changes the reality –– by its glow, flowers look like precious jewels, and the rocks of the hill look like gold. The encounter with God is transformational.
7. The Guadalupe evangelization is embodied in the religion of the natives, it is done on the hill of Tepeyac, where formerly the people would give worship to God as Mother: Tonantzin. There they will build her temple. Our Lady brings good news, she wants to hear and remedy all their troubles, miseries, sorrows and pains; to show and give all her love, compassion, help and defense. She brings the Good News of Jesus Christ to these lands precisely when it was most needed, before the darkness and death of the conquest of the new continent by the Europeans.
8. That evangelization wanted by Our Lady is multicultural, it is for all the inhabitants of these lands and others who call her and trust in her.
9. Mary of Guadalupe chooses Juan Diego, a poor man, trampled upon by all and considered as trash of the people, to be her messenger. So that he, instead of the many messengers Mary has in the institutional church, may convey her message to the bishop, who believed nothing of what San Juan Diego says until he witnesses the miracle of the image on his cloak.
10. The Guadalupe evangelization is done in the way the Indians lived their religion. The Indians believed that humanity meets with God to collaborate with him. That’s why San Juan Diego, when his uncle was ill and near death, does not ask Our Lady to heal him as she had promised, but he cooperates with the plan of Our Lady. Seeing the commitment of San Juan Diego, Our Lady heals his uncle. She appears to the uncle, and probably tells him that she wants to be called Tecoatlaxúpe (The One arising from history, the One arising from Quetzalcoatl), incarnating Christianity in the religious and theological tradition of the indigenous peoples. The Spaniards must have understood Guadalupe, as we know it today.
This Guadalupe evangelization was very effective, soon spreading to other countries, succeeding in the conversion to Christianity of many indigenous peoples. The Guadalupe evangelization is an example of a perfectly enculturated evangelization, according to St. John Paul II. We must take over its method to evangelize effectively. That is why Mary of Guadalupe is the star of the new evangelization. The Gospel must be incarnated in the reality of the listeners; God first loves us and comes to us today, freeing us, sending us forth and sanctify our lives.
Father Clodomiro L. Siller Acuña, the author of this article, preached a retreat for dancers, “matachines” and “concheros” in the Austin Diocese in October.