VOICE FROM THE SOUTH
By FR. EMETERIO BARCELON, SJ
This is the continuing miracle in Mexico City. The shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is visited by millions every year. The people of Towns of Mexico walk to Mexico City to venerate Our Lady under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is also a patroness of this country, the Philippines. Many girls are called Guadalupe here in our country and nicknamed “Upeng”. The cloth on which the picture of Our Lady is painted is maguey-type cloth that has not deteriorated up to now. And it dates back to four centuries ago, 1531. It was the common garb of the native Mexicans at that time. Her eyes too reflect the group that first saw the picture of Our Lady five centuries ago, that of the bishop with the priests with him. The eyes of the picture reflect this group when examined under a microscope. The group fell to their knees when they saw the Castilian roses and the picture of Our Lady. This cloth has not deteriorated even though unprotected for centuries, from smoke and fire of candles lighted in its front. With only about 50 priests this was the conversion of about 23 million Aztecs.
Juan Diego, was an American Indian, was walking in the pathways of Tepeyac hill when he saw this beautiful lady who asked him to see and the ask bishop to build a shrine there. Juan Diego obeyed and of course the bishop asked him for a sign that the message was from Our Lady. Juan Diego tried to convince Our Lady to send someone else more important to the bishop. Our Lady asked Juan Diego to come back the next day but he was not able to do so, since he had an uncle who was very sick and he was looking for a priest. When he finally saw her again, she assured him that his uncle was better. And that if he would go to Tepeyac hill, he would find some flowers in the middle of winter to bring to the bishop. He went and gathered the flowers and brought them to the bishop. The bishop and his priests fell to their knees when Juan Diego opened his tilma. There on his tilma was the painting of Our Lady. That is the painting that still exists today.
When Juan Diego got back to his sick uncle, he was told that the Lady had visited his uncle and said her name was Our Lady of Guadalupe. This was a small place in Extremadura in northern Spain. The shrine there has a long history. St. Luke was supposed to have carved a statuette of Our Lady which was in the church in Constantinople. Just before the fall of the Eastern Empire to the Muslims, this statuette was taken by some devotees and hidden in a forest in northern Spain. The story is told that a farmer’s mule died in the area and he was about to skin the animal when the mule sprang up. Then they dug up the area and found the statuette. This is the origin of the name Guadalupe. The uncle of Juan Diego told him that her name was the Lady of Guadalupe. This statuette was at one time in the possession of Philip II of Spain after whom the Philippines is named.
In 2001 just before 9/11, my sister, a cousin, and I went to Mexico City. At the airport we were told that a branch of the hotel in which we were booked was within walking distance from the airport. But it was in a down town branch that we were booked. The shrine was also within walking distance from the airport. It is a huge amphitheatre with altars in the upper section where Mass could be said. The main church was normally filled with pilgrims organized various towns of Mexico who walked to the shrine. When we were there, at least three towns were in the huge church. I said Mass together with other priests in the main basilica. On other days we said Mass in the upper chapels. (I had some beautiful pictures of the shrine but unfortunately my camera was stolen.)