Question: What can you tell me about Our Lady of Guadalupe? How much truth is there in the story that the Virgin Mary appeared to someone in Latin America?
Response: In brief response, the story goes that on December 9, 1531 the “virgin” appeared to a poor Aztec Indian convert to Catholicism, Juan Diego. As a “sign” to convince the skeptical acting bishop, Don Fray Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan, that he was to build a church in her honor, she “miraculously” imprinted her image on Diego’s cloak or cape (tilma), which still hangs undeteriorated in the basilica to this day.
In 1910 she was made patroness of Latin America, in 1946 Pope Pius XII declared her to be the patroness of all the Americas, and since 1988 the annual December 12 liturgical celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been an official feast in all dioceses in the United States.
How much truth is in the story, the exact condition of the tilma and explanation for the image and its alleged miraculous preservation, etc., we cannot say. We do know, however, that whatever is true in the story (including alleged “miracles”) is from Satan and not from God, for many reasons. We give a few:
(1) The appearances and erection of the church took place on a small hill, Tepeyac, where a temple to the Mother-Goddess of the Aztecs had once stood, thus confusing “Mary” with this goddess.
(2) The “virgin” appeared to be a beautiful Mexican girl of fourteen, according to Juan Diego, the one who saw her.
(3) She claimed to be “the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God...Queen of angels and men” who had “trodden on the Serpent’s head.”
(4) To this day, pilgrims to the shrine hail Teotl Inantzin (God’s Mother) by her Aztec title, Coatalupej, and sing, “She freed us from great evil, She crushed the Serpent.”
(5) Juan Diego insisted that this “Mother of God” was a member of his own race, a young Aztec girl; and her star-studded mantle and other features of the image identify her as an Aztec queen.
The true Mary does not appear as a young Aztec girl telling lies that exalt her as the Mother of God and the one who crushed the Serpent’s head, etc.