On Thursday in the Gallery, the Franciscan University Knights of Columbus showed a documentary entitled, “Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message” as part of the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration.
The university celebrates Guadalupe early, before the official day on Dec. 12, because it’s always during finals week and students have a better opportunity to celebrate this way.
The documentary explained the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531 A.D., Mary appeared to San Juan Diego, a Mexican Indian, Catholic convert, peasant and widower on the hill of Tepeyac near what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go tell the bishop to have a chapel built on the hill. When the bishop asked for a sign, Our Lady told Diego to pick up all the flowers he could that miraculously had grown on this baron and rocky hilltop and take them to the bishop. Diego gathered them in his tunic and presented them before the bishop, and as he did, an image of our lady appeared on his cloth.
Diego was canonized a saint in 2002 by St. Pope John Paul II who pilgrimaged all the way to Mexico City. The shrine, which was built on the very spot where Mary appeared to Diego, is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world.
The cloth in which the famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe first appeared on is made from agave fiber, which deteriorates easily over time, is still miraculously around today, surviving everything from acid spills to flooding to bombs.
The cultural significance of the intricate details of the image can be understood in light of ancient Aztec culture. For example, the robe Mary is seen wearing is blue and green. In Aztec culture, only an emperor or empress wore these colors, and only virgins wore their hair down and straight.
The image itself is a codex that can be read when placed on the ground with symbols that translate literally as, “Mother of God.” For the Aztecs, the world at all times was in great danger of coming to an end and so would appease the God’s by offering human sacrifices. The Sun in particular was believed to be the highest deity and the moon where he lived.
The image also depicts Our Lady standing with one foot on the moon eclipsing the sun, which represents the rays behind her, and the other bent as if dancing. Dancing and prayer were synonymous in the Aztec culture. “Mary is saying that she understands human sacrifice, because she lived it. She watched her son be sacrificed and endured that pain. She is an arrow that points to her son” said Carl Anderson.
In this way Mary turned a culture of death into a culture of life. “A mother always unites her children,” said the Rev. Don Calloway. Over nine million people converted to the Catholic Church because of the miracle and the message that St. San Juan Diego brought to the people.