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Speaker details little-known facts about why Our Lady of Guadalupe converted 9 million
December 5th, 2016
By Valerie Schmalz

Four years after the 1531 appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego on a hillside near what is now Mexico City, 9 million Native Americans were converted to Christianity and the widely practiced ritual of human sacrifice disappeared.

“What she brings that changes their concept of God and their relationship with God is love, absolute and unconditional love. And the mercy of God. They had no concept of God having any concept of mercy,” said Luis Fernando Castañeda, an expert on the Guadalupe story and member of the Institute of Higher Studies of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who will speak on the apparition in a 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 talk at St. Dominic Parish arranged by the parish young adults. Admission is free.

Castañeda will also speak at a number of venues around the Bay Area during his visit here including a Spanish lecture Dec. 9 at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto where he has been speaking regularly for the past decade, he said.

Everything in Our Lady of Guadalupe’s clothing and actions communicated with the Native Americans, who never developed a written language but relied on poetic spoken language and symbols, said the Mexican expert on the Guadalupe story.

When Our Lady first appeared to St. Juan Diego Dec. 9, 1531, she asked him to have the bishop build a chapel at the site. “I am truly your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who live united in this land and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who search for me, of those who have confidence in me. There I will listen to their cry, to their sadness, so as to cure all their different pains, their miseries and sorrows, to remedy and alleviate their sufferings,” Our Lady of Guadalupe said, as recounted at

When the bishop asks St. Juan Diego for proof, Our Lady sends him up to the hill to pick Castilian roses, native to the bishop’s home, unknown in Mexico, and then she arranges the flowers in his cloak or tilma and sends him back to the bishop. When he opens the tilma, her image is on the tilma and it remains virtually unchanged today.

Dec. 12, the date St. Juan Diego opened his tilma to reveal the image to the bishop is the date the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Dec. 9 is St. Juan Diego’s feast day.

In the lecture at St. Dominic’s, attendees will learn the significance of the iconography of the apparition set in the pre-Columbian culture of the region.

For instance, the lace of the cloak that covers Our Lady’s mantel has many flowers but just one four-petal flower that rests above her midsection which shows early signs of pregnancy. “The four petal flower is the most important image in the entire Lady of Guadalupe image. The four petal flower with the circle in the middle–that represents to them the dwelling place of God. And that is over her womb. She is pregnant with the God of all creation, the source of all life. The origin of the entire universe. It is the source giver of life and that is what she brings to it,” said Castañeda.

The green color of her mantel is the color of divinity, but does not touch her skin, which shows she is protected by God but not divine, Castañeda said.

“She also speaks to the Western world. Because when you see her you recognize her immediately, identify her perfectly in European iconography as well as the Immaculate Conception,” Castañeda said, noting St. John Paul in the apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in America” called her the “’great evangelizer,’ taking the seeds of the truth of the Gospels and bringing them to the fullness of faith in Jesus Christ.”

At the time, mestizos or children born of Native American women and Spaniard soldiers were rejected by both Spaniards and Native Americans. But Our Lady appeared as a Mexican and “calls Juan Diego my son,” said Castañeda. “She brings together both. She brings the peace and love to both.”

Day of prayer and solidarity with families of immigrants
WASHINGTON – A Day of Prayer with a focus on the plight of refugees and migrants will take place across the United States on Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It will be a time to place before a merciful God the hopes, fears, and needs of all those families who have come to the United States seeking a better life.

“As Christmas approaches and especially on this feast of Our Lady, we are reminded of how our savior Jesus Christ was not born in the comfort of his own home, but rather in an unfamiliar manger,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “To all those families separated and far from home in uncertain times, we join with you in a prayer for comfort and joy this Advent season.”

Prayer services and special Masses will be held in many dioceses across the country as the Catholic Church continues to accompany migrants and refugees seeking an opportunity to provide for their families. If you are unable to attend or there is not one near you, Catholics are invited to offer prayers wherever they may be. For example, the bishops’ office of Migrant and Refugee Services (MRS) has also developed a scriptural rosary entitled “Unity in Diversity” that includes prayers for migrants and refugees at

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

From December 8, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.



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