On December 9, 1531, a Mexican Indian peasant named Juan Diego was walking through the countryside where Mexico City now lies. From the top of a hill, a beautiful woman called out to him, asking, “Am I not your mother?” She told him she was Mary, Mother of God, and that she would like a church to be built upon the ground on which she stood. As proof of her appearance, she imprinted her image on Juan Diego’s tilma, or cloak.
Today, nearly 500 years later, the cloth still defies scientific explanation of its origin. On view in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, it attracts up to 10 million pilgrims a year, making it the most popular Marian shrine in the world. This cloth bears the only image of Mary on the North American continent that is officially recognized by the Catholic Church. And it made Our Lady of Guadalupe not only the patron saint of Mexico, but also the patron saint of the United States and the rest of the Americas. The preserved cloth image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is famous throughout the world. It shows an Aztec woman enveloped in a womblike body halo and is most popular in Mexico, Southern California and the American Southwest. The image has spread beyond organized religion to become embedded in folk art in a variety of ways. Key chains, private altars, textiles, needle crafts, T-shirts, car decals, tattoos, stained glass windows, and statues, as well as the little painted tin retablos common in Mexico and the American Southwest, bear her picture.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is treated like a member of the family in most Mexican homes. Both Catholics and non-Catholics have a fervent devotion to her. Many social activists honor her for her commitment to the poor and downtrodden. Feminists and New Age religious groups honor her for her goddess roots. Indigenous people honor her for her Aztec roots.
She is a symbol of motherly solace, offering protection to all people, weak or strong, rich or poor, making Our Lady of Guadalupe the most popular and best-loved incarnation of Mary.
Novenas, or nine-day prayers, do not have to be for specific requests (though they frequently begin in this way). They are a form of meditation that clears the mind and stops the chatter and distraction of the material world. Many people pick a saint, angel, or incarnation of Mary they feel comfortable with and pray to it every day.
Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe, according to your message in Mexico I venerate you as “the Virgin Mother Of the true God for whom we live, the Creator of all the world, maker of heaven and earth.” In spirit I kneel before your most holy image which you miraculously imprinted upon the cloak of the Indian Juan Diego. And with the faith of the countless numbers of pilgrims who visit your shrine, I beg you for this favor:
(mention your request).
Remember, O Immaculate Virgin, the words you spoke to your devout client, “I am a merciful Mother to you and to all your people who love me and trust in me and invoke my help. I listen to their lamentations and solace all their sorrows and their sufferings.” I beg you to be a merciful Mother to me, because I sincerely love you and trust in you and invoke your help. I entreat you, Our Lady of Guadalupe, to grant my request, if this should be the will of God, in order that I may bear witness to your love, your compassion, your help and protection. Do not forsake me in my needs.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.