The Virgin of Guadalupe may smile. While millions of pilgrims have been converging on Tepeyac for several days to celebrate the patron saint of Mexico, the start of a years’ long novena in preparation for the jubilee of the apparitions scheduled for December 2031, was launched on December 7, 2022 by the president of the Episcopal Conference.
The “Intercontinental Novena” began on November 12, 2022, with the what is called the Mass of the Roses, celebrated at noon in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The same day in the Vatican, the Sovereign Pontiff, wishing to associate the whole Church with this event, celebrated the Mass in honor of the patroness of the Americas.
Announcing the launch of the novena, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Mexico City and Primate of Mexico insisted on the need to “massively spread” devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe. “[T]he violence in our country, … [and] the wars in the world are so many reasons to entrust ourselves to the hands of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said the High Prelate.
One thing is certain: Mexican morale is in good shape on this December 12, 2022, the day of celebration when the health restrictions, consequences of Covid-19, were lifted. The 491st anniversary of the apparitions can be celebrated “face-to-face” according to the now established rules.
Indeed, the basilica has been completely opened to pilgrims who are only asked to wear a mask. Due to the flow of the faithful – more than four million were expected this year on December 12, compared to 280,000 in Lourdes for the 2022 season – masses have been celebrated every hour since Sunday, December 11.
The cause of this devotion, with dizzying numbers of pilgrims, dates back to December 9, 1531, on Tepeyac Hill, a little north of present-day Mexico City. A young woman of mixed race, wearing a garment shining like the sun, appeared to the native Juan Diego, who has just been baptized.
Presenting herself as the Virgin Mary, the apparition instructed him to ask the bishop of Mexico City to have a church built there. Bishop Zumarraga was very skeptical and asked for a sign to attest to the supernatural character of the event that Juan Diego reported to him.
The following December 12 – the date chosen by the Church as the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe – the Virgin appeared for the last time to Juan Diego. She sent him to pick flowers at the arid and frozen summit of Tepeyac. He filled his tilma, a tunic made from plant fibers, with the most beautiful flowers he had ever seen.
Returning to the bishop to offer them, Juan Diego opened his tilma. On the fabric gradually appeared, before the eyes of the bishop and his assistant, an extraordinary image of the Virgin. The miracle is indisputable.
On December 26, 1531, another phenomenon occurred. During the procession to take the image to the new chapel of Tepeyac, an Indian was accidentally killed by an arrow. Placed at the foot of the tilma, he came back to life.
The Virgin of Guadalupe, gracefully adorned in colorful clothes, enveloped in the sun, the moon under her feet, presents herself as the Mother of the only Redeemer, who came to the peoples of Mexico in order to bring them the grace of salvation and an abundance of supernatural goods.