Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12, 2023

December 12, 2023


December 12, 2023

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe





I've seen her at protests. I've seen her at funerals. I've seen detailed tattoos of her. I've seen her on the hood of a lowrider car. Sometimes she sits crumbled up on an old prayer card beside a candle. Other times, there are beautiful mosaics of her landscaped across churches. I've always found her brown skin, dark hair, and gorgeous veil captivating. La Virgen de Guadalupe is truly iconic (no pun intended).

And just like our Church, she is a global presence. Images of her are not just found in Mexico City.

In my travels, I've seen murals of La Virgen de Guadalupe at the US/ Mexico border wall in El Paso, TX which some might expect, but I've also seen images of her in Northern Ireland and even in my trip to the West Bank. While I mostly associate her with being the Patron Saint of Mexico, it made sense to me that despite the West Bank and Northern Ireland not being predominantly Mexican, images of her would show up there.

As the story goes, La Virgen de Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous man, and asked him to build a shrine on the spot where she had appeared. But, the local bishop said he needed a sign that La Virgen had appeared to him before he would agree to build a church. La Virgen appeared again showing Juan Diego where to pick roses. Putting these roses in his cloak, he went before the bishop and opened his cloak to show him the roses, dozens of roses fell to the floor, and an image of La Virgen appeared on his cloak. And the Church was built.

Understanding this story is crucial to understanding why images of La Virgen show up where they do today.

First off, out of all of the people she could've chosen, she chose someone indigenous. At this time, a lay indigenous person would have little to no power compared to a bishop, and yet, Juan Diego was the chosen messenger. But his words were not enough, he needed a miracle to change the mind of those in power. And it's true, that words are often not enough to change power structures even if they should be. Instead, it usually takes action, and/or a miracle is needed to convince those with power to take seriously the requests of those without it. This is why images of La Virgen de Guadalupe have shown up at protests for farm worker rights in the US, or for peace in Gaza and at the US  border: because she represents what those, like Juan Diego, who are most vulnerable to violence know: it takes the faith that Juan Diego had in La Virgen to trust that a peaceful and more just future is on the horizon. La Virgen did not choose the bishop as her messenger, she chose Juan Diego. Meaning, that if you were to reimagine the story today, it's clear who she would choose as her messenger and who would need a miracle to believe in her.

Second, the intentional choice of roses is not to be overlooked. Roses are usually associated with the feminine, but they are also non-violent. She could have told Juan Diego to find a sword, or a hammer, or even some sort of Theological tool, but the fact that a man with no power showed up with roses and changed the mind of the head of the church. This is huge.

On this feast day, and with today's readings, we see time and time again, average people being demanded to do the impossible sometimes with only their faith. But as we look around the world, we see that sometimes, it's people's faith that is the only tool at their disposal for change. In this season of waiting may we not lose hope of the good news that is to come.

La he visto en protestas. La he visto en velatorios. La he visto pintada en tatuajes. La he visto en las decoraciones de un lowrider. Aveces la encuentro en velitas viejas. Otras veces, esta en los mosaicos bonitos de las iglesias. Siempre me ha captivado su piel morena, su pelo negro, su velo precioso. La Virgen de Guadalupe es verdadaderamente iconica.

Y igual como nuestra iglesia, ella es una presencia global. Las imagines de ella no solo se encuentran en la ciudad de Mexico.  

Yo he visto murales de la Virgen de Guadalupe en el muro de la frontera entre El Paso y Juarez, pero tambien he visto imagines de ella en Irlanda del Norte y en Palestina. Aunque yo siempre pienso en ella como la patrona de Mexico, si hace mucho sentido que la Virgen tambien se encuentre en Irlanda y en Palestina.

La historia de la Virgen nos cuenta que la Virgen la aparecio a Juan Diego, un hombre indigena, y lo encargo con construir una iglesia en el lugar donde ella le habia aparecido. Pero el obispo le dijo a Juan Diego que necesitaria alguna sena que la Virgen de Guadalupe en verdad le habia aparecido. La Virgen otravez le aparecio a Juan Diego, y le dijo que pizacara unas rosas que habian florecido en medio del invierno, y que se las llevara al obsipo detro de su ayate. Cuando Juan Diego abrio su ayate para ensenarle las rosas, estaba la imagen de la virgen impuesta en el ayate. Y asi el obispo mando construir la iglesia.

Entendiendo esta historia es importante para entender porque las imagines de la Virgen aparecen donde aparacen hoy.  

Primero, de todas las personas a quien le pudiera haber aparecido, La Virgen escogio a alguien indigena. En esos tiempos, una persona indigena laica no hubiera tenido poder comparada con un obispo, y aun asi, Juan Diego fue el mensajero quien la Virgen escogio. Pero sus palabras no fueron suficiente; el necisito un miraculo para cambiar las mentes de la gente en poder. Y es verdad - que las palabras frequentemente no son suficientes para cambiar las estructuras de poder aun cuando las deberian ser. Usualmente se require acciones o un miraculo para convenzer a los que tienen poder a tomar en serio las necesidades y demandas de los que no tienen poder.

Por eso las imagines de la Virgen se encuentran en las manifestaciones del movimiento campesino or para la paz en Palestina o para los derechos de migrantes en la frontera - porque la virgen representa lo que ellos que son mas vulnerables, como Juan Diego, ya saben: toma la fe que Juan Diego tuvo en la Virgen para creer que un futuro de paz y justicia va a llegar. La Virgen no escogio a el obispo como su mensajero. Escogio a Juan Diego. Si quieres reimainger la historia en el dia de hoy, nos queda claro a quienes escogaria la Virgen como su mensajero, y quienes necesitarian un miraculo para creer en ella.

Segundo, no debemos olvidar la selecion de los rosas.  Las rosas usualmente estan consideradas algo feminino - pero tambien representan algo sin violencia. La Virgen le podria haber dicho a Juan Diego que encontrara una espada, un martillo, o aun alguna herramienta, pero el echo que fueron rosas quienes fueron escogidas para crear su imagen y convenzer al obispo es algo muy podersoso. Un hombre sin poder llego con rosas y le cambio la mente a unos de los lideres de la iglesia. Es algo enorme.

En este dia sagrado, y con las lecturas de hoy, vemos a gente comun a quienes se les demanda hacer lo imposible, con solo su fe. Pero cuando vemos a nuestro mundo, vemos que aveces la fe de la gente es su unica avenida para buscar cambio.

First Reading

ZEC 2:14-17 or Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab


JUDITH 13:18BCDE, 19

Second Reading


LK 1:26-38
Read texts at usccb.org

Melissa Cedillo

Melissa Cedillo

Melissa Cedillo was born and raised in California's Coachella Valley. For the past five years, Melissa has worked in campaigns in Florida, Texas, California, and Washington DC. Working at the intersection of religion and politics, Melissa has worked on issues of reproductive justice, immigration advocacy, and healthcare access. She attended Loyola Marymount University (LMU) for undergrad and Harvard Divinity School for graduate school. Melissa currently lives in Sacramento, CA.


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