Our Lady of Guadalupe: Miracles, Facts and Fancy

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Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most dramatic appearances of Mary in history, when Mary, in the guise of an Aztec princess, appeared to Saint Juan Diego (his pre-conversion name of Cuauhtlatoatzin translates as “Talking Eagle”), a Mexican convert, on December 9, 1531 as he strode to Mass and was passing by the base of Tepeyac hill.  She spoke to him in Nahuatl, his native tongue, and told him to go to Archbishop Juan de Zumarraga, the primate of Mexico, and tell him that she wished for a shrine to be built on Tepeyac hill.  She also gave him this message: 

“I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful mother, the merciful mother of all of you 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 seek me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities and misfortunes.”  

The Archbishop told Diego he would not believe in his encounter with Mary unless he had a sign.  Our Lady told Diego to visit the Archbishop again, but Zumarraga repeated his request for a sign.   Returning to Tepeyac, Diego again encountered Our Lady who told him to present himself to  Archbishop Zumarraga and give to him roses he was instructed to pick.  Roses growing in Mexico in December were a miracle in and of themselves.  Diego did as he was bidden, and when he presented the roses to the Archbishop, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was imprinted on his tilma, his peasant’s cloak, where the roses had been held by him.  News of the miracle spread throughout Mexico and before the decade was out some eight million Mexicans converted to the Faith.  A chapel was built on Tepeyac and Diego cared for it and the image as a religious hermit until his death in 1548 at 73. 

Doubts have been raised about whether Juan Diego existed due to the lack of contemporary accounts.  However, these doubts were quashed, at least any reasonable doubts, in 1995 with the coming to light of the Codex Escalada which has been dated to the sixteenth century.  It bears the date of 1548 and is an illustrated account of the apparition with text in Nahuatl describing the encounter between Juan Diego and Mary.  The document bears the signature of  Father Bernadino de Sahagun, a missionary priest and historian in Mexico, and a contemporary of Juan Diego.  The first mention of the image in Spanish is in 1556 in a sermon preached by Archbishop Alonso de Montufar, the successor to Archbishop Zumarraga, in which he recommended devotion to the image.  Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe spread rapidly throughout the Catholic world, with Genoese Admiral Giovanni Andrea Doria having a copy of the image on his flagship during the decisive Christian victory at the battle of Lepanto in 1571.

The image I believe is miraculous in nature.  However, many spurious claims have been made about the image, and the video below is a good compilation of some of the wilder ones.

Go here to read a very good article which separates fact from fancy regarding the image.  It points out the true miraculous feature of the image:

Again, this is misplaced over-excitement. There is paint ALL OVER the tilma, BUT NOT IN THE FACE AND THE HANDS OF THE VIRGIN. The above observation is correct only with reference to the Face and the Hands.

As a matter of fact the original figure, including the rose robe, blue mantle, hands and face … is inexplicable. In terms of the infrared study executed over the tilma in the 70s, there is no way to explain either the kind of color luminosity and brightness of pigments over the centuries. It seems that the facial image is formed from the very woof and weft of the fibers of the cloth.

There is no need to gild the lily in regard to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe;   it is quite miraculous enough without that, both the miracle intrinsic to itself and the faith, always the greatest of miracles, in God it has fostered in human hearts.

O Immaculate Virgin Mother of the true God and Mother of the Church! You, who from this place revealed your clemency and your pity to all those who ask for your protection: hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust, and present it to your Son Jesus, our sole Redeemer. Mother of Mercy, Teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice, to you, who come to meet us sinners, we dedicate on this day all our being and all our love. We also dedicate to you our life, our work, our joys, our infirmities, and our sorrows. Grant peace, justice and prosperity to our peoples; for we entrust to your care all that we have and all that we are, our Lady and Mother. We wish to be entirely yours and to walk with you along the way of complete faithfulness to Jesus Christ in His Church: hold us always with your loving hand. Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, we pray to you for all the bishops, that they may lead the faithful along paths of intense Christian life, of love and humble service of God and souls. Contemplate this immense harvest, and intercede with the Lord that He may instill a hunger for holiness in the whole People of God, and grant abundant vocations of priests and religious, strong in faith and zealous dispensers of God’s mysteries. Grant to our homes the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings, with the same love with which you conceived in your womb the life of the Son of God. Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Fair Love, protect our families, so that they may always be united, and bless the upbringing of our children. Our hope, look upon us with compassion, teach us to go continually to Jesus and, if we fall, help us to rise again, to return to Him, by means of the confession of our faults and sins in the Sacrament of Penance, which gives peace to the soul. We beg you to grant us a great love for all the holy Sacraments, which are, as it were, the signs that your Son left on earth. Thus, Most Holy Mother, with the peace of God in our conscience, with our hearts free from evil and hatred, we will be able to bring to all true joy and true peace, which comes to us from your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.


Pope John Paul II

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35 Comments

  1. 1517 or thereabouts, the beginning of the Reformation. The falling away from catholicism is in stride in Europe, but as Paul correctly stated in Romans 5:20; “Now the law entered in that sin might abound. And where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” -Douay Rheims version. So while the loss of true Faith was occurring, across the “pond,” the eight million or so indigenous peoples of Mexico gladly and freely enter into Holy Church.

    God is good and His Mercy is unfathomable.

    Thanks for the article Donald.
    My mom’s funeral Mass starts at 11am today.
    She is with our Mother on this extraordinary feast day. Thanks be to God.

  2. There are some things about the Tilma that I consider credible and miraculous, and some things non-credible.
    .
    The preservation of the material over centuries is credible and miraculous.
    The arrangement of the stars on the material to reflect the constellations is credible but maybe not so miraculous since an astute observer of the night sky would have known this information.
    .
    The dilation of the eyes is non-credible. This requires confirmation via visual recording and analysis.
    The audible heart beat of 115 bpm on the abdomen is non-credible. This requires confirmation using vibration monitoring (piezo-electric crystals) and audio recording techniques.
    The fabric temperature of 98.6 F is non-credible. This requires confirmation using both infra-red thermography and thermocouple monitoring.
    .
    There are other things in the 2nd video that are questionable (e.g., the paint itself), but those are the major things that I recall right now.

  3. I rather wish there’d been any kind of context provided for the story when I was a kid. The only exposure we got had more to do with using the image as a sort of cultural thing– and, sadly, a warning that you probably didn’t want to be in the area after dark, or alone.
    Having a solid appreciation of how nasty the Aztec gods were, the symbols employed to show greatness impressed ME!

  4. As I am, for the moment, joyous over the mild weather (which will soon end) and the new Penguins head coach, I consider the most miraculous aspect of the Virgin of Guadalupe is the number of conversions to the Catholic faith that were nearly immediate and the numerous subsequent conversions. The Aztecs and other Indians of the Americas did not have written languages and communicated through pictures (rendering the bland, old tired Protestant argument against Catholics worshiping idols and images to be completely irrelevant).

    Our Lady set foot on this North American continent 76 years before the Jamestown colonists did and 89 years before Plymouth. Mexico was converted. The Church soon stretched the length and breadth of the Hemisphere (except New England and the Mid Atlantic east of the Appalachians).
    Our Lady’s apparition led to the missionary work of Padre Kino and Fray Junipero Serra.

    Many North American cities have large processions on the eve of Our Lady of Guadalupe. For years, before our sons were born, we went to the annual Mass at the Cathedral held by the local Latino community.

    Our Lady said at Fatima that her Immaculate Heart would triumph. We should all remember this even in the dark days of the current times.

  5. Penguins Fan.

    Her Immaculate Heart will Triumph!

    Ohhh Yes it will!
    Have a great feast evening.
    I like the mild weather also…. 🙂

  6. “I consider the most miraculous aspect of the Virgin of Guadalupe is the number of conversions ”
    YES– We know by the fruit–

  7. So you believe the sources you site but not the one’s that say the temp is 98.6 deg…if you haven’t actually checked it yourself then don’t comment on it. God would have no trouble accomplishing that if He wanted to. I’ve seen interviews with ACTUAL witnesses that have attested to hearing a heartbeat in the image etc…

  8. Not everyone who witnesses miracles experiences the same things so your sources that refute some of these things aren’t anymore reliable than sources that say they are true.

  9. Rob,
    .
    I want to see recorded test results from thermocouple and infrared thermographic instrumentation on digital dataloggers for fabric temperature with ambient variations from 40 F to 110F, all easily achievable in a lab. Yes, I am a doubting Thomas. The real miracle is the conversions from paganism. Imagining miniature images in the eyes and other such things are sensationalism.

  10. God does do miracles. But rarely. He usually does not override the Laws of Physics. Why? Because He established them for a reason. Therefore, when He does override them, there will be physically reproducible evidence that He has done so.
    .
    Did a person using a stethescope hear a heart beat of 115 bpm at the Virgin’s womb? If yes, then this is a physical phenomenon. Sound waves in air made the ear drum in the man listening respond, and that provided an electrcal signal to the brain of that man. Thus, if we have sounds waves, then that’s vibration of molecules in air which can be detected by audio microphones, ultra-sensitive piezo-electric crystals, etc., and the resulting electrical signals from these devices can be recorded and displayed on a computerized display screen or printout. Where’s the printout? Huh? Where’s the proof?
    .
    The same is true of temperature. Temperature is a measure of heat, the average kinetic energy of the molecules in the tilma. Monior it with a thermocouple and infrared thermography – two diverse means. Record the resulting signals. Provide a printout as ambient temperature changes. Thermocouple and infrared thermography readings should remain constant at 98.6 F. Scientific proof. Material proof. Objective. Irrefutable. And easily obtainable without destructive examination.
    .
    But people often prefer wild claims of sensationalism to the boring task of doing the actual experiments.

  11. The quote from A.Einstein is worthy here; “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

    Perspective is key.
    From our perspective the horizon is limited yet scientifically it is proven to reveal truths that only can be reached by changing the perspective. The train tracks are not touching, yet they seem to be when viewed from our stationary perspective three miles away standing on the tracks in the middle of South Dakota. When we travel to the spot where the tracks seem to have come together and touch, they are as they appear when we first looked at the tracks, except now looking back at where we were, it seems as though at that spot they are touching.

    The eyes of the Virgin Mary reveal a Truth to the viewer who is accepting the truth from his vantage point on the track. They reflect a human face with beard, definitely a man. Another on the track denies this premise and chalks it up as imaginary foolishness. Who’s right? They both are. The one who see’s the reflection in the eyes may be inspired to devotion he didn’t have prior to the viewing, and that perspective has brought him closer to God through a new devotion to Mary.
    The other viewer may of already been devoted to God and Mary, and cannot see any reflection which is not needed for his faith to increase, and actually be a discomfort to his faith by believing these imaginary figures are clouding the Miracle, or disturbing it’s significance.

    For me, it’s a beautiful testimony of God’s love that hundreds of years after the self portrait, science views the Tilma with it’s lenses, and for some an image of possible players appears in her eye…like a snapshot.

    No one is wrong.

  12. God “overrode the laws of physics” (mindless credulity??) big time at Fatima didn’t He? Some of you people remind me of those who say the real miracle of the loaves and fishes was that everyone shared…give me a break. God seem to “override the laws of physics” big time in that case as well. He parted the Red Sea as well…wow really did some overridding there. Nobody has one shred of evidence that these things claimed about the Tilma havent taken place…just “mindless” presumption. If somebody hears a heartbeat in the Tilma and you dont…doesn’t mean your experience rules out theirs.

  13. Rob W on Saturday, December 12, A.D. 2015 at 10:25pm (Edit)
    Not everyone who witnesses miracles experiences the same things so your sources that refute some of these things aren’t anymore reliable than sources that say they are true.

    What’s your source on the notion that they don’t experience the same things?
    I’m familiar with they way that those observing miracles sometimes describe different things, but so is the most hard core cop. It’s not that six different and mutually exclusive things happened in a single big accident, it’s that humans can fail.
    That still-born boy who is alive and normal after his mom asked Archbishop Fulton Sheen to pray for her? Is very verifiably alive, about five years old. And developmentally normal, which can be tested and verified and is a major sign to aid in the belief. (Along with being very nice.)

    ……
    Another on the track denies this premise and chalks it up as imaginary foolishness. Who’s right? They both are. The one who see’s the reflection in the eyes may be inspired to devotion he didn’t have prior to the viewing, and that perspective has brought him closer to God through a new devotion to Mary.
    It’s not a premise. Either there is a picture on her pupil, or there is not. If there is not, claiming there is would be a lie, and building faith on sand.
    If there is something there, say some variations in color, then it would be true there’s an image and the “if it’s him or not” question starts up.
    But it’s either true or false that there’s some kind of picture.
    *****
    If there is no objective truth, then the Lady appearing means nothing– a lie would have done as well.
    Probably better, making things up lets you make stories work better. I know that as much as my “things going bad in the best way possible” stories make people laugh, it would be a much better story if the brakes didn’t go out in the car at all, rather than going out amazingly fast.
    If there is no truth, then the miracles mean nothing.

  14. I’ve got an article on miracles that it seems I didn’t schedule at my place yet; I’ll double-check it and get it up after Mass.
    Anyone prone to praying for small graces might pray that the kids will be still enough we can actually hear what Father’s saying, even if it is another “Go Seahawks” mass.

  15. Rob W wrote:
    .
    “Nobody has one shred of evidence that these things claimed about the Tilma havent taken place.”
    .
    The burden of proof is not on the person to whom an assertion is being made but on the person making the assertion. Now that said, I do NOT think that anyone at TAC is denying the inexplicable nature of certain facets of the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe. That fact that the material of the tilma normally decays after a few decades but has lasted for centuries is incredible and undeniable. The position of the stars on the tilma to reflect the sky when the apparition was seen, and the theological significance behind the position of the stars are noteworthy.
    .
    But a constant temperature of 98.6 F, and a heart beat of 115 bpm, and miniature reflections of people in the eyes that appear to be more specks of paint than actual images? Really?
    .
    I have proposed ways to verify the first two with physical evidence using modern digital instrumentation that would provide for non-destructive examination. Any I&C technician can do these things (I know because I was a nuclear I&C technician in a previous job). It’s easy to do. So where are the digital I&C printouts, Rob W? Web link to reputable source, please. You make an assertion. The burden of proof is on you.
    .
    Now the real miracle is this: conversion of sinners to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, Mary’s Son. If we make unfounded, unproven assertions regarding the tilma, then we denigrate its sole usefulness in the conversion of the lost. Anyone who is lost in sin and who knows a modicum of science will ask the questions which I asked. They are reasonable questions. If individiuals like Rob W say, “You gotta believe because I told you so,” and have no material proof, then the tilma has no usefulness in converting the lost. The pagans will rightly think us mad and self-deluded.
    .
    There is a saying: Ad Iesum per Miriam. Fabricating stories about the fabric of the tilma (bad pun!) negates that phrase. Let’s convert with facts, logic, science and not wishful imagining.
    .
    PS, I personally think the tilma is quite miraculous, but only for legitimately miraculous reasons.

  16. “If somebody hears a heartbeat in the Tilma and you dont…doesn’t mean your experience rules out theirs.”

    Of course it does if they are claiming it actually occurred rather than a fantasy or mistake on their part. This contention would be easy to test if it had occurred in reality and was an ongoing miracle. Miracles do occur and fake miracles are made up all the time. The Church attempts to distinguish between the two based upon evidence.

  17. Something Donald wrote got me to thinking:
    .
    “This contention [heartbeat] would be easy to test if it had occurred in reality and was an ongoing miracle.”
    .
    I think that certain individuals are asseting one-time only miracles, for instance, there was a heart beat before but now there is not a heart beat. This is non-verifiable and useless for demonstrating the authentic miraculous nature of the tilma to convert the lost to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Other miracles like the loaves and fishes we accept on faith because of the authority of Sacred Scripture. But the account of these tilma miracles do not so rank with the authority of Sacred Scripture.

  18. Foxfier.

    I can SEE the images in her eyes. The aforementioned doctors who are noted in the second clip, can see them as well. The testimony of the doctors relating to curvature of the retina is also astounding in my opinion.

    I agree with you that faith built upon sand will not endure, and in relationship to the figures in the eye, it’s rock solid. Is this a basis to build upon our entire Faith? No Way! Of course not.
    Is this a Christmas Gift? Oh yes. I would say so.

  19. Father McCarthy gave a wonderful sermon at 7:30 AM Mass. He is a twenty-year Navy man who was led to his vocation. And, we are the beneficiaries.
    .
    Message for today: Rejoice! Believe! Rejoice! Hope! Rejoice! Love! Rejoice!
    .

    Love, the most important, is Action – corporal and spiritual/prayer. Constant prayer . . .
    .

    Paul wrote that epistle from prison. Rejoice in affliction.
    .

  20. Foxfier.

    The Ophthalmologist’s; Dr. Javier Buenos MDS and Dr.Rafael T. Lavoignet.

    You mentioned that if the figures we’re colored it would make a difference? “If there is something there, say some variations in color, then it would be true there’s an image and the, ” if it’s him or not” questions start up.”

    I’m curious as to why it must be in color. I ask because I am not aware of this reasoning, not because I’m attacking you. Education lessons from many of the contributors of TAC has been a joy even if it humbles me.

  21. Phillip-
    It doesn’t have to be color, but the claim is that there is an image. That’s a physical claim that can be verified; I can think of several different ways an image could be made besides basic color variations– texture, luster, elevation causing shadows that make an image, someone more creative than I could probably think of more since I’m pulling these from things-that-make-an-image that I’ve seen or heard of– but the claim there is an image requires that there be a thing.
    The claim “I can see ___” is a different statement, which could be checked by seeing if it’s a vision of an amazing thing or an amazing objective thing. They’re totally different miracles. (Assuming that they are indeed miracles.)
    And now I’m wondering if I should work in private revelation for the article. It needs some re-doing, anyways…..

  22. I see your point… no pun intended.
    I have not researched this phenomena or claim in-depth. I could see the images they were claiming. The solid facts of the Tilma are enough and I do appreciate this point.
    Anything else could harm the neophyte Catholic or newly welcomed believer.

    Your posts are always educational and I look forward to your next offering.

    Have a great Advent.
    🙂

  23. You have no idea how much it makes my day to hear that the posts are doing what I dearly hope– getting new (and hopefully cool) information to folks.
    Thank you very much.

  24. Why is it so easy to criticize and so difficult to praise? Rhetorically asking of course.

    You are welcome.

    It’s fun to read these opinions and rebuttals over the course of these few years. Also it’s just plain comforting to know there are folks that feel similarly in matters of faith and current events. One of the gifts I treasure is the occasional post from Donald that deal with modern day (s)aints. Example; the recent post on the prisoner of war. He is not a canonized Saint, but his heroic act puts him up there close. These are the short stories that touch my heart and gives me hope. A great contrast from the tripe published in our locally owned and operated liberal rag.

    BTW. Your welcome.

  25. Look, folks, is Jesus “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”? Or is He “the path I like, the ideas and feelings I like, and the stuff I do that I like”?

    Pope Benedict XIV (that’s 14th, back in the 1700’s) didn’t set up miracle investigation rules because he was a mean-ol’-meanie skeptic. He set them up because he loved God and wished His glorious miracles to be made manifest (ie, obvious and hard to deny). It is a good thing to separate the real history of the tilma from the imagined one, and to separate physical features from personal impressions. (And there’s nothing wrong with “You had a tactile religious experience that made you feel a heartbeat.”)

    It is true that the basic image on the tilma is miraculous. It is also true that a known Spanish painter did most of the rest, including painting the stars on Mary’s cloak to go along with the constellations on December 12. Many miraculously painted paintings and sculptures have received add-ons from Spanish and Italian artists back during the medieval and Baroque times, just like folks out East tend to make a huge array of custom frames for miraculous icons, and a lot of people make clothes and outfits for the local Infant of Prague statue. We probably wouldn’t do it in the US in this time and place, but it’s a thing that people did in order to give honor to a miraculous object. Also, painting constellations on a church dome to go along with its dedication date, and similar acts in paintings, was very common during the Baroque period, as a way of uniting religion and science.

  26. If you like modern saints, SuburbanBanshee here recently did an article on the Martyrs of San Bernardino. I’d actually been wondering about that the morning before I read it.
    Too much praise is a problem– I don’t trust the praise from most of my family because they’re too likely to try to be nice.

  27. Hi Philip,
    My deepest sympathy on the loss of your mom.
    My mom was laid to rest on Wednesday Dec.9. She, to. had a strong relationship with our Mother Mary and said her rosary everyday. We celebrated her life.
    .
    Donald: I never told you but your son, Larry, dances around me sometime during the reception of Holy Communion. “First it is bread, Now, it is Jesus. First it is wine. Now it is Jesus” has become my prayer. Thanks be to God.
    .
    Our Lady of Guadalupe’s face says it all with profound sadness.

  28. Foxfier.

    First. Thank you for Suburbanbanshee site.
    A fitting tribute and sad reminder of man’s inability to love. Holy martyrs pray for us.

    Secondly. I’m sorry that genuine appreciation for each other is questionable in the family dynamic. It can hurt when flippantly family members give false praise. Prayers for them…yes.

    @ Mary De Voe.
    My condolences Mary.
    Mother’s are so very special. This chapter in our families history is one of the most bitter sweet. Our mom was gifted and blessed in humility, forgiveness, love of neighbor and Trust in God. She has sailed home to be together agian with her first loves….Jesus, her folks and Frank her husband. For that I’m extremely happy. Masses have been said and are set up in the future for her…but I can’t help feeling that she is already home with her first loves.

    Peace to you Mary.
    May our mom’s enjoy a walk through Our Holy Mother’s garden while we fight the good fight in the valley.

  29. There is no need to gild the lily in regard to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe; so true- Don

    and she came in her image as a PREGNANT young maiden : my 2 cents Merry Christmas!!!

    Appearing on the 12th of December under the Julian calendar- with ALL the winter solstice constellations in her mantle – and it just so happens the 12th translated into the Gregorian calendar is the 21st-22nd ; can you hear Santa Lucia playing on this darkest of days and the young blond girls processing?? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-q7DG7DXbo

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