Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron feast of all the Americas. Every year we hear her story. On December 9, 1531 Juan Diego, a simple Nahunta Indian, was hastening into town for medicine and a priest for his sick uncle. On a slope known as Tepeyac Hill he was confronted by the vision of a light filled fifteen year old young lady. Speaking to him in Nahunta, she asked that a church in her honor be built on that site.
Juan Diego got in to see the Spanish bishop, and speaking through an interpreter he conveyed the lady’s message. The bishop, perhaps to get rid of him, told him to go back and ask for a sign. When Juan again met with the lady, she told him to gather roses from the top of Tepeyac Hill. The season for roses was past, but turning, Juan saw a bush blooming gloriously, so he gathered its buds in his tilma, then hurried back to show them to the bishop.
When he unrolled his tilma the bishop and those with him saw on it the colorful image of a lady standing above a new moon, crushing a serpent under her feet. (The painting on the pancho-like garment of rough burlap does not seem to be a trick.)
Perhaps you know the story better than I do. I had always wondered what the name Guadalupe meant. One explanation I have heard is that in Nahunta it would mean “The lady who crushes the snake.” That would refer back to Chapter Three of Genesis where we read that God would put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and she would crush the serpent's head.
Although Pope John XXIII called Our Lady of Guadalupe the Mother of the Americas, and Pope John Paul II named her the patron saint of North and South America, we seldom hear of devotion to her outside of Mexican circles. Our gringo snobbery could even be sinful in God’s eyes. There was a bit of that two years ago when Jenny Rivera, a great Mexcan-American singer with fifteen million albums died in a plane crash. There was great mourning up and down the border, but outside of the Southwest people just asked, “Jenny who”?