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"The Virgin of Guadalupe, America’s Patron, and her influence in the conversion of people"

 

Professor Silvio Cajiao – Saverian University – Bogotá (Colombia)

 

Pope John Paul II recognised Our Lady of Guadalupe as the "first evangelist of Latin America" (see. 6-V-1990, No. 4). The reasons for this are prozably to be found in the times preceding the encounter between the Virgin of Tepeyac and the native inhabitant Juan Diego, which took place on December 12th 1531; the man, following a request presented by Bishop Zumarraga, gathered in his cloak some roses which had bloomed out of season, and when he presented the flowers to the Bishop an image of the Virgin, with native features, remained impressed forever not only on the native’s agave cloak but also on the soul of the Mexican people and the whole of Latin America.

 

Historians report that the Aztecs appeared to show resistance regards to the evangelists’ missionary proposals until the apparition of the "always perfect Holy Virgin Mary", as she herself had said she was called. Her features, those of a young native, her clothes with the colors of the dominant divinities, her blinding radiance, the black belt around her waist indicating that she was with child, and therefore carrying life, hence also a mark of hope in the eyes of those natives, who saw how their Aztec empire was about to crumble due to the advancing conquerors, were to allow this resistance in regard to the Christian idea to be transformed into an attitude of acceptance because they had felt that the "Lady of the Heavens" was on their side.

 

Antonio Valeriano wrote down in the nahuatl language the story of these apparitions by Juan Diego, better known as the "Nican Mopohua", a tale of the apparitions that appeared to date back to the mid 16th Century. The trustworthiness of this story is based on Valeriano’s excellence and the recognition he received from society at the time of events. During the long process needed for validating the authenticity of these apparitions at the Roman Apostolic Holy See, great emphasis was placed on the testimony presented by artists when faced with the originality of the image with colors still unknown at the time, and there was also great surprise for the resistance of these colors that did not change in the course of centuries.

 

John Paul II, in his post-synod Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, tells us that "Jesus Christ is the "good news" of salvation made known to people yesterday, today and for ever; but he is also the first and greatest evangelizer. (247) The Church must make the crucified and risen Christ the center of her pastoral concern and her evangelizing activity. "Everything planned in the Church must have Christ and his Gospel as its starting-point".". (248) Therefore, " the Church in America must speak increasingly of Jesus Christ, the human face of God and the divine face of man. It is this proclamation that truly makes an impact on people, awakens and transforms hearts, in a word, converts. Christ must be proclaimed with joy and conviction, but above all by the witness of each one's life". (No. 67).

 

And in this same document, almost twenty years after his first visit to Mexico, he once again repeated that: " the mestiza face of the Virgin of Guadalupe was from the start a symbol of the inculturation of the Gospel, of which she has been the lodestar and the guide. Through her powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their cultures, transforming them from within" (No. 70).

 

 

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