December 9, 1531 (Saturday). Early in the morning, Juan Diego, a Christian convert, is on his way to attend Mass two and a half miles away at Tlatelolco, once an Aztec center and the place where the final battle of the Spanish conquest had taken place just 10 years earlier. Suddenly, Juan hears beautiful music and a woman’s voice calling him to the top of Tepeyac Hill which he is just passing. At the top of the hill he sees a radiantly beautiful woman, who reveals that she is the Virgin Mary and instructs him to go to the bishop and tell him that a temple should be built in her honor at the bottom of the hill. Juan Diego goes immediately to Tlatelolco to the palace of Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, a Franciscan friar. The bishop receives him kindly but, for the moment, is reluctant to believe Juan Diego’s story. And so a discouraged Juan Diego goes back to the top of Tepeyac Hill and admits his failure to the Virgin. The Lady directs him to go back to the bishop and repeat the request.
The incredulous Bishop demanded that he be provided with some proof of the unlikely encounter. Confused and fearful, Juan Diego avoided Tepeyac for several days, but on December 12, while rushing to find a priest to attend a seriously ill uncle, he took a short cut across the hill. The Virgin once again appeared and Juan Diego told her of the Bishop’s request. The Virgin instructed him to pick roses from the usually sere and desolate hill and deliver them to Zumarraga as the sign. Juan Diego gathered up the miraculous blossoms in his mantle and hurried off to complete his mission.
Once again before the Bishop St. Juan Diego opened his tilma and several other witnesses, the roses fell to the floor and at the same time, the image of Our Lady appeared on the tilma. The Bishop fell to his knees, begging forgiveness for he had not believed. He took the tilma into his private chapel and placed it beside the Blessed Sacrament where he gave thanks and praise to the Lord for having been the recipient of such a wondrous gift. Within two weeks, the first humble house or temple was erected on Tepeyac Hill. Here, the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe would remain. Word of the apparitions spread and people flocked to see the image of Our Lady.
An incredible list of miracles, cures and interventions are attributed to Her. Yearly, an estimated 10 million visit her Basilica, making her Mexico City home the most popular Marian shrine in the world, and the most visited Catholic church in the world next to the Vatican.
Altogether 24 popes have officially honored Our Lady of Guadalupe. His Holiness John Paul II visited her Sanctuary four times: on his first apostolic trip outside Rome as Pope in 1979, and again in 1990, 1999 and 2002.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12th. In 1999, Pope John Paul II, in his homily from the Solemn Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, during his third visit to the sanctuary, declared the date of December the 12th as a Liturgical Holy Day for the whole continent.
During the same visit Pope John Paul II entrusted the cause of life to her loving protection, and placed under her motherly care the innocent lives of children, especially those who are in danger of not being born.