I have been a docent at the Mission San Juan Capistrano in California for twenty-five years. This mission is home to the Serra Chapel, which is the oldest church in California and one of the oldest buildings in the state. It’s a beautiful chapel with a world-renowned, 450-year-old retable (a decorative stand behind an altar) called the Golden Altar, in which there are three rows of three niches with a statue in each. In the lowest middle niche, there is a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe directly behind a statue of Jesus on a cross.
Every time I see that Lady, I get ticked off! Why? I can never figure out why this fantasy person is so important or why she deserves all this adoration. Let me briefly share her story. Then I’ll tell you why she ticks me off.
It all started back on Saturday, December 9, 1531, when Juan Diego, an Aztec Christian convert, claimed he saw a vision of the Virgin Mary on the Hill of Tepeyac, a suburb of Mexico City. Mary, who spoke to Juan in his native language, told him that a church had to be built on this spot.
The next day in church, Juan told his priest, who then told the bishop, who didn’t believe him. The Virgin spoke to Juan again that afternoon. Juan went back to the bishop, who told Juan that he wanted a sign. Then “Virge” appeared a third time and told Juan to meet her the next day.
That night, Juan’s uncle became very sick, so Juan, instead of going to meet the Lady, went to find a priest to administer last rites. The Lady intercepted Juan and told him his uncle was fine and that he needed to go gather flowers on the Hill of Tepeyac. Juan obeyed even though it was winter. There he found beautiful roses, which the Virgin arranged in his cloak. Juan then went to his priest and opened his cloak, and the roses fell to the floor. On his tunic was the image of Guadalupe.
On December 13, Juan found his dying uncle fully recovered after Virge had appeared to him. The bishop then took the cloak and hung it in his chapel. It attracted so much attention that on December 26, 1531, there was a procession. During the procession, an Aztec with an arrow through his neck was miraculously healed. A temporary chapel was erected, which became a shrine in 1556. In 1737, the Lady became the patron saint of Mexico City. In 1910, she became the patroness of Latin America, in 1935 she became the patroness of the Philippines, and today she seems far more important than Jesus, especially among women.
I could go on and on about the history of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but enough is enough, and I’ve had enough.
Do you believe any of this legend? Obviously, I don’t. But how do make-believe stories like this become “truth” and then objects of adoration?
My first answer is that the Lady is so much easier to worship than Jesus because she demands nothing, while Jesus asks for some rather heavy commitments.
Secondly, too many people, when they go to church, park their brains at the door and seem to believe things that are humanly impossible. The Guadalupe story defies laws of nature as well as reality.
What ticks me off the most is that Jesus keeps being pushed to the background while silly fantasies move into first place. I’m sorry, but Guadalupe is not going to give you directions in life. Jesus will.
Photo courtesy of Anissa Wood. (CC BY2.0)
8 thoughts on “Why Guadalupe?”
I agree with you! People do park their brains at the door of a church….they will believe anything…even if it is impossible.
Jesus message was all about love and the kingdom of God…which he believed was actually on the earth at that time…at least to some degree. Jesus’ message is what is important if we are ever to realize peace, love joy and hope. We must put our differences aside and learn to appreciate one another as fellow human beings.
To believe in such a fable simply is ridiculous. And to allow it to distract us from the message of Jesus is even worse.
Unfortunately, many churches have their own fables..which they believe. I know mine does.
People cling to these fantastic tales…why I cannot understand.
But…but Brother Bil, it’s a Miracle! They had me with the roses and gold! (!)
Tom; What kind of theology are they teaching you at that school?
I finally know the ‘truth’ about the Virge. Thanks. Never took to it before, and still have issues with this ‘Saint’ business. Doesn’t it speak to the believers as Saints. I cn deal with that as it indicates we revere our fellow humans. Now my tiny mind can deal with that.
I think that a number of church going people worship everything they can because they want to be given and receive what they think they want or need in this life, and an eternity of blessings in “the next life”. Jesus asks us to be responsible for ourselves and others and even the earth in this life. Many church goers do not want to take responsibility for themselves…much less for others and the earth…they want miracles and gifts from God.
I don’t believe there is a “next life” and I believe Jesus was killed over 2,000 years ago and only his message of love, peace, joy and hope remains. I believe he taught that we should take care of one another….just as he did.
That sort of response is the kingdom of God on earth. Perhaps today we would call it the republic of God. I don’t believe life is all about “personal salvation” and I unfortunately find that most Christians are the most concerned about their own personal salvation. In my opinion that’s tragic!
Mathew Fox talks about Mystic Warriors in his book, Meister Eckhart, “A Mystic-Warrior for our times”
The Virgin Mary is a Mystic- Warrior, She is about Compassion and Justice, She is a Holy Spirit someone you can pour out all your heart aches, injustices, tragedies and problems to. She listens and comforts
Jesus is a Mystic-Warrior. He communed with the Angels, spirits, and the Holy Spirit. He communed with the Prophet’s and even the Devil when he drove them into the pigs.
Many of us Catholics believe in a Guardian Angel. The Holy Spirit, (Hage Sophia, the Spirit of Wisdom) We believe in the communion of Saints. I can ask my deceased Mother or Grand Parents for help. I can call on my Patron Saint for help at any time. My personal Guardian Angel guides me and speaks to me.
Didn’t Amadeus Mozart have an Angel of Music!
Let us not lose our God Given Spiritual Dimension in our lives by too much left brain logical thinking.
We all can be Mystical-Warriors in some way.
Try being a Mystical Warrior and make your life really much more exciting with Justice, Compassion and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Bil brings up a good question: Why would you not pray direct to Jesus and not all those others, Like the Virgin Mary?
Growing up Catholic, we were reminded that Jesus, (according to Scripture) separated people as good and bad and used the analogy “goats on the left and sheep on the right” The goats were always in deep do do.
Considering I might be a goat, as I read Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke,
Jesus had set the morality bar pretty high. In our humanity, us goats did not always meet his expectations and the results could be crash and burn. Jesus could be very tryanical, judgemental, and scary.
Mary was always about justice, Compassion, acceptance, and Love. She was consoling to the poor and the spiritually impoverished, (us goats). We pray to Mary knowing she will lead us to the Great Loving God, our Creator who does not judge his creation and loves us all, goats included. We all often need to be consoled by a Mother throughout our lives.