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Mary’s beauty and goodness lead us to the Truth

“I greatly desire that a church be built in my honor, in which I will show my love, compassion and protection. I am your mother, full of mercy and love for you and all those who love me, trust in me, and have recourse to me,” Our Lady of Guadalupe told St. Juan Diego when she first appeared to him. 

The miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe visiting Juan Diego is not just that she left an image on his cloak, known as a tilma, which has yet to show signs of decay; it is also that she claimed him and all people as her children. 

“Juanito, my son, where are you going?” Mary said to Juan Diego the very first time he met her. 

Mary, drawn by her motherly love for a humble Aztec farmer and all people, reached out to him to change the history of Mexico and to bring millions to her son. Our Lady of Guadalupe calls each of our names today, seeking to lead us to Jesus because she is our mother. 

In 2013, I had the privilege of leading 160 people on the archdiocese’s Year of Faith pilgrimage to the place where the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego in 1531. 

The trip was a grace-filled experience. 

One particular insight that I want to share with you is that when God put the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan Diego’s tilma, he left us a sign of both his and Mary’s ongoing, present love for us. 

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The miracle continues to occur today, because 482 years after Mary’s image first appeared as Juan Diego unfurled his cloak to show Bishop Zumárraga the Castilian roses from the Virgin, the image has not decayed with time. 

This demonstrates Mary’s ongoing love for us, and since this could not take place without the consent of the Holy Trinity, it also shows God’s love for us. 

The moment when I first stood in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1996 is an encounter I will never forget. As I stood there and gazed at the image, I was struck with awe and wonder at the realization of Mary’s real presence in both my life, and in the life of the Church. I experienced her love for me in a personal and tender way. 

The 2013 pilgrimage to Mexico was our archdiocesan pilgrimage for the Year of Faith, and there is a profound connection between Our Lady and faith. Without her faith in God and her “yes” to being the mother of Jesus, our salvation would not have been possible. 

When Benedict XVI launched the Year of Faith in October 2012, he described it as “a moment of grace” and a time to commit to “a more complete conversion to God, to strengthen our faith in him and proclaim him with joy to the people of our time.” 

Although the Year of Faith came to an end, the challenge then remains our challenge today, especially as 2023 comes to a close: to not let this year end without having grown deeper in your faith, and then, with renewed faith to evangelize as Christ commanded us, especially in the public square. 

The pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe was an occasion for deeper growth in faith, an experience of Mary’s maternal care for us all, and a reminder of the powerful story of her intervention in history that led to the conversion of nine million Aztecs in nine years. I am excited to return to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe next month as I lead another pilgrimage to Mexico, where we’ll pray at the Shrine and several other holy sites associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe. I invite you to prayerfully consider joining me if you’re able, as it will be a profound and fruitful experience. You can find more information about the pilgrimage here. 

However, even if you are not able to join me next month, you can still look to Our Lady of Guadalupe as a model for sharing your faith with joy and confidence in God. 

The way that Our Lady of Guadalupe introduced herself to Juan Diego and the miraculous image she left for the world shows us how she brought Jesus to the violent society of the Aztecs: first with beauty, then with goodness, and finally with the truth. 

Editor’s Note: An older version of this column was originally published in September 2013. It was updated in December 2023.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).

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