Advent 2022

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Fragrant Blossoms

Roses 1

Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On this day in 1531, Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Aztec convert, for the second time in three days. Upon her first appearance, she asked Juan Diego to build a shrine for her atop Tepeyac Hill in Mexico. The bishop, however, refused to allow construction without proof and demanded a sign. Mary then appeared again, this time asking Juan Diego to collect some roses for the bishop. Despite the winter cold, Juan Diego discovered an abundance of flowers in full bloom. When he opened his cloak to show the bishop, the roses fell away and revealed an image of Mary imprinted inside.

Scholars and Church leaders have continued to debate the validity of the traditional account. Yet Pope John Paul II affirmed the importance of our Lady of Guadalupe when he named her patroness of the Americas and canonized Juan Diego in 2002. Pope Francis observed that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in a particularly dark period of colonization, despair, violence and death.[1]

Amidst the darkness and division of our own day, the story continues to shine a bright light upon us this Advent season. More than a millennium and a half after she laid her child to rest in a manger that holy night in Bethlehem, Our Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego once again in the humblest of circumstances—on the margins of a world riddled with suffering and pain. There she promised that her basilica would “show and give to all people all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection.”[2] In all her radiant and radical gentleness, she showed us that her love leaps across the bounds of time and nation, exalting those who fall short of earthly standards, causing hope to send forth its fragrant blossoms beneath the gray skies and bitter snows of the season.

 On this day in 1531, la Vírgen Morena appeared with dark skin, resembling the women who lived and worked and laughed and grew old all-around Juan Diego. She spoke in the indigenous language of Nahuatl, reminding us to speak words of hope and compassion, mercy and tenderness to those who need it most—not on our own terms, but in a language carefully stitched together to reach the person standing by our side. She gave of herself abundantly and left us with the imprint of an image still venerated around the globe and lifted high in countless festivals and celebrations in her honor to this day. Would that we might imprint ourselves on others in the way that she did, enabling each person that we meet to carry the image of our goodness in their hearts as they make their way through the labors of this fallen world. Would that we might inspire whatever glimmers of brightness that we can day by day, establishing our very persons as basilicas of “love, compassion, help and protection”: one silver-streaked, snow-dusted rose petal at a time.

I ask this for you and for me, dear reader, through Christ our Lord. Pax vobiscum in this time of preparation for the birth of our Savior.


[1] Pope Francis 2016 homily for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

[2] From a report by Don Antonio Valeriano, a Native American author of the sixteenth century.

Katie Painter '23

Katie is an undergraduate in Timothy Dwight College