Today is December 12th and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – a huge feast for Latin-Americans (and as we learned on S+L Radio last week, Filipinos too). This feast day was always a big one in my life, as my Parish in Panama was called Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I grew very familiar to the life-size statue of “the Lady from heaven,” with a cloak decorated with stars and standing over a half-moon. Our Church also has a huge stained glass window of Juan Diego collecting the flowers, which was a miracle in winter… but let me back up.
In 1531, a "Lady from Heaven" appeared to a peasant by the name of Juan Diego just outside of Mexico City. She said to him, "Know for certain that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God," and instructed him to have the bishop build a temple on the site. Juan Diego was not too sure about this and Mary said to him, “Don’t be afraid! Am I not here? Am I not your Mother?”
As proof of her apparition, she left an image of herself imprinted miraculously on his tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay almost 500 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin. This single event was the defining one for Catholicism in Mexico and in Latin America: In less than 20 years, some 9 million Mexicans were converted to Christianity.
Guadalupe is also the most popular Marian shrine in the world with an estimated 10 million pilgrims visiting the Basilica each year, and it is also the most visited Catholic church in the world next to the Vatican. That’s pretty cool.
That is why last August the Knights of Columbus sponsored the Marian Festival and Congress
on Our Lady of Guadalupe, an event that took place after the K of C Convention in Phoenix, Arizona. S+L TV was there and we're now able to present to you all the talks from the congress, as well as the festival and the wonderful International Rosary in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The First International Marian Congress on Our Lady of Guadalupe was an extraordinary gathering, which brought together leading experts on the theological significance of the apparition, the science of the image and teachings on Marian apparitions.
Featured speakers included the dynamic Fr. Eduardo Chavez, postulator for the Cause of Canonization of St. Juan Diego; a reflection on Marian meditation and prayer by Bishop William E. Lori, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus; and a remarkable presentation entitled “The Secret in Her Eyes” by Dr. Jose Aste Tonsman, an expert in computer graphics who studied the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and discovered remarkable evidence that the image on St. Juan Diego’s tilma can only be explained as a miracle.
The Marian Congress is airing as six one-hour episodes every Friday night at 8pm (ET).
But today, on the Feast of Guadalupe, we'll be airing The Guadalupe Festival
, a two hour special featuring keynote speakers Immaculée Ilibagiza
, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, and Eduardo Verástegui
, the star of the film Bella. Both provide moving testimonies on their own journeys of faith and the important role Mary has played in their lives.
The festival also includes world-class musical performances by international recording artist Dana
, Italian opera sensation Filippa Giordano
, Mexican pop star Alex Acha
and the uplifting music of Quebec’s Community of Marie Jeunesse
The Guadalupe Festival is airing tonight at 7:30pm ET and will be followed by the International Rosary -- a wonderful way to end our celebration of the Patroness of the Americas.
A Miss Universe contestant, a former professional football player, an esteemed diplomat, a New York City firefighter pulled from the rubble on 9-11, and a proud member of Canada’s First Nations community all offered moving reflections for each decade of the Rosary, which concluded the Guadalupe Festival in Phoenix, Arizona.
So on this feast day of our Lady of Guadalupe, we celebrate the Church of Latin America, because Latin Americans have a mother, and she is the Mother of God, the Lady from Heaven, who came to a peasant, looking very much like a peasant herself, speaking to him in his native language and giving him and his people hope. Viva la Guadalupana!