Sunday, February 25, 2018

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe is an important figure of devotion to the  peoples of the New World.

The story is told that in 1531 an Aztec Indian, named Juan Diego, heard music on Tepeyac hill as he was walking to church near Mexico City.  After climbing to the top, a woman revealed herself as the Holy Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus.  She asked Juan Diego to be a messenger.  He should find the Catholic Bishop of Mexico and ask him to build a church on that exact spot.  The Bishop, of course, was dubious.  Juan Diego was sent away 3 times asking him for proof of his apparition. 

On December 12, 1531 when Juan Diego was in search of a priest to visit his dying uncle the Virgin appeared again to him and told him his Uncle would be cured and the following day he found his uncle well again.   She further instructed him to gather roses from the hill at which they had met.  Even in that cold weather season the flowers were in full bloom and he carried them in his tilma (cloak) and brought them to the Bishop.   As they spilled out in front of the Bishop an image of the Virgin Mary appeared on his cloak.  The Tilma can still be seen today behind the main altar in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.   She was the only apparition of Mary who provided proof of her existence through an image. There were other accounts where people said they saw her, but they were unable to provide proof of their encounter.

When the Spaniards came to the New World they brought along their religion of  Catholicism and believed they could convert the Native Americans.   There was, however, a revolt by the Indians in 1680 and they expelled the Spanish.  They were not gone for long and by 1692 the Spanish had returned.  Many of the Native tribes continued to pray in the Catholic Church and venerated the Virgin Mary.  In celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe they have a feast day and perform a special dance known as the Matachines. The official date is December 12 but the dances in her honor actually begin in October.

In Santa Fe we have The Santuario de Guadalupe, the oldest extant shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe in this country dating from 1777.  It was a small adobe church on the banks of the Santa Fe River which today is a mere trickle unless the reservoir is opened or we have a large rain and in either case it is more of a brook than river. The site is important as it was the end of the Camino Real, the Colonial trade route from Mexico City.  Here you can see the Santauario as it looks today  and the large statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in front created in 2008.

The wall behind the altar is covered by a painting dated 1783 by José de Alzíbar (1730-1803), one of the leading painters of Mexico City. This monumental canvas illustrates the traditional image of the Virgin of Guadalupe surrounded by vignettes of the legend of its origin.

Unfortunately, the church fell into such disrepair that it was declared unfit for regular use. And by the end of the 19th century the new and first archbishop of Santa Fe, Jean-Baptiste Lamy  (1814 – 1888), a French Roman Catholic prelate asked Father Defouri to come down from Denver and become pastor of the English-speaking people in Santa Fe.  At the same time Bishop Lamy agreed to give the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the American Congregation.  They got to work on the Church making needed repairs between 1881-1884.  A 1922 fire razed the roof forcing another big change to a California mission style and a new bell tower.    By 1961 the parish had long outgrown the Church and  a new one was built behind the original.  In 1973 Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez began an effort to raise funds to bring the Church back to its original configuration.  At that time  the Archdiocese “deeded” the building to the newly formed non-profit and non-sectarian Guadalupe Historic Foundation, that completed the work in time for our Bicentennial.

Our Lady of Guadalupe lives on.  Gail Delgado, Director of Santaurio, says she has witnessed a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary, even by non-Catholics.

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