The above image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is provided to the Arizona Knights of Columbus with permission of the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus. This replica is one of a small number of near originals commissioned by the Archbishop of Mexico City. The Arizona Rosary Celebration has been granted temporary license to use this image for this year's celebration,
Evangelization of the Americas began with the arrival of Christopher Columbus’s flagship, appropriately named “Santa Maria”. Prior to sailing to the Americas, Columbus prayed at the Marian shrine in Estremadura, Spain, named “Santa Maria de Guadalupe” and he carried an image of her under that title on his ship. After Columbus came, the Franciscan and Jesuit Missionaries, in the hopes of converting the Native Americans to the True Faith, followed. But progress was slow. The first Bishop of Mexico City, Juan de Zumarraga, related his disappointment to the authorities in Spain.
On December 9, 1531, one of the few Aztec converts to the faith, Juan Diego, was passing by Tepeyac Hill on his way to Mass. At the top of the hill he saw a brilliant light and heard a woman’s voice bid him come to the top where a beautiful woman then appeared. She told him of her love for the people and that she wished Bishop Zumarraga to build a temple on that hill. She revealed herself to Juan Diego as “the perfect and eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God.” Juan Diego relayed this request to the Bishop who rebuffed him and sent him away.
Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac and reported his failure to the Blessed Virgin. She sent him back to the Bishop to repeat her orders. The following day, December 10, Juan Diego did as instructed. The Bishop was perplexed and told Juan Diego to return with a sign from heaven.
That evening Juan Diego relayed to the Blessed Virgin the Bishop’s request for a sign. She told him to return the next morning so that she could give him the requested sign.
But Juan Diego was prevented from meeting her on the morning of December 11, as his uncle Bernardino was gravely ill. On December 12, Juan Diego set out to find a priest to give his uncle the Last Rites, bypassing Tepeyac Hill. But the Blessed Virgin met him on the road and asked “Why are you going this way, my son?” After listening to his explanation, the Blessed Virgin assured him that his uncle was well and that Juan Diego could return to the Bishop with the promised sign. She sent him to the top of Tepeyac Hill where, despite it being a frigid December day, he would find Castilian roses blooming. These roses were common in Spain, but unknown in the Americas. He picked the roses, bundled them in his cloak (“Tilma”) and brought them back to Our Lady, who arranged them and sent him to the Bishop.
Juan Diego expected the Castilian roses to be the sign the Bishop required: The Bishop was familiar with them as they were not native to Mexico. Upon opening his tilma, Juan Diego saw the roses fall on the floor, but as he looked up, the Bishop was kneeling before him. He found that Our Lady had painted her sacred image on his tilma. Juan Diego explained that the Blessed Virgin had said what her name was, in his native tongue, “She who crushes the serpent.” To the Bishop’s ears, it sounded as if Juan Diego had said “Guadalupe”. The Bishop was familiar with devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Spain, and marveled.
The image of Our Lady on the Tilma is a pictograph of the Gospel. Despite more than 20 native languages spoken at the time, each native could understand the symbols in her image. Understanding them, the natives converted in large numbers. Within a few years nine million natives had accepted the True Faith. The number of converts gained exceeded the number lost in Europe during the same time due to the Protestant Reformation.