Today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico. There are variations in the history of this devotion. The most common version is that a local peasant of the Nahuatl Aztec community was on his way to Mass in December 1531, when a young woman appeared to him on a hill in the Tepeyac desert near Mexico City. She spoke to him in his native Nahuatl language, and asked him to tell the Bishop have a chapel built on this spot.
The man, whose name was Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, went and told his story to the Bishop in Mexico City. The Bishop said that he needed some proof, and told Juan to ask the Lady for a sign.
The next time Juan passed by the hill, the woman appeared to him again, and he asked for a sign. She told him, “Bring those roses to the Bishop as proof”. Juan turned round, and saw a beautiful rose bush blooming in the desert. He gathered the roses into his cloak, and brought them to the Bishop.
When he was received into the Bishop’s presence, Juan opened his cloak to show the roses. The roses fell to the ground, and on the inside of the cloak was a perfect image of the young woman of his vision.
The woman had told Juan that her name was “Coatlaxopeuh”. In Juan’s language that means, “She who crushes the serpent”. It is pronounced “quatlachupe”, and the Spaniards misunderstood it as Guadalupe, the name of a place in Spain where an image of the Virgin was recovered in the 14th century, after being buried for safety in the 8th century.
The image on Juan’s cloak was given the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. That image is now on display in Mexico, in the magnificent Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most visited Catholic shrines in the world.