Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey
This weekend, at least 11 churches of the Diocese of New Jersey will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This Marion feast, which actually falls on December 12, is celebrated in many places throughout the Americas and is the patronal feast of Mexico, where it finds its origins. The website Vivaguadalupe.org offers a succinct summary of the story behind the feast:
The legend says Juan Diego, a poor indigenous man, was on his way to mass when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in front of him on the Hill of Tepeyac in December 1531. She instructed him to tell the bishop to build a temple at the site of her appearance, where she could receive and console her suffering children. Juan Diego obeyed but the bishop was skeptical and demanded he bring a sign of Our Lady’s appearance. Our Lady once again revealed herself to Juan Diego and sent him back to the bishop with roses she instructed him to gather into his tilma, which is also known as a cloak. When he arrived to meet the bishop, he released the roses onto the floor, and both men stood astonished to see a painted image of Our Lady on the tilma. The temple was built as Our Lady wished and it continues to remain on the Hill of Tepeyac, which is known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe today in Mexico City.
The site also notes that, “On Oct. 12, 1945, Pope Pius XII declared Dec. 12 as her feast day and a Holy Obligation day in Mexico.”
About Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hagiographer Robert Ellsberg observes:
”…this apparition [to Juan Diego] marked the birth of the Mexican people—a fusion between the Spanish and the indigenous races and cultures. The apparition to Juan Diego occurred only ten years after the conquest of Mexico, a time when native Indians [Nahuatl] were languishing under the impact of the cultural decimation. The conquerors had brought with them the new Christian religion. All this changed after Guadalupe. The image of the Lady had dark skin and Indian features. The style and color of her clothing, her blue mantle covered with stars, her depiction s standing on a crescent moon held aloft by an angel…had deep symbolic references to the Indian [Nahuatl] religion and culture.”
In effect, Juan Diego was chosen to be the agent of the bishop’s—and the church’s—conversion. The message was clear: the church must not serve as the religious arm of colonial oppression. Instead, it must be rooted in the experience of the poor and become a vehicle for their spiritual and social survival.
I’m excited about the growing recognition and celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Diocese of New Jersey and invite and encourage all members of our diocesan community to join in. This feast affords us an opportunity to be cross-cultural and through this “crossing over” to deepen our awareness and understanding of God and God’s mysterious ways. This feast invites us to deeper awareness of God’s grace, to a greater engagement with the poor and marginalized in our communities, our state, our nation and the world and, through this, to glimpse what the Kingdom of God might look like. Celebrated in the midst of Advent, this feast invites us to consider yet one more facet of Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, and to give thanks for her soul and the many ways she magnifies the Lord.
My deepest thanks to Canon Ramon Ubiera and the members of the Hispanic Commission of the Diocese of New Jersey, as well as to the 11 congregations who are offering celebrations of this feast day. They have put a great deal of work in growing this observance in the Diocese of New Jersey.
The Right Rev. William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey
Cover Image: Our Lady of Guadalupe heals Juan Bernardino. Mosaic from the facade of the church of the Fifth Apparition built on the site of Juan Bernardino’s house. Photo by Lawrence OP. CC License
 See “Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Explained” found on the Vivaguadalupe.org website at Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Explained – Viva Guadalupe – Dallas, TX
 Ellsberg, Robert All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses For Our Time (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004).