Countless miracles linked to Our Lady of Guadalupe continue to defy science, like the famous tilma of Saint Juan Diego, which is made of cactus fiber, and should have disintegrated after 20 years.
However, it has survived from 1531 until the present day without cracking or fading. Scientists cannot explain how this is possible. In the 18th century, Dr. José Ignácio Bartolache had two copies of the image made and placed where the original was. After several years, the two copies deteriorated.
Over time, the faithful have tried to “embellish” the tilma. A crown was painted on Our Lady’s head and angels in the clouds. However, unlike the tilma, these additions have worn away and are no longer visible. The rays of the sun, for example, were coated with gold and the moon plated with silver. These embellishments also faded away. In fact, the silver-plated moon turned black.
Scientists are baffled how the image was imprinted on the tilma. There are no brush strokes or sketch marks on it. Richard Kuhn, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, ascertained that Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image does not contain natural, animal or mineral pigments. The tilma defies natural explanation.
At the Guadalupe shrine in Mexico City, a stone sail ship monument is visible near the chapel on the hill. The landmark commemorates a miracle that took place in 1565 when General Miguel López de Legazpi was returning from the Philippines and his ship was engulfed by a tempest. On the verge of sinking, the crew in desperation made a vow to Our Lady of Guadalupe; if she saved them, they would carry their last remaining sail to her on pilgrimage.
The storm abated and they fulfilled their promise.
The greatest miracle was that eight million Indians converted in only seven years following the apparitions. The early Franciscan and Dominican missionaries were busy night and day baptizing and administering the Sacraments. On average, over three thousand Indians a day were baptized throughout the seven years.
Symbolism of the Tilma
The miraculous tilma is like a catechism class for the Mexican Indians. Our Lady, as she appears, eclipses the sun, showing her superiority over the Aztec sun god. She stands on the moon, trampling the Aztec moon god under foot. She is surrounded by clouds and attended by an angel, showing that she is not of this earth.
Yet her hands are folded in supplication and her head is tilted in a position of humility, thus showing that while she tramples the pagan gods, she is not God. Around her neck, she wears a brooch with a cross, leading mankind to the Supreme Being, the God of the Christians.
May the goodness and tenderness Our Lady showed to Saint Juan Diego encourage our readers to have more devotion to her. Like every good mother, she is also the implacable foe of those who inflict harm on her children. Therefore, she is our special aid in the struggle against evil today. Let our battle cry be “¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!” (“Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!”)