BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
BOUNTIFUL – In 1531, many Catholics believe a “lady from heaven,” appeared to an Indian at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of Mexico City.
She is said to have identified herself as the Mother of the True God, and is now known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas.
Parishioners at St. Olaf Catholic Church, 1793 S. Orchard Drive in Bountiful, will mark the day with a special mass and potluck reception on Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. The public is invited.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a saint of particular importance to the Hispanic community, said the Rev. Reynato Rodillas, pastor at St. Olaf.
The congregation at St. Olaf is mainly Caucasian, but when Rodillas came to serve them two years ago, “I encouraged the (St. Olaf) community to join in the celebration,” he said.
“The blessed Mother comes not only to the Mexican community, but to the whole community,” he said.
Catholics believe that on a trip to a chapel for daily mass, a poor Aztec convert to Christianity, Juan Diego, encountered a beautiful woman surrounded by a ball of light as bright as the sun.
She spoke to him in his native tongue, telling him who she was and that she loved him. She instructed him to go to Tenochititlan and tell the bishop-elect to build a church in the Tepayac hill country where Juan Diego was walking, according to catholic.org.
He reportedly did as she directed and the bishop told Juan Diego he would consider the request. Juan was disappointed in the reply and felt himself unworthy to persuade someone as important as the bishop so he returned to the hill where he first met Mary and found her there waiting for him.
He asked that she send someone else back to the bishop, but she told him she had chosen him. It’s said he returned to the bishop the next day to repeat the request. The bishop asked Juan Diego to ask the virgin Mary to provide a sign as proof of who she was.
He took the request back to Mary who said the bishop would have his sign and that Juan Diego was to return to her the next day.
However, Juan Diego’s uncle became very ill and he didn’t make it back to the Tepayac hill. After two days, Juan Diego went to find a priest because his uncle was near death. Juan Diego had to pass the hill to go to the priest. May was waiting for him and told him his uncle wouldn’t die.
She told Juan Diego that at the top of the hill he would find flowers growing there.
While it was freezing on the hillside, he obeyed the virgin Mary and found Castilian roses in full bloom. He took off his poncho, called a tilma, cut the roses and took them back to Mary.
Mary told him the roses were the sign she was sending to the bishop. When he returned to the bishop he opened the tilma to show him the roses. On the tilma was a picture of the virgin Mary just as Juan Diego had described her.
He then reportedly took the bishop to the hill where he saw Mary and returned home to find his uncle cured. The uncle told Juan Diego he had met a beautiful woman surrounded by soft light who told him where Juan Diego had gone.
Within six years, six million Aztecs had converted to Catholicism.
In 1999 Pope John Paul II declared the date of Dec. 12 as a liturgical holy day for the whole continent.
St. Olaf Catholic Church’s percentage of Hispanic members is small, but it was they who planned and coordinated the celebration, Rodillas said.
The celebration helps those parishioners to feel more a part of the parish community and to “own it,” Rodillas said.