Msgr Eduardo Chávez has taken Our Lady of Guadalupe to the world. © Victor Alemán
– Miguel Augusto (*)
The postulator of the cause for canonization of St Juan Diego, Msgr Eduardo Chávez, the current leading expert on the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, will soon travel from Mexico to hold a series of lectures this month in Asia. There are four regions in which Msgr Chávez’s talks are scheduled to be held: Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and the Philippines.
In the territory, the lecture of Msgr Eduardo Chávez will take place this coming Sunday, September 22, at the St Joseph Seminary from 3 pm to 5 pm followed by Mass in the Seminary Church.
Msgr Eduardo Chávez Sánchez was born in Mexico City on December 31, 1956. He was co-founder and dean of the Higher Institute for Guadalupan studies and an honorary Canon of the Guadalupe Basilica at the foot of Tepeyac Hill, in the heart of Mexico City.
Profoundly religious and Marian, for almost two decades Msgr Chávez has been studying more deeply the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the miraculous icon left by the Mother of God in the tilma of the indigenous visionary, Juan Diego.
The impulse came on May 17, 2001, when Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico, appointed him – thus becoming a vital element – postulator of the cause for canonization of Juan Diego. Juan Diego was canonized by Pope John Paul II at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City, on July 31, 2002.
Much has been said about the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the miraculous image (icon) in the tilma of St. Juan Diego that defies time and science on the way to five hundred years of existence.
Regrettably, many errors – according to Msgr Chávez – have been taught and even published in books. In this way, it will be a privilege to hear from Msgr Chávez the most accurate explanations of the icon and the “Guadalupan phenomenon,” as well as the historical and cultural contextualization, the religiosity and everything that involves the apparitions, the miracle in Mexico which has been alive among us since December 12, 1531.
Msgr Eduardo Chávez, has affirmed that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe ultimately takes us to the Son, to Jesus; for in her womb is the Divine Word, symbolized in the miraculous icon by a deep purple ribbon tied above the waist of the Heavenly Mother – signifying her pregnancy – and that falls under her hands in prayer.
In Mexico, in the 16th century, the region was ruled by the Aztec empire who made many sacrifices with human lives.
It was a very difficult time, as the natives resisted evangelization, and the Franciscans and Dominicans no longer knew what to do.
It was in this context, in 1531, that Our Lady began to appear to a humble Indian named Juan Diego, on the Tepeyac hill near the capital of Mexico. She brought them the true only God and put an end to the diabolical mythology and the human holocaust. Using their iconography on the miraculous icon, Mary Most Holy, showed them that she was the Mother of the true God, the only “Sun God” who illuminates the whole Universe and we worship Him only.
Juan Diego, his native name, Cuauhtlatoatzin, means “eagle that speaks” or “one who speaks as an eagle.” Juan (John) derives from the Hebrew name Yochanan, which means “God is merciful.”
With great affection, Our Lady asked Juan Diego to go talk to the bishop and ask him to build a sanctuary in this place in her name.
Friar Juan de Zumárraga (Franciscan), the first bishop of Mexico from Spain, delayed his response in order to investigate carefully. When the Indian, moved by a second apparition and new insistence from the Virgin, renewed his supplications to the bishop, who ordered him to ask Our Lady for a sign, the request really came from the Mother of God. Then Our Lady sent to the bishop the well-known miraculous sign of roses.
When Juan Diego came to the bishop’s presence, he unfolded his white tilma, and as the various roses of Castile scattered on the floor, the precious image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was suddenly drawn on the tilma. The bishop and those present, marveling at what they saw, fell to the ground in praise of the Holy Mother. Later Friar Juan de Zumárraga accompanied Juan Diego to the place designated by Our Lady.
The fame of the miracle spread rapidly throughout the territory. The icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe “tilma-codex” resembles Náhuatl codices – communicating with indigenous iconography – that deeply impressed the citizens. They respectfully sought to keep the holy image in the chapel of the Episcopal palace, and after several constructions and enlargements, the present sanctuary was reached.
The oldest text about the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe is called Nican Mopohua, which means “here is narrated.” Its authorship is attributed to Antonio Valeriano, a wise and noble Indian, who was educated at the College of Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, founded in 1536 by the Franciscans.
From the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the missionaries began to evangelize the Indians en masse. More than seven million were baptized in a few years, and Mexico is now the country with the most Catholics (an estimated 94% of the population).
In 1910 Pope St Pius X proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe “Patroness of Latin America,” and in 1945 Pope Pius XII proclaimed her “Empress of the Americas.”
In 1979 Pope John Paul II called her the “Star of Evangelization.”
Science validates the miraculous icon
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe inexplicably present in the tilma of Juan Diego (a cloak-like garment), woven of agave cactus fibers, along with the Shroud of Jesus in Turin, have possibly become the most mysterious images on earth together with the Veil of Manoppello with Jesus face.
Juan Diego’s tilma is made of two separate pieces sewn with a cotton thread. Together, they measure about 1.06 meters by 1.68 meters. The poor weave has an estimated life of around twenty years before its deterioration begins. Juan Diego’s tilma with the miraculous image of Our Lady is in good condition and is close to 500 years old.
German scientist and Nobel laureate in chemistry Richard Kuhn analyzed the tilma and spoke of the Guadalupe image dyes and said that they do not belong to the plant kingdom, or to the mineral or animal.
Two North American scholars (Dr Philip Serna Callagan of NASA’s scientific team and Professor Jody B. Smith, Professor of Philosophy of Science at Pensacolla College) were tasked with subjecting the image to infrared photographic analysis. Their conclusions, in short, were as follows: the ayate – a thin “canvas” – makes it inexplicable, in the light of human knowledge, how dyes impregnate such improper fiber and remain in it. There are no previous sketches; the image was painted directly as we see it. There are no strokes. The technique employed is unknown and incomprehensible in the history of painting.
Dr Aste Tonsmann, in mentioning in numerous conferences the finding of human figures of infinitesimal size in the Virgin’s iris, never tires of repeating: “Inexplicable! Radically inexplicable!”
Jesus invites us to be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). Mexico seemed to be predestined to have this grace by the shape of the country that reminds us of a fish, the first symbol of early Christians.
We await Msgr Eduardo Chávez, God’s instrument to bring to the world the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet (Revelation 12:1). She, the same who throughout the centuries came to so many nations calling for prayer and conversion… pointing us the way, the truth and the life – Our Lord Jesus Christ, her beloved son!
(*) with Felipe Aquino, ABC newspaper (international edition) and Gaudium Press