Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Knights
It is a “Heavenly Portrait,” “A Miracle that Changed History,” and a window into the heart of God. What earthly object could possibly meet such a description? The tilma of St. Juan Diego, which is imprinted with the image of the Blessed Mother, under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A small, thumb-sized portion of that tilma – or cloak – was featured at the 127th Knights of Columbus Convention, as well as at the Marian Congress and Guadalupe Festival in Phoenix last week.
Throughout this convention week, the transnational reach of the Knights of Columbus and the unifying message of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be woven together in talks, images and presentations, as the Knights continue to underline the truly Catholic roots and future of the American hemisphere – North, Central and South.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patroness of the Americas, and the Knights of Columbus, which has councils throughout Canada, the United States and Mexico, has taken on a special mission of promoting and supporting the message of Guadalupe. Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson took Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of his administration when he became head of the fraternal Order in 2000.
Guadalupe On Display
At the convention center, a large display in a main corridor tells the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the tilma. The tall, eight-panel display has attracted the attention of the hundreds of convention delegates and their families, many of whom had not known the full story of the encounter in 1531 between the Blessed Mother and Juan Diego.
One afternoon, a group of adults and children from southern Texas made the rounds of the display to deepen their strong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Where we come from, Our Lady of Guadalupe is everywhere, in every church, every chapel,” said Rosa Vela. “We have a great devotion to her, we love her very much.”
Her husband, Alfredo Vela, is program director for the Texas State Council. He described a procession in their hometown, Rio Grande Valley, on December 12 each year, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “We have thousands, who come from all around, processing to the stadium in her honor,” he said.
They were traveling with their adult daughter and other families from their area.
“We have to give our support to the Texas delegation,” Mrs. Vela explained. “We are the cheerleaders for them, for all the good work they do.”
The Miracle Explored
The Guadalupe display includes detailed information and historical images about the events of 1531, when Juan Diego, a simple native of what is now Mexico City, was met on the hill of Tepeyac and given a message for the Bishop of Mexico to build a chapel in her honor. After being turned away respectfully by the bishop, Juan Diego returned with a sign given to him by Our Lady, the miraculous image of herself imprinted on his tilma.
Other panels of the display present the scientific evidence that points to the miraculous nature of the image, beginning with the fact that the simple threads of the tilma should have frayed and decomposed centuries ago. Yet today, the tilma is on display in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, where millions visit each year to see the image that is still fresh and clear.
The final panel of the convention display tells the story of the tiny tilma relic, which is the only known portion taken from the original tilma that exists in the United States. It is encased in hard plastic and held by a chain that is draped around the neck of a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The tilma relic is on loan to the Knights of Columbus from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which received it in the 1940s from the Mexico City Archdiocese. It is normally on display in Our Lady of the Angeles Cathedral in Los Angeles.