The story starts way, way back.
The Spanish Shrine of Guadalupe
The kingdom of Castile, Spain had the distinction of housing a statue said to be carved by St. Luke the Apostle. It is one of the three cherished black madonnas of Spain. When Spain was taken by the Moors around the 8th century, the statue was buried for protection near the Guadalupe river (from the Arabic-Latin Wadi lupum, "valley of the wolf"). Around 600 years later, a shepherd had a vision of Mary, where she told him to dig in a certain spot. There he found the treasured lost statue. (Much like we treasure pictures of our loved ones, especially those departed from us, it has long been a tradition to treasure pictures of Jesus' loved ones and friends.) It was put in a place of honor and a monastery built around this statue of what was now called Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Extremadura, Spain. It was a great medieval center of pilgrimage (a sacrificial journey out of love for God). The King of Spain attributed the increasing victories over the Moors (remember, this fight to keep their homeland had been going on for 600 years!) to the prayers of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Spain.
(Contrary to what some believe, Catholics do not worship statues, but use them as reminders to virtue, devotion, prayer, or, if the image was of God, worship. The statue itself would never be the object of any of this, but simply a reminder.)
Many Spanish explorers made a pilgrimage to Guadalupe before their journeys. Columbus was among them, as was Cortes. This image, however, is not the Lady of Guadalupe you see on car windows & storefronts today. To understand why there is such ardent devotion, we must go back 700 years again.
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