Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Movie Lists

I recently came upon this list -- 2010 Arts & Faith Top 100 Films by Image, a journal of literature and the arts. I know nothing of Image, but it is an interesting list nonetheless.

And then there is this -- Top 100 Spiritually-Significant Films from AMC Filmsite, most of which I would not consider "spiritual," much less faith-related or religious.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Unsolved Mysteries"

Do you remember that old TV show "Unsolved Mysteries" with Robert Stack? Apparently they did a show on Guadalupe. It's a bit jiggly in spots, but an interesting take on the image.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Virgin of Guadalupe and Her Littlest Son

The Amazing Truth of Our Lady of Guadalupe
by Dan Lynch
After the conquest, the Spanish rule of the natives was so severe that a bloody revolt was imminent. Bishop Zummaraga prayed for Our Lady to intervene to prevent an uprising, to reconcile the Spanish and the natives and to bring peace. He asked that he would receive roses native to his homeland of Castile Spain as a sign that his prayer would be answered.

On December 9, 1531, Our Lady appeared to Blessed Juan Diego who was a recently converted Aztec. She asked his to go to the Bishop and request him to build a church for her on the barren hill of Tepeyac which is now part of Mexico City. Our Lady wanted to show her merciful love to all of her children. The prudent Bishop asked Juan to ask the Lady for a sign. Juan did so and Our Lady promised to give him the sign.

On December 12, Our Lady again appeared to Juan on Tepeyac Hill and told him to pick the Castilian roses which miraculously appeared there and bring them to the Bishop as a sign for him to believe her request. Juan gathered the roses into his tilma and brought them to the Bishop.

He opened the tilma to show them and, to everyone's astonishment, the Image of Our Lady appeared on it. The Bishop then built the church as Our Lady had requested and ten million natives were converted and baptized to the one, true faith within the next 10 years. Human sacrifice ended in Mexico forever. Our Lady of Guadalupe, which means Crusher of the serpent's head, brought the light of the true faith, crushed the false gods of Mexico, and established an era of peace.

Read more here to learn how the Image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec pictograph, which was read and understood quickly by the native peoples, and how science views the Image..

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader opens today!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for Us
St. Juan Diego, Pray for Us

Beloved Juan Diego, "the talking eagle"! Show us the way that leads to the "Dark Virgin" of Tepeyac, that she may receive us in the depths of her heart, for she is the loving, compassionate Mother who guides us to the true God. Amen.
--Prayer of Pope John Paul II

Our Lady of Guadalupe, mystical rose, intercede for the Church, protect the Holy Father, help all who invoke you in their necessities. Since you are the ever Virgin Mary and Mother of the true God, obtain for us from your most holy Son, the grace of keeping our faith, sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life, ardent love, and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen.
--Prayer of Pope Pius X

Tepeyac and Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Story of Guadalupe Begins with a Little Hill in Mexico City
by Fr. Kevin P. Gallagher
Arlington Catholic Herald
September 1, 1994
Recently, while studying Spanish in México, I was asked to write an article of interest. After a brief reflection it became clear in my own mind what is the most fascinating place in México City. The place is not a building, a park, or strictly speaking, even a grand church.

The place is a small, seemingly insignificant hill in the north of the city. It is the hill where pagans worshiped their gods, where Aztec royalty received revelation, where "conquistadores" encountered their rivals, where millions of Catholics have worshiped God, and where a pope beatified a saint. This is a hill where even the Mother of God saw fit to visit for the sake of her adopted children on what was two new and wild continents. This hill has been known for centuries as Tepeyac.

Tepeyac is the hill which princess Pantpantzín, the beloved young niece of the Aztec king Montezuma II, would ascend frequently during the first 15 years of the 16th century.

From this height she would look out and see the grand lake of Taxcoco and her beloved island city of Tenochtitlán. From the base of Tepeyac hill south was a long causeway which joined the island with the mainland and her beloved Tepeyac.

She was there on Tepeyac to pray for her city and for her people. Tradition states her prayer was always more intense when she would sight the long processions of captives on the causeway exiting the city to be sacrificed.

One wonders whether she would see the faces of her uncle and the soldiers as they would bow to the grand statue of Quetzalcóatl, their great winged creature god, in the Temple of Tonantzín on the top of Tepeyac.

One also wonders if it was not the pleading of this teenage pagan princess that would in 15 short years transform that causeway of death to the "Avenida de los Misterios" (Avenue of the Mysteries). Still today, after numerous centuries, one can drive down the avenue and see the 15 great monuments of the rosary.

The year 1511 was marked by the historical occurrence of Princess Pantpantzín's mysterious revelation to her uncle Montezuma II. Simply she proclaimed that the "true faith" would one day be manifest to her people and the sign of its arrival would be a black cross.

Ten years later, in the year 1521, as the Spaniard Hernán Cortés approached that which would become Veracruz, his ships where sighted with excitement. Each of the numerous sails possessed a great black cross. A short time later, the great warrior king welcomed Cortés and his men with anticipation at the northern end of the causeway atop Tepeyac.

The great feather crown of Quetzalcóatl was offered to Cortés, which he swiftly rejected.

And in a moment of command and zeal, he and his men toppled the statue of the Aztec god. They quickly replaced it with a two-foot-high statue of Our Lady of the Remedy.

Today this statue is reserved in a shrine found in the national park northwest of the city named for the statue: Los Remedios.

Needless to say, relations between Cortés and Montezuma II and eventually the king's successor, were strained. Yet, historical citation identifies on Montezuma's part, a genuine regard for Cortés' religion of the cross. Two principle reasons may be cited. First, the Aztecs never used their complete force against the Spaniards, a force which was well-known by the surrounding terrorized communities. And second, the first cathedral was built on the north coast of the island in the midst of an Aztec temple in 1524. This was only three years after the statue's toppling on Tepeyac.

Today the old Cathedral of Santiago may be found in the Plaza of the Three Cultures, near the subway stop of Tlatelolco.

The fascinating history of the hill was far from over at this point, in fact, much had, as of yet, to materialize.

Twenty years after the Aztec princess' revelation of the cross and 10 years after the coming of Cortés with crosses emblazoned upon his sails, comes the visit of what appears to be a beautiful pregnant Indian woman. Amazingly, on the locket around her neck was the now familiar black cross.

On Saturday, Dec. 9, 1531, a baptized Indian, Juan Diego, ascended Tepeyac hill. He was on his way to morning Mass at the Cathedral of Santiago in Tlatelolco, as was his new daily custom. His journey brought him to Tepeyac in order to walk the causeway. Like the princess, he too could not fail to ascend the hill to look out over the beautiful lake and island. There, he too, prayed for the city, his people, and most likely on this morning, his personal intention regarding his beloved uncle and friend, Juan Bernardino, who was seriously ill in their hut at Tulpetlac.

On this particular morning Our Lady appears to Juan Diego. She asks him to go to the bishop and demand that a church be built on Tepeyac hill. Following orders, he speaks with Bishop Juan de la Zumarraga that morning, through the assistance of the translator Juan González. He tells him of her wishes. Being quite skeptical, the bishop asks him to return some other time.

That same afternoon, on his return home, Juan Diego encounters Mary a second time. She repeats the request commanding him to return to the bishop. To this second request, the bishop asks for some sign from Our Lady that this is her will. Juan Diego reports this to Mary on Sunday afternoon. She requests that he return Monday morning whereas she would grant the necessary sign.

On Monday, Dec. 11, 1531, Juan Diego failed to return to Tepeyac's heights. It was not irresponsibility that called him to skirt the hill, but the immediate need of a priest for his dying uncle.

The following Tuesday, Dec. 12, Juan Diego, in all his simplicity and embarrassment, did not climb Tepeyac but walked around the far side of the hill as if to avoid Our Lady. Mary encounters him with love, assures him of his uncle's complete healing, and asks him to climb the hill to pick the roses growing there. This is an absolute impossibility. Besides being in the midst of winter, the cold is compounded, for the base of the hill is already over a mile high in elevation.

Dutifully climbing the hill, he fulfills this task, using his "tilma" or poncho made of cornstarch fiber, to hold them. At the base of the hill, Mary herself arranges the roses.

Today, this spot is marked by one of the six churches of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (the Church of the Indians) and the foundation of the small adobe of Juan Diego, where he lived until his death in 1548.

Later, as he opens his cloak before Bishop Zumarraga and the visiting Bishop of Santo Domingo, Sebastián Ramírez de Funleal, the roses fall to the floor and there before the startled men is the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as she appeared to Juan Diego four times and once to his uncle at Tulpetlac. Today there is a Shrine Church north of México City in Tulpetlac marking the place of this apparition and healing of Juan Bernardino.

Immediately craftsman are employed to work in the new church atop Tepeyac. Simultaneously, the Church of the Indians is begun at the base of Tepeyac. This little church, still in use today, is finished in a mere two weeks. The day was marked by a solemn transfer of the image of Our Lady from the Cathedral of Santiago to the chapel. In the following year, the image is again moved to the Chapel of the Roses. Today the image will be found in the newest and the largest of the Shrine Churches. It was finished in 1976 and can hold an astounding 20,000 people for Mass.

Only now was the mystical and truly profound history of Tepeyac beginning. In an age when the Church in faraway Europe was wrought with the confusion and error of the Protestant reformation, when thousands were alienating themselves from the divine gift of the Sacraments and the motherhood of Mary, she seemingly heard the cry of a teenage Aztec princess a continent away. When the faithful became faithless by the thousands, she sought out the faithless to become faithful by the millions. In the eight years following the apparitions, 3 million entered the true Church, the Church designated by the cross.

The story of the hill and the profound mysteries continue each day. It would be quite impossible to continue much more of the story here for volumes would be necessary. The graces of conversions, healing and the like abound.

Today, if you stand in the plaza in front of the Chapel of the Roses, you will not find a beautiful lake and island there before you. The Avenue of the Mysteries is no longer a causeway but one of the many streets stretching out across the city. The Plaza of the Three Cultures is no longer on the bank of an island, but is a subway stop downtown. Today the lake is gone. I know not when, but I think I know why. Mary came not to look over scenery, but to look over her children. How profound to think the spot she chose would one day look over the most heavily populated city in the world.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe

Most historians agree that St. Juan Diego (feast day December 9) was born in 1474 in Cuauhtitlan, about 14 miles north of Tenochtitlan, which is present-day Mexico City. His given native name was Cuauhtlatoatzin, which could be translated as “One who talks like an eagle” or “eagle that talks.” Between 1524 and 1525, he and his wife converted and were baptized, receiving the Christian names of Juan Diego and Maria Lucia.

Juan Diego was born in the Aztec empire, which had made many remarkable architectural and artistic accomplishments. However, the Aztecs most striking and remarkable features were, perhaps, the practice of human sacrifice and slavery. While human sacrifice was practiced throughout Mesoamerica, the Aztecs, if their own accounts are to be believed, brought this practice to an unprecedented level. Some estimate the number of persons sacrificed in central Mexico in the 15th century as high as 250,000 per year.

The Aztecs had 18 festivities each year, one for each Aztec month, and in those festivities sacrifices were made. Each god required a different kind of victim: young women were drowned for Xilonen; children were sacrificed to Tláloc; Nahuatl-speaking prisoners to Huitzilopochtli, and a single nahua would volunteer for Tezcatlipoca. One contemporary report gives this description:
“They strike open the wretched Indian's chest with flint knives and hastily tear out the palpitating heart which, with the blood, they present to the idols . . . They cut off the arms, thighs and head, eating the arms and thighs at ceremonial banquets. The head they hang up on a beam, and the body is given to the beasts of prey.”
For the reconsecration of Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487, the Aztecs reported that they sacrificed 84,400 prisoners over the course of four days, reportedly by Ahuitzotl, the Great Speaker himself. Four tables were arranged at the top so that the victims could be jettisoned down the sides of the temple pyramid. But this culture of death would end.

On December 9, 1531, which, at that time, was the date for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Juan Diego was walking through the Tepayac hill country in central Mexico when he encountered a beautiful young woman surrounded by a ball of light as bright as the sun. Speaking in his native tongue, the beautiful lady identified herself,
"My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother's Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace. So run now to Tenochtitlan and tell the Bishop all that you have seen and heard."
When Juan Diego lady her name, she responded in his native language of Nahuatl, "Tlecuatlecupe," which has been interpreted as "the one who crushes the head of the serpent" (a clear reference to Genesis 3:15 and perhaps to the prominent symbol of the Aztec religion). "Tlecuatlecupe" when correctly pronounced, sounds remarkably similar to "Guadalupe." Juan, who had never been to Tenochtitlan, nonetheless immediately responded to Mary's request. Bishop Zumarraga told Juan that he would consider the request. Juan returned to the hill and found the Lady there waiting for him. Imploring her to send someone else, she responded,
"My little son, there are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen."
She then told him to return the next day to the bishop and repeat the request. On Sunday, after again waiting for hours, Juan met with the bishop who, on re-hearing his story, asked him to ask the Lady to provide a sign as a proof of who she was. Juan dutifully returned to the hill and told Mary. She responded,
"My little son, am I not your Mother? Do not fear. The Bishop shall have his sign. Come back to this place tomorrow. Only peace, my little son."
Unfortunately, Juan was not able to return to the hill the next day. His uncle had become mortally ill and Juan stayed with him to care for him. After two days, with his uncle near death, Juan left his side to find a priest. Juan had to pass Tepayac Hill to get to the priest. As he was passing, he found Mary waiting for him. She spoke,
"Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Your uncle will not die at this time. There is no reason for you to engage a priest, for his health is restored at this moment. He is quite well. Go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that are growing there. Bring them then to me."
While it was freezing on the hillside, Juan obeyed Mary's instructions and went to the top of the hill where he found a full bloom of Castilian roses. Removing his tilma, a poncho-like cape made of cactus fiber, he cut the roses and carried them back to Mary. She rearranged the roses and told him,
"My little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that with this sign I request his greatest efforts to complete the church I desire in this place. Show these flowers to no one else but the Bishop. You are my trusted ambassador. This time the Bishop will believe all you tell him."
At the palace, Juan once again came before the bishop. He opened the tilma, letting the flowers fall out. But it wasn't the beautiful roses that caused the bishop and his advisors to fall to their knees; for there, on the tilma, was a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary precisely as Juan had described her. The next day, after showing the tilma at the Cathedral, Juan took the bishop to the spot where he first met Mary. He then returned to his village where he met his uncle who was completely cured. His uncle told him he had met a young woman, surrounded by a soft light, who told him that she had just sent his nephew to Tenochtitlan with a picture of herself. She told his uncle,
"Call me and call my image Santa Maria de Guadalupe."
Within six years of the apparitions, six million Aztecs had converted to Catholicism, and thereby rejected their previous culture of death. The tilma shows Mary as the God-bearer -- she is pregnant with her Divine Son.

Since the time the tilma was first impressed with a picture of the Mother of God, it has been subject to a variety of environmental hazards including smoke from fires and candles, water from floods and torrential downpours and, in 1921, a bomb which was planted by anti-clerical forces on an altar under it. There was also a cast-iron cross next to the tilma and when the bomb exploded, the cross was twisted out of shape, the marble altar rail was heavily damaged and the tilma was untouched. Indeed, no one was injured in the Church despite the damage that occurred to a large part of the altar structure.

In 1977, the tilma was examined using infrared photography and digital enhancement techniques. Unlike any painting, the tilma shows no sketching or any sign of outline drawn to permit an artist to produce a painting. Further, the very method used to create the image is still unknown. The image is inexplicable in its longevity and method of production. It can be seen today in a large basilica built to house up to 10,000 worshipers. A list of miracles, cures and interventions are attributed to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Yearly, an estimated 10 million visit her Basilica, making it the most visited Catholic church in the world next to the Vatican.
Lord God, through St. Juan Diego you made known the love of Our Lady of Guadalupe toward your people. Grant by his intercession that we who follow the counsel of Mary, our Mother, may strive continually to do your will. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Guadalupe Movie Reviews

Review by Jean M. Heimann
Catholic Media Review
The DVD is now out on the beautiful film "Guadalupe", which I saw at the theatre on December 17, 2006. The film takes place in modern day Mexico and and tells the story of a brother and sister team of Spanish archeologists, Jose Maria and Mercedes, who decide to investigate newly discovered information in the case of Our Lady of Guadalupe. What they learn changes their lives forever. Through their scientific research, the two discover, each in their own way, the true message that the Blessed Virgin Mary reveals at Guadalupe: that we are to live in harmony and peace with one another and to have faith and hope.

Guadalupe is not a high budget film, but a simple one, with intriguing parallel story lines. It is a Spanish movie with English subtitles so be prepared to read quickly - there's no snoozing during this movie. I liked it and so did my husband.

This is a wonderful movie for the family to learn about the history of Mexico and the meaning behind many of its traditions related to the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This movie is a gem. While the characters and dialogue seem a little simplistic at times - the message is powerful one - and the story is one you won't forget. It contains very touching and tender love stories on both the human and the spiritual levels. It is guaranteed to melt your heart. This is a film the entire family will enjoy.

I give it three *** of 4 stars. It is very good. Don't miss it!
Review by Joe Leydon
Variety Magazine
Simplicity and sincerity are the keynotes of "Guadalupe," a modestly engaging drama inspired by the much-heralded appearance of the Virgin Mary 475 years ago at the hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City. Aimed primarily at Latin American Catholics and others devoted to (or simply intrigued by) the iconic figure known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, this Mexican-produced pic should satisfy its target aud during limited theatrical runs and long home-vid shelf life.

Working from an adeptly structured script by vet TV scribe Tessie Gutierrez de Picazo, helmer Santiago Parra nimbly time-trips back and forth between the 16th and 21st centuries, interweaving a reverent account of the miraculous visitation with a contemporary story that pivots on the phenom's enduring effects.

The 1531 sequences, which show how the Virgin Mary (Sandra Estil) used a poor Indian as her earthly messenger, are oddly appealing in their unabashed corniness, filmed and acted in the blunt-force style of an educational short. Mary tells elderly Juan Diego (affectingly played by Jose Carlos Ruiz) to pass the word on to the local bishop: She wants a church built near Tepeyac.

Not surprisingly, the bishop is slow to believe Juan Diego's report. But the old fellow gains considerable credence when he reveals his coarse cloak has been imprinted with the famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

That cloak -- which still hangs in the Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe, built on the spot where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared -- looms large in the pic's modern-day storyline.

Despite their skepticism, sibling archeologists Jose Maria (Aleix Albareda) and Mercedes (Ivana Mino) are drawn to the Guadalupe myth. They journey from their native Spain to Mexico City to study the cloak itself, which has been proclaimed genuine by several reputable real-life scientists and researchers, and to interview a variety of guadalupanos (admirers and worshippers devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe).

"Guadalupe" has a strong flavor of soap opera -- or, perhaps more accurately, telenovela -- when it details how Jose Maria and Mercedes have been immutably shaped by their not entirely happy childhoods. Mercedes now avoids long-term commitments, even while wooed by a handsome colleague, and Jose Maria chronically neglects his wife and children while focused on work. Both need a shot at redemption. Which, of course, they get.

Pic is most interesting for mainstream auds when it focuses on the ecumenical appeal of Our Lady of Guadalupe, introducing a gregarious Jewish businessman (Pedro Armendariz) and a Muslim TV scriptwriter (Jaskarin), among others, to represent the multitudes of non-Catholic guadalupanos in and beyond Mexico.

It's also worth noting that, by sheer coincidence, "Guadalupe" appears just in time to serve as an ersatz companion piece to "Apocalypto." The appearance of the Virgin Mary, one character notes, helped end the era of human sacrifice among the Aztecs by hastening their conversion to Catholicism.

Tech values are uneven -- DV lensing is notably drab during dimly lit interior scenes -- but the performances overall are credible. Angelica Aragon is a standout as a maid who makes a joyful noise as she enthusiastically explains why Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to be so revered by so many.

MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 107 MIN. (Spanish, Nahuatl dialogue)
A Dos Corazones Films production. Produced by Pedro Marcet, Roberto Girault, Laia Coll. Directed by Santiago Parra. Screenplay, Tessie Gutierrez de Picazo.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Virgin of Guadalupe

In reflecting upon Our Lady of Fatima, we linked to a fascinating Italian documentary on Marian apparitions. Here is the excerpt on Guadalupe: