Our Lady of Guadalupe for atheists Reply

By Tom Quiner

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

I’d like to present a fascinating mystery for my readers who are atheists.

The day was December 9th, 1531. It was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Spanish Empire.

A peasant by the name of Juan Diego was walking and encountered the vision of a teenage girl bathed in light.

She asked the peasant to have a church built on this site in her name.

Who was she? Juan Diego determined that it was the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God.

Juan took the message to the Bishop who asked for a miraculous sign that would prove her identity.

When Juan returned to the hillside to convey the request, Mary told him to gather roses that would be found at the top of the hill.

In December? Roses in December? But Juan found Castilian roses growing, which are not native to Mexico. And he found them in a spot that was normally barren.

He took them to Mary who placed them in the peasant’s tilma cloak. (Tilma is a flimsy fiber made from the cactus plant.)

So the miraculous sign was the roses, right? The bishop was going to be amazed when he saw a mound of roses this time of year in a peasant’s cloak. Right?

As the saying goes, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Juan Diego opened his cloak before the bishop.

The roses tumbled to the ground.

What the bishop saw astounded. Imprinted on the cloak, against which the roses had been pressed, was a startling image that is now known as “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” which you can see above.

‘What a nice little folk tale’ is what you may be thinking. And I would agree if that was all there was to the story.

Let us set aside the many miracles attributed to this mysterious icon. Let us just reflect on a few scientific observations.

Tilma is a material that has a shelf life of about 30 to 40 years. The tilma bearing the image of “Our Lady” is still intact and in good condition today, 483 years later. A scientist who analyzed the material, Dr. Adolfo Orozco, offers no explanation as to the super durability of this particular tilma.

The tilma received no protection for the first 116 years of its existence, which subjected it to UV rays that break down the material over time. It was also subjected to the relentless kisses and tears of the faithful who were allowed to press their face to the icon in those early decades of its existence.

Another scientist, Dr. Aste Tonsmann, a civil engineer with a doctorate from Cornell University, was allowed to use new, sophisticated digital imagery on the eyes of the icon.

He magnified the eyes 2500 times and made a startling discovery. There is a reflection embedded in the irises of the eyes of Mary of thirteen people who were allegedly present when Juan Diego opened his tilma and let the roses fall to the ground.

These images are undetectable without very modern scientific instruments. They would have been impossible for an artist of the 16th century to have created them.

In 1938, another scientist tried to figure out how the icon was painted. Richard Kuhn, the 1938 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, discovered that the image wasn’t made with natural animal or mineral colorings.

There were no synthetic colorings in 1531. He can’t explain how the image was created.

Even more, there are no brush or sketch marks present.

Now, take a look at the stars on Mary’s mantle. Another scientist analyzed their placement back in 1981 at

The stars on Mary's mantle align with constellations seen from the Mexican sky in 1531.

the Observatory Laplace Mexico City.

Dr. Hernández Illescas, a medical doctor and amateur astronomer working with Fr. Mario Rojas, performed an astronomical study of this star pattern.

They discovered the stars weren’t randomly placed. Rather, they are precisely aligned to create a stellar replication of constellations seen in a Mexican sky in the winter-morning solstice of December 12th, 1531, Saturday, at 10:26 AM.

Interesting, isn’t it?

Science raises more questions than it answers.

How come the fabric survives?

Don’t know.

How in the world was the thing painted?

Don’t know.

How could an artist have painted microscopic reflections in the irises of Mary’s eyes?

He couldn’t, it is impossible.

How could a dumb peasant have done any of this along with accurately depicting the constellations?

Maybe he didn’t.

Maybe it is just another mystery of our faith.


Biblical references to the Immaculate Conception Reply

By Tom Quiner


The Immaculate Conception

Have you noticed something odd about the Bible? It makes no reference to the existence of the ‘Bible’ … and yet it exists.

I reference this oddity in light of a question from a Quiner’s Diner reader on the subject of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. His question:

“Is there a scripture that talks about Mary having been saved from her sin before she was born?”

The quick answer is yes and no, the same answer we’d give if the question were:

“Is there a scripture that talks about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity?”

Yes and no. Although Catholicism and Protestantism are united in their belief in the Holy Trinity, sacred scripture doesn’t directly reference the term, just as it doesn’t directly reference the term “Immaculate Conception” in describing Mary.

So how are we supposed to figure this stuff out? The Bible tells us how in 2 Thess. 2:15 when St. Paul writes:

“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”

St. Paul mentions it again elsewhere in the same letter (2 Thess. 3:6):

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us”

And he mentions it again in a different letter, 1 Cor. 11:2:

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you”.

In other words, Christian Truth is conveyed by Tradition, “either by WORD OF MOUTH or by LETTER [that is, written word, aka the Bible or Sacred Scripture].

Again, writing this time to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:2), he instructed him to pass on this Sacred Tradition to others:

“[A]nd what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”

I know I belabor the point, but it’s an important one, because Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to write everything down He said and did, but He did command them to go out to the world and teach it:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

And how is that to be accomplished? Through Sacred Tradition and written scripture (which wasn’t formalized until the 4th century). Christ is with us always through the Holy Spirit who infallibly guides His Bride, the Church, through the office of Peter’s direct successors.

It took 4 centuries before the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was formalized by the Church, and it took 18 centuries before the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception was formally recognized by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

And yet scripture lays the groundwork for both. Let’s look at what 1 Chronicles 15:14 has to say on the subject:

“So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel.”

The ark carried the Word of God, which demanded sanctity and purification of those honored to carry it. And, as we know from the first five verses of the Gospel of John, Christ is the Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

So Mary was the new ark of the covenant.

She was the One honored to carry the Word.

Just as purity and grace were necessary to carry the Old Testament ark, so it was for the New Testament ark, which was confirmed when the angel, Gabriel visited Her, as recorded in Luke 1:28:

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”

Christian theologian, Jason Evert, explains the significance of this phrase:

“Since this term is in the perfect tense, it indicates a perfection of grace that is both intensive and extensive.

This means that the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the angel’s visit, and was not only as “full” or strong or complete as possible at any given time, but it extended over the whole of her life, from conception onward.

She was in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence to have been called “full of grace.”

There are many more biblical references to Mary’s Immaculate Conception, but let’s look at just one more, found in Genesis 3:15:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your offspring[a] and hers; he will crush[b] your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Mary’s offspring? Jesus.

The only way to crush the serpent’s head was to be sinless, so this passage can’t refer only to Eve, who colluded with the serpent. It also refers to the new Eve, Mary, who was full of Grace, and who, unlike Eve, said YES to God where Eve said NO.

Eve’s offspring, Cain, Abel, and Seth, didn’t crush the serpent’s head; but Mary’s did: Jesus. So this Genesis passage surely refers to Mary, too.

The Bible never said that Sacred Scripture was the only source of determining theological Truth. But it does say that Sacred Tradition is also such a source.

Nonetheless, the Bible is peppered with clue after clue of the Immaculate Conception, which the Holy Spirit revealed to mankind over time.