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The Virgin Mary and Islam, Part III
Some Catholics have noticed that many Marian apparitions connect in some way to Islam. In this post I'll be focusing on the two that are the most significant in relation to Islam: Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Fatima.
In December of 1531 in Spanish-controlled Mexico, a middle-aged Indian Catholic was on his way to Mass on a Marian feast day when suddenly the Virgin Mary herself appeared to him and requested him to tell the bishop to build a chapel for her there. The Indian, Juan Diego, did as Mary asked, but the bishop was understandably skeptical and desired a sign as proof. Mary's response was to fill Juan Diego's tilma (cactus-fiber cloak) with out-of-season flowers. Obediently, the Indian took them to his bishop. He opened his tilma and let the flowers fall, and was baffled when the bishop and others in the room cried out and fell to their knees. Juan Diego looked down at his tilma and realized that an image of the Virgin Mary had appeared on the fabric. This image is today housed in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, where millions go to venerate it every year. The tilma, which should have deteriorated after fifteen years, is still in existence almost 500 years later, and the miraculous portrait is undamaged except for where it has been folded and retouched by human hands. In it, Mary, who appears to be about fourteen or fifteen and pregnant, stands on a crescent, the symbol of a primary Aztec god - and the symbol of Islam.
This image and the apparition are referred to as "Our Lady of Guadalupe," a Spanish name, and one that corresponds to another Marian shrine in Extremadura, Spain. Mary actually called herself by a native word, either "Te Coatlaxopeuh" ("she who crushes the serpent") or "Tlecuautlapcupeuh" ("she who proceeds from the region of light like the fire eagle"). The Spanish translator mistook the word for the similar-sounding Guadalupe. He may also have been reminded of the Spanish shrine because the Mexican image bears a certain resemblance to a small statue found in the Spanish shrine.
The Muslims invaded Catholic Spain and ruled it for about 700 years. As a result of this conquest, the Arabic language and culture left an impression. The Extremadura shrine is referred to as Guadalupe because of the nearby river; "Guadalupe" is of Arabic origin and means "Wolf River."
During the naval Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571, a greatly outnumbered Catholic European fleet faced off against a Turkish Muslim fleet. Muslims had been invading Christian Europe for hundreds of years, and the Turks were the masters of the Islamic world; the future of the world hinged on the outcome of this battle. It is well known that the pope begged all Christians to pray the rosary for Mary's intercession in the Europeans' favor. What is less well known is that one of the admirals carried a small picture of the Mexican Lady of Guadalupe with him. The Christians, miraculously, won. October 7th was initially celebrated as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory; it was later changed to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
In 1917, the Blessed Mother appeared to three shepherd children near the village of Fatima, Portugal. Fatima was named after a Muslim maiden in the middle ages who converted to Catholicism and married the local nobleman. She shared her Muslim name with Muhammad's daughter, who is revered highly by Muslims, especially the Shia. When Mary appeared to the children, she eventually revealed herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary." Today, even Muslims go on pilgrimages to Fatima.
There are a number of other Marian apparitions that directly or indirectly indicate Mary's desire for the conversion of Muslims, such as Our Lady of All Nations and Our Lady of Zeitun. Given these apparitions, as well as Mary's immense popularity in Islam, it seems likely that God intends to use the mother of his Son to convert his Muslim children to Christianity. We should pray for Mary's intercession for the Muslims, devoting special attention to the rosary.
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