December 12 – Spyridon; Our Lady of Guadalupe

Spyridon (ca. 270–348), a Cypriot shepherd, used all of his earnings to tend to the poor and needy, in reward for which he received the ability to wonderwork. He used this gift to heal the sick, cast out demons, and stuff like that. When his wife died, his daughter became a nun, and he became (eventually) the bishop of Trimythous (modern Tremetousia).

Spyridon attended the Council of Nicea, where he demonstrated the Trinity by way of a brick (or potsherd). Taking the potsherd (or brick) in his hand, he squoze it, whereupon a bolt of lightning flashed out and water poured down, leaving a pile of ash in his hand. “Just as a brick, or potsherd, is made of three elements,” he explained to his blinking audience, “so are there three persons in the one Godhead.”

As bishop, Spyridon continued feeding the poor and wonderworking. By his prayers he ended droughts as well as oppressively long rainy spells (one understands why an Orthodox church in Seattle is named after him). After a long and holy life, he died. His relics reside in Corfu, except his right hand, which is in Rome.

Now some stories. A woman came to Spyridon carrying her dead infant. At the bishop’s prayer, the babe returned to life, which so overjoyed the mother that she fell down dead (somebody presumably caught the baby). Spyridon then prayed her back to life. Another time, a friend of his was falsely accused and sentenced to death. Spyridon hurried to speak in the man’s defense, but a river he needed to cross was in flood. “God commands that you let me cross,” he told the river, and it did. When the judge heard of the miracle, he let the man go free. Finally, some men once broke into Spyridon’s sheepfold to steal some (can you guess?) sheep (good job!). They immediately found themselves tied up by an invisible force. Spyridon found them in the morning. He gave them a lecture about making an honest living, as well as a sheep apiece, saying, “I’d hate for you to have spent a sleepless night in vain.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe (1531) refers to an appearance and an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Mexico City. It seems one (uno) Juan Diego was heading to the cathedral for mass one Sunday when our Lady appeared to him. “Tell Bishop Zamárraga to build a temple here,” she said, so Juan did. The bishop was skeptical. “Bring me a sign,” he said.

Juan spent the next day at the bedside of his dying uncle. On Tuesday morning things looked bleak, and Juan ran to the nearby convent to get a priest. As he was in a hurry, he took a different trail to avoid bumping into our Lady. (There is room for all sorts of mental backflips in that.) It didn’t work; she met him and said, “What’s this path you’re on, my son?” (You may imagine the color of his face at this point.) She assured him his uncle would live, and told him again to tell the bishop to build a temple. “He wants a sign,” Juan exasperated. “Go to the hilltop and get some exotic, imported roses,” she said. Exotic, imported roses are rare in the hills of central Mexico in December, but Juan did as he was told, gathering a passel of posies in his tilma (cloak thing) and bringing them to the Virgin. She arranged them nicely, and told him to show them to no one but the bishop.

When Juan opened his tilma for the bishop, there on the fabric was the famous image—Our Lady of Guadalupe. Needless to say the bishop believed him then, and the basilica was built. It still contains the miraculous image on the ancient homespun (in a fancy, climate-controlled case). It is the most-visited Catholic shrine in the world. The Blessed Virgin under the title Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of Mexico (and much else besides).