09 December 2009

Juan Diego

9 DECEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the feast day (optional memorial) of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an indigenous Mexican to whom the Virgin Mary appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Saint Juan Diego was canonized by Servant of God Pope John Paul II on 31 July 2002. However, the Church has recognized Juan Diego since the apparition of Our Lady in 1531.

Saint Juan Diego was a farmer, landowner, and weaver of mats.In 1521, Juan Diego was witness to the Spanish conquest of Mexico, which introduced the first Franciscan missionaries to the country. Among the first to welcome the Franciscan missionaries, Juan Diego and his wife were baptized shortly after the missionaries arrived. As their faith grew, Juan Diego and his wife made the decision to live chaste lives, while still married. In 1529, Juan Diego's wife grew sick and died.

As a widower, Juan Diego walked to mass every Saturday and Sunday. On 9 December 1531, while walking to mass, Juan Diego heard birds singing on Tepeyac Hill and someone calling his name. Juan Diego ran up the hill and saw a girl, about 14 years of age, that looked like an Aztec princess who was surrounded by light. Recognizing Our Lady, Juan Diego conversed with Her, then went off and did as Our Lady requested, including notifying the Spanish bishop of Our Lady's appearance. However, the bishop refused to believe Saint Juan Diego until a sign was given to him of the accuracy of Juan Diego's report.Returning to Our Lady, Juan Diego told her of the bishop's refusal to believe, and begged that she send someone else as a messenger.

Our Lady said it was important that Juan Diego be the messenger, and that she would give him the sign the bishop wanted. Later, Juan Diego tried to evade seeing Our Lady out of concern for his dying uncle, as he was going to find a priest to administer his uncle the sacraments. But, Our Lady intercepted Juan Diego and assured him that his uncle would not die. Then, Our Lady asked Juan Diego to go up Tepeyac Hill and pick the roses he found there. Although it was winter, Juan Diego found roses which he picked and Our Lady carefully arranged them in his folded tilma (a course cotton cloak worn by upper class Aztec peoples). Our Lady instructed Juan Diego to not show the roses to anyone, but the bishop.

When Saint Juan Diego opened his tilma for the bishop, he saw not only the roses (which were a variety of rose that grew in the bishop's home area of Spain), but an image of Our Lady impressed on Juan Diego's tilma that brought the bishop to his knees.

Immediately, it was ordered that a shrine to Our Lady be built at the site of Her apparition. And, the bishop entrusted the miraculous image to Juan Diego who lived the remainder of his life in a small hermitage near the site of the apparitions where he cared for the first chapel there and the pilgrims who began arriving.

What happened after the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe was that large numbers of indigenous people converted to the faith, reconciling the Spaniards and the indigenious people and leading to intercultural marriages. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Herself in fact, appeared as a woman of mixed Spanish and indigenous racial heritage--often referred to as "the little brown one."

Saint Juan Diego died on 30 May 1548, at about the age of 73.

A close scientific examination of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has revealed that there is a reflected image of Saint Juan Diego, the Spanish bishop and an interpreter in the left eye of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Saint Juan Diego, pray for us!

IMAGE: Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego.

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