Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Juan Diego, a native Mexican weaver and farmer to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on December 9, 1531, four hundred and eighty years ago today.
On that day, Juan Diego walked, as he did every Sunday, 15 miles to Mass. While passing by Tepeyac Hill, he heard music and saw a glowing light from the top of the hill. A woman’s voice called to him. He climbed up the hill and saw a beautiful lady dressed like an Aztec princess. She told him that she was the Virgin Mary and asked Saint Juan to tell the bishop to build a church on the spot she stood.
She said to him:
I vividly desire that a church be built on this site, so that in it I can be present and give my love, compassion, help, and defense, for I am your most devoted mother . . . to hear your laments and to remedy all your miseries, pains, and sufferings. (source)
Juan Diego humbly obeyed Our Lady and went to see the bishop. The doubtful bishop asked Juan to bring proof that the woman was indeed the Blessed Mother. On the way back, Juan found out that his uncle was dying. In his haste to get a priest for his uncle, Juan missed going to see Our Lady. Our Lady, however didn’t let him slip by. She met him on his way and told him that his uncle had been cured. Then…
…the Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and although it was winter time, he found roses flowering. He gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as “proof”. (source)
Not only were they roses, but they were Castilian roses, which did not grow in Mexico; they grow in Spain. As amazed as the bishop was at the fresh Spanish roses growing in the winter, the bishop’s eyes were fixed on the image on Juan Diego’s tilma (cloak) – the image of Our Lady the way she appeared to Juan Diego – as a pregnant Aztec princess.
Soon after, a church was built on the site where our Lady appeared, and thousands converted to Christianity. Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared first, patroness of Latin America, and then later of all the Americas.
With the Bishop’s permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus.
Much deeper than the “exterior grace” of having been “chosen” as Our Lady’s “messenger”, Juan Diego received the grace of interior enlightenment and from that moment, he began a life dedicated to prayer and the practice of virtue and boundless love of God and neighbour. He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He was beatified on 6 May 1990 by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Guadalupe, Mexico City. (source)
There are 3 things I think are pretty cool about Juan Diego
First, he was baptized when he was 50, so he wasn’t some young impressionable guy. He had lived long enough to be, let’s say… a bit skeptical about things. I don’t know what the average life span was for men of his time, but my guess is that he was considered old. (Although he did live to be 74.) But, nonetheless, he obeyed Our Lady with childlike confidence. In his obedience, his life was never the same. Nor was ours.
Second, I love that his feast day falls between two Marian feast days – the Immaculate Conception (yesterday) and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12). How appropriate – one feast celebrating Our Lady conceived without sin and the next celebrating Our Lady with the child Jesus in her womb coming to her children to Mother them.
Third, I love one of the most beautiful things she said to him:
“Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”
— Our Lady to Juan Diego (source)
I think these are words we should take to heart: Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Saint Juan Diego certainly did.
We should all place ourselves under her motherly protection and pray for St. Juan’s intecession that we will more and more follow his example and promptly obeying our mother . Especially during this Advent season, let us ask the Blessed Mother to help us to be at peace and to turn to her intercession with confidence – for ourselves, for our families, for our nation, and for the whole word.
Saint Juan Diego, pray for us! Anne
Saint Juan Diego – And Our Lady of Guadalupe is a terrific book for children as a read aloud for youngers and a read alone for grades 4-8. This is another book from the Encounter the Saints Series from the Daughters of Saint Paul. One of my fave series.