SAINT JUAN DIEGO (1474-1548), holy man
Today, the Church honors Saint Juan Diego, a poor Indian peasant who became the Church’s first saint indigenous to the Americas and who was chosen by God and given the grace to experience the holy presence of our Blessed Mother under the mantle of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Born in 1474 in Cuauhtitlán, about fifteen miles north of modern day Mexico City, Mexico, to an Aztec tribe and was given the name Cuauhtlatoatzin, or “talking eagle”, Juan belonged to the poorest and most numerous class of the Aztecs, besides that of the slaves. He worked the land and wove mats for a living and was married, although he and his wife had no children.
Juan converted to Christianity in 1524 and was baptized along with his wife and took the name Juan Diego. He had already been a very spiritual person before his Baptism, spending long periods of time alone in contemplation.
In 1531, two years after the death of his wife, Maria Lucia, Juan Diego began receiving the famous apparitions of our Blessed Mother, who became later known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, and who spoke to him in his native tongue, Nahuatl.
She imprinted an image of herself on his tilma – a poor Indian’s cloak, woven as a thin cloth made of cactus fibers, and our Lady instructed him to have the bishop build a church on the site of the apparition – known today as the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited church in the world after the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome.
The tilma itself, which was worn by Juan for warmth and protection from the elements, would normally decay between 20 to 30 years after it was woven. Today, almost 500 years later, it is still miraculously intact with the extraordinary image of our Lady imprinted on its interior.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, with Juan Diego’s cooperation, is said to be directly responsible for the approximately 9 million conversions to Catholicism by the native Mexican population only 20 years after Christianity was introduced in the land by the Spanish.
Juan Diego died on May 30, 1548 and was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II in Mexico City on July 31, 2002.
We commemorate his feastday on December 9.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, newadvent.org and vatican.va/news_services)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Juan Diego)
“Lord God, through Saint Juan Diego, You made known the love of Our Lady of Guadalupe toward Your people. Grant, by his intercession, that we who follow the counsel of Mary, our Mother, may strive continually to do Your will.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”