Thursday, December 8, 2011

Feast Day: December 9
b.1474 d.1548

Juan Diego was born in 1474 in the calpulli or ward of Tlayacac in Cuauhtitlan, which was established in 1168 by Nahua tribesmen and conquered by the Aztec lord Axayacatl in 1467; and was located 20 kilometers (14 miles) north of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City).

On December 9, 1531, a native Mexican named Juan Diego rose before dawn to walk fifteen miles to daily Mass in what is now Mexico City. Juan lived a simple life as a weaver, farmer, and laborer. That morning, as Juan passed Tepeyac Hill, he heard music and saw a glowing cloud encircled by a rainbow. A woman's voice called him to the top of the hill. There he saw a beautiful young woman dressed like an Aztec princess. She said she was the Virgin Mary and asked Juan to tell the bishop to build a church on that site. She said, "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."

The bishop was kind but skeptical. He asked Juan to bring proof of the Lady's identity. Before Juan could go back to the Lady, he found out his uncle was dying. Hurrying to get a priest, Juan missed his meeting with the Lady. The Lady, however, met him on his path and told him that his uncle had been cured.

She then told Juan to climb to the top of the hill where they first met. Juan was shocked to find flowers growing in the frozen soil. He gathered them in his cloak and took them at once to the bishop.

Juan told the bishop what had happened and opened his cloak. The flowers that fell to the ground were Castilian roses (which were not grown in Mexico). But the bishop's eyes were on the glowing image of the Lady imprinted inside Juan's cloak.

Soon after, a church was built on the site where our Lady appeared, and thousands converted to Christianity. 

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.

The miraculous image, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is supported by an angel whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle about her waist signifies that she is pregnant. Thus, the image graphically depicts the fact that Christ is to be "born" again among the peoples of the New World, and is a message as relevant to the "New World" today as it was during the lifetime of Juan Diego.
Juan Diego by Miguel Cabrera
Pope John Paul II praised Juan Diego for his simple faith nourished by catechesis and pictured him (who said to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf”) as a model of humility for all of us.

In His Footsteps:

Juan walked fifteen miles to attend Mass every day. Participate in Mass one day this week that is not a Sunday Mass. If this is impossible, take a long walk outside and notice the miracles of God's love during that walk. You may not see roses in the snow or hear music, but there is plenty to praise God for!


Blessed Juan, you faced the skepticism and rejection of a bishop and the crowds to bring Mary's message to Mexico. Pray for us that when we are faced with obstacles to our faith we may show that same courage and commitment. Amen

Three Remarkable Facts About the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe:  
  • The stars on the Blessed Mother’s dress correspond to the constellations that were present over the Mexican skies in 1531!
  • In 1921, a bomb planted by an anti-clerical group exploded beneath the main altar of the old basilica, directly beneath the image.  The explosion blew out several windows in the church and twisted a large cast-iron crucifix, but the image and the glass covering over itsuffered no damage whatsoever!
  • In 1929, a photographer noticed the tiny face of a bearded man in the right eye of the Blessed Mother's image; a man resembling the oldest known portrait of St. Juan Diego!

Today Juan Diego's tilma continues to baffle science. Studies conducted on the image confirm that it's NOT a painting, but rather the result of unexplainable color changes to the top-most fibers of the cactus cloth. Furthermore, the survival of the tilma itself is considered inexplicable as the lifespan of this type of cloth is normally about twenty years, yet the tilma has remained perfectly intact for almost five hundred years despite its earlier exposure to harsh conditions (e.g. burning candles), which should've contributed to its speedy deterioration.



  1. Beautiful pictures and very informative.
    Thank you Anna

  2. I <3 Our Lady of Guadelupe!! :o)

    Thanks for posting about her!!

    For Love of Cupcakes