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Born: 1474
Died: 1548
FEast: Dec. 9th
Patron of:  
Indigenous People

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St. Juan Diego

Bio

 

 When Juan Diego was born in 1474, his given name was "Cuauhtlatoatzin", which means "talking eagle", and he lived in what is now Mexico City. His father died when he was young, so he went to live with his uncle. He was a very spiritual man in the Aztec religion, but when Franciscan missionaries arrived, he and his wife were among the very first group to be baptized Catholic. not much is mentioned about his wife in records, however, suggesting she may have passed away before Juan's apparition. It is also unclear whether or not he had any children.

Juan was very devoted to the faith, and would travel as far as he needed to learn more about it. It was in fact one morning while he was on his way (in a hurry) to Mass, on the outskirts of the city, that a radiant woman stopped him along the way and introduced herself to him in his own language as St. Mary. She told him that not only was she the mother of Jesus, but also the mother of all who lived in this land. She asked him also to build a chapel for her on the hill there, to serve as a place of peace for the distressed.

Juan took this request to the bishop, who did not believe him. When he encountered her again on his way back, he told her what the bishop had said, and that perhaps she needed to ask someone else to complete this mission - he did not think he was either worthy or capable enough. She refused, though, and said that she wanted only him.

Juan returned to the bishop at a later day to try again, and the bishop agreed this time if he would somehow be able to prove to him what he was seeing. When Juan encountered Mary again, she said she would give him a sign the next day.

That next day, however, his uncle fell very ill, and Juan had to stay to take care of him. Juan was distraught over the situation as he went to find a priest to look after his uncle, disappointed in missing his meeting with Mary as well. However, on his path, Mary appeared to him and asked him in his distress, "Am I not here, I who am your mother?" She told him that his uncle had already recovered while he was out, and asked him to instead climb the hill and gather flowers. It was not the time of year for flowers to be in bloom, and the hill usually only bore prickly shrubs and cactus, but Juan indeed found many flowers growing. He gathered them in his garment and returned to Mary, who blessed them and told him to bring them to the bishop.

When he arrived, he poured out the flowers, and they found the image of Mary on the cloth. All immediately believed him and agreed to his wishes.

He returned to his uncle the next day who was indeed cured. He told him about the miracle, and his uncle told him that he had seen Mary, too! She had told him to tell all of his miraculous cure and to back up his nephew's mission. She told him she was to be called "Guadalupe".

Juan Diego's cloak with Mary's image remained on display in a chapel and then the church while building proceeded on Tepeyac Hill. When the chapel was complete, a procession occurred to take the image to the hill. It was then that the first miracle surrounding the image occurred, when a participant was injured by an arrow and would have died but recovered fully in front of the image.

Juan Diego lived out the rest of his life on the hill, caring for the church and the people who made pilgrimages there.

The image is still on display there, and shows a young woman in native dress, who is likely pregnant and has wings that are similar to depictions of the wings of Aztec mythology. At the beginning of the 20th century, a bomb went off in the church in attempt to destroy the image, but though everything else was damaged, the image was not. It has since remained perfectly preserved.

In 2002, Pope John Paul II finally canonized Juan Diego, making him the first saint indigenous to the Americas, highlighting, in his speech, the beauty of Juan's faith that he was able to practice without losing his identity as an indigenous person.

Prayer

 

Your story is so important because it proves that God loves all people equally and that he has not forgotten the ones who are oppressed by humanity. That, in turn, proves to us that all people, regardless of heritage, place of birth, or color of skin must be treated as God‘s children. Show us how much we need diversity & How much we need each other. Amen.

Art Reflection

 

Juan Diego had quite a lot to process at once - and I wanted his face to show that. He holds the roses in his shirt right after realizing the image of Mary is imprinted on it. With this saint in particular, I wanted his clothing to be as representative of everyday, casual wear as possible. He had no idea what was about to happen, so he is wearing honest, casual things.

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