Our Lady Speaks to Juan
Illustrated by Candace J Hardy
The Saturday morning air was cool. Juan Diego slipped his tilma--a cloak--over his shoulders and began his faithful trek to Mass. It was only a few weeks until the Nativity of our Lord, 1531. Juan was a recent convert to the Catholic Church. He did not worship the false gods that most Aztec people in Mexico did.
On his way to church, he always walked by Tepeyac hill. This was the place of an old temple to the Aztec mother god Tonantzin. This day, Juan heard music and a lady’s voice speaking to him in his native language. She called him "Juan Diego," his Christian name, and told him to go to the top of the hill.
He hiked to the summit and was amazed to see a young woman. A bright light surrounded her. She told him that she was the "ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God." She also told him that she wished for a church to be built on that hill. She wanted him to tell the bishop, Juan de Zumárraga, in Tenochtitlán right away.
Juan had never ventured to Tenochtitlán. But he did so courageously on behalf of the Virgin Mary. Finally, after waiting a long time to see the bishop, Juan got his chance. He told about the encounter with the Virgin Mary and her request for a church. The bishop was not convinced that any of it was true. He told Juan that he’d think it over.
Juan was very disappointed in his lack of success. He traveled back to Tepeyac to tell the Virgin about his failed attempt. Mary assured him that he was the one she had chosen for this task, and that he needed to try again.
The next day, Sunday, December 10th, Juan traveled to Tenochtitlán a second time. After listening to the tale, the bishop decided that there might be something to Juan’s story. But the bishop still demanded that Juan bring him proof, so Juan ran back to Tepeyac.
Mary told him that the bishop would get his sign, but that Juan would have to return in the morning.
Juan was unable to see the Virgin Mary for two days. He was very busy nursing his ailing uncle, Juan Bernardino, who was close to dying. Juan went to fetch a priest to administer Last Rites on Tuesday, December 12. He had to pass by Tepeyac, and who should be waiting for him but Mary?
Mary told him that his uncle was going to be fine, so a priest wouldn’t be needed. Mary also told Juan that he could collect his sign for the bishop. These were Castilian roses in full bloom, most certainly out of season. Juan gathered the flowers in his tilma--the cape he wore made out of cactus fiber. Mary herself rearranged the flowers and sent Juan Diego back to the bishop with the sign.
When he returned to the bishop, Juan opened his tilma. Out spilled all the roses. The bishop and other witnesses knelt in awe--not at the roses, but at the picture of the Virgin Mary that was imprinted on the tilma.
Illustration © 2009 Candace J. Hardy
The cape imprint shows a young Blessed Virgin Mary, pregnant with Jesus. Her face appears to be native or mixed race. Her dress is that of Aztec royalty, showing she is a queen. The tilma shows Mary bordered by sunrays. In Revelations Chapter 12, a pregnant Mary, Queen of Heaven, is portrayed as the woman clothed with the sun.
When Juan was showing the bishop the sign, Mary appeared to Juan’s uncle. She told him that his nephew had carried her picture to the bishop. Mary also told him to call her and this picture Santa Maria de Guadalupe.
Why did Our Lady use the term 'Guadalupe'? Some say that it’s a mispronunciation of the Aztec word "coatlallope." This means "one who treads on snakes." The term can certainly describe Mary, as written in Genesis 3:15. God, when talking to the serpent, says that he will put a wedge between serpents and woman. The woman and her offspring will strike at the snake’s head. The snake is often a symbol for Satan.
A church was built on Tepeyac Hill as Mary had requested. Many pilgrims--both Mexican and Spanish--came to visit. Six million Aztecs were baptized in the six years following this event. Mary brought a powerful message to Mexico’s native and mixed race peoples – to stop worshipping false gods. Her son Jesus is the one and true God. All people, of all races, belong to Him.
You who were chosen
by Our Lady of Guadalupe
as an instrument to show your people
and the world
that the way of Christianity is one of love,
compassion, understanding, values, sacrifices,
repentance of our sins,
appreciation and respect for God's creation,
and most of all, one of humility and obedience;
You whom we know is now in the Kingdom
of the Lord and close to our Mother;
Be our angel and protect us,
stay with us as we struggle
in this modern life,
often not knowing where to set our priorities;
Help us to pray to our God
to obtain the gifts of the Holy Spirit,
and use them for the good of humanity
and the good of our Church,
through the Heart of Our Lady of Guadalupe
to the Heart of Jesus.
Born: July 12th, 1474 ~ Died: May 30th, 1548
(Dates of birth and death as cited by other sources. These may not be verifiable.)
Feast Day: December 9th
Notable: Controversy arose in 1996 when Father Guillermo Schulenburg, abbot of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe questioned whether Juan Diego had ever actually existed. The Vatican commissioned 30 researchers from various countries to investigate, and they determined that Juan did exist. They presented their findings to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints on October 28th, 1998. First indigenous American saint. By special permission of the bishop, Juan received Eucharist three times a week, a very unusual occurrence in those days.
Canonized By: Pope John Paul II on July 31st, 2002