St Juan Diego
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How It All Began...
The following story is a condensed version based on one of the English translations of the Nican Mopohua (meaning "Herein is related...") by Antonio Valeriano, written in Nahuatl - the language spoken by Juan Diego and the Aztecs:
It all happened at dawn one Saturday on 9 December 1531 when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a native Mexican Indian called Juan Diego. Back then, it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Juan Diego was on his way to his Catechism class in Tlatilolco, having been converted to Catholicism. He was originally from Cuauhtitlan, but lived in Tulpetlac with his uncle, Juan Bernardino, when his wife died. Because of the distance he had to travel for his Cathechism classes, he would take a shortcut via Tepeyac Hill.
On this day, he heard beautiful music, seemingly sung by the birds and a voice calling him to go up Tepeyac Hill where he saw a radiant lady, shining like the sun, who tenderly called him Juanito. She said:
"Know, know for sure, my dearest and youngest son, that I am the perfect, ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the God of Truth through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near us, the Lord of heaven and earth. I want very much to have a little house built here for me, in which I will show Him, I will exalt Him and make Him manifest. I will give him to the people in all my personal love, in my compassion, in my help, in my protection; because I am truly your merciful mother, yours and all the people who live united in this land and of all the other people of different ancestries, my lovers, who love me, those who seek me, those who trust in me. Here, I will hear their weeping, their complaints and heal their sorrows, hardships and sufferings. And to bring about what my compassionate and merciful concern is trying to achieve, you must go to the residence of the Bishop of Mexico and tell him that I sent you to show him how strongly I wish him to build me a temple here on the plain; you will report to him exactly all you have seen, admired and what you have heard.
Juan Diego then went to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, to tell him exactly what the radiant Lady said and that she wanted a temple built for her. Unfortunately, the Bishop didn't believe him and told Juan to come back since he was going to consider carefully what he had just heard. Sadly, Juan returned to Our Lady and asked her to choose another person of noble background as he was just a poor and humble Indian. Our Lady answered:
"Listen to me, my youngest and dearest son, know for sure that I do not lack servants and messengers to whom I can give the task of carrying out my words, who will carry out my will. But it is very necessary that you plead my cause and, with your help and through your mediation, that my will be fulfilled. My youngest and dearest son, I urge and firmly order you to go to the Bishop again tomorrow. Tell him in my name and make him fully understand my intention that he start work on the chapel I'm requesting. Tell him again that I am the ever Virgin, Holy Mary, the Mother of God, who is sending you."
Juan Diego returned to the Bishop the following day, was interrogated and this time, Bishop Zumarraga asked for a sign that the message actually came from Our Lady. Juan went back to Tepeyac Hill to relay the Bishop's request. This time the Bishop told his servants to follow Juan, but they lost sight of him along the way. When Juan informed the Blessed Virgin that the Bishop wanted a sign from her, she said:
"You shall come here tomorrow so that you can take the sign to the bishop."
Juan, however, couldn't return because when he got home he found his uncle, Juan Bernardino, seriously ill and had to care for him. As his illness got worse, his uncle requested him to get a priest so he could go to Confession. The following day at dawn, while on his way to Tlatelolco, Juan Diego realized that he would have to pass by Tepeyac Hill. Worried that he'd meet the Blessed Virgin who had earlier asked him to take the sign to the Bishop, he went around the eastern side of the hill. He was so surprised to see her on the road. She said:
"Hello, my son, my little one! Where are you going?"
Juan was really embarrassed and replied, "Lovely Virgin, my uncle is very seriously ill and he is about to die. I'm going quickly to call one of our priests to confess him. But, as soon as I finish, I will return here to go carry your word." Our Lady replied:
"Listen, my dearest son, the thing that concerns you is nothing: do not fear this sickness or any other sickness. Am I not here, your mother? Are you not under my protection? Do not let anything concern you, do not feel sad due to your uncle's sickness, he will not die of it now. You must be certain that he is already well."
Juan Diego was relieved by what she said. He was to learn later that the Blessed Virgin Mary had appeared to his uncle, who was healed at that very same moment. The Blessed Virgin then instructed him:
"Go up, my dearest son, to the top of the hill, where you saw me and I gave you my orders. There you will see that there are different kinds of flowers; cut them and then bring them here into my presence."
As soon as Juan Diego reached the top of Tepeyac Hill, he was amazed at the sight of beautiful flowers blooming in the middle of winter. Tepeyac Hill was also known to have arid soil where only cacti and native plants grew. He did as he was told, cut the flowers and returned to the lovely Lady, who arranged the flowers on his tilma. She said:
"My dearest son, these different kinds of flowers are my proof and I strictly order you that you open your ayate only in the presence of the Bishop."
When he reached the Bishop's house he was again taunted by the Bishop's servants, but he insisted on showing what was inside his tilma only to the Bishop. As soon as he was in front of Bishop Zumarraga, he held out his tilma and Castilian roses fell onto the floor. Juan Diego was surprised when Bishop Zumarraga and those around him fell on their knees. He then saw the Blessed Virgin Mary's image imprinted on his tilma. The Bishop took his tilma and placed it in the chapel.
Juan Bernardino later testified to the Bishop that Our Lady of Guadalupe had also appeared to him and he was cured of his serious illness. He told the Bishop that the Blessed Virgin had said that she wanted her image named THE ALWAYS HOLY VIRGIN, MARY OF GUADALUPE. This apparition was apparently a very important proof of the veracity of this whole story because the native Indians were known to have deep respect for their elders.
Bishop Zumarraga kept Juan Diego's tilma with Our Lady of Guadalupe's Image in his chapel and immediately constructed a chapel on the slopes of Tepeyac Hill. Our Lady's Image was then transferred to this chapel and during the celebration, an Indian was killed when an arrow accidentally pierced his neck. The dead Indian was taken to Our Lady's Image and all the Aztecs and Spanish nobles present in the celebration begged Our Blessed Mother for help. He came back to life while the arrow was removed from his neck, leaving scars on either side as proof of this amazing miracle.
Our Lady's image was moved to various churches which were constructed to replace the previous buildings - see Our Lady's Gallery. They are all in close proximity to Tepeyac Hill. The present Basilica where Our Lady of Guadalupe's original Sacred Image is enshrined stands at the foot of the hill, too. All who come and pray before her image are blessed with wonderful personal miracles.
Throughout 480 years, we hear of miracles obtained through Our Lady of Guadalupe's intercession, the greatest of which is the conversion of 8 million Aztecs and other Indian tribes within a span of 7 years. Her miraculous Image has withstood the test of time - a nitric acid spill AND a bomb.
She waits for you to visit her anywhere she is enshrined.