St Juan Diego
How It All Began...
Based on Nican Mopohua (meaning "Herein is related...") by Antonio Valeriano:
It all happened at dawn one Saturday on December 9 1531 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a native Mexican Indian called Juan Diego.
Juan Diego was on his way to his Catechism class in Tlatelolco, having been converted to Catholicism. He was originally from Cuauhtitlan, but lived with his uncle, Juan Bernardino, when his wife died. They lived in Tulpetlac and 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 sung by the birds and a voice calling him to go up Tepeyac Hill where he saw a radiant lady who tenderly called him Juanito. She said:
"I am the Always Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God. Deeply and intensely do I desire that a temple be raised here. Here I shall show, manifest, and give all my love, my compassion, my help, and my protection to mankind. I am truly your compassionate mother; yours and all those who live united in this land; and of all the other peoples who are my loving ones, who cry to me, who seek me, and who trust in me. Here I shall listen to their weeping and sadness in order to remedy and alleviate their many sorrows, needs and miseries."
The lovely lady then told Juan Diego to go to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, the Bishop of Mexico, and tell him that she wanted a temple built right where she had appeared. Unfortunately, Juan Diego wasn't received well at the Bishop's residence and the Bishop himself didn't believe him. Sadly, he 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, my dearest son, it is very necessary that you yourself go and plead that my will be obeyed."
Juan Diego returned to the Bishop, was interrogated and again rebuffed. This time though Bishop Zumarraga asked for a sign but did not tell Juan Diego what sign he wanted. When Juan went back to Tepeyac Hill, the Bishop told his servants to follow him, but they lost sight of him along the way. Juan informed the Blessed Virgin that the Bishop wanted a sign from her, she said:
"You shall come here tomorrow so that you an 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 other 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.