Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Saint Juan Diego was born in 1474 as Cuauhtlatoatzin, in Mexico. He became the first Roman Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas. He was a Chichimec peasant and Marian visionary and is said to have been granted apparitions of the Virgin Mary on four occasions in December 1531: three at the hill of Tepeyac and a fourth before don Juan de Zumárraga, then bishop of Mexico.

Following the early death of his father, Juan Diego was taken to live with his uncle. Juan was recognized for his religious fervour, his respectful and gracious attitude toward the Virgin Mary.

In 1524, when a group of Franciscan missionaries arrived in Mexico, Juan and his wife Maria Lucia were converted to Catholicism and were among the first to be baptized in the region. Juan Diego was very committed to his new life and would walk long distances to receive religious instruction at the Franciscan mission station at Tlatelolco.

On December 9, 1531, Juan was in a hurry to make it to Mass and celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. On the way, he was stopped by the beautiful sight of a radiant woman who introduced herself as the "ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honour to be the mother of the true God."

Mary told Juan that she was the mother of all those who lived in his land and asked him to make a request to the local bishop. She wanted them to build a chapel in her honour there on Tepeyac Hill, which was the site of a former pagan temple.

Juan approached Bishop Juan de Zumarraga and told him about the apparition. However, the Bishop had doubts and he told Juan to give him time to reflect on the news.

Later the same day, Juan encountered the Virgin Mary a second time and told her that he failed in granting her request. He tried to explain to her that he was not an important person, and therefore not the one for the task, but she instead he was the man she wanted.

Juan returned to the bishop the next day and repeated his request, but now the bishop asked for proof or a sign the apparition was real and truly of heaven.

He went straight to Tepeyac and, once again, encountered the Virgin Mary. After explaining to her what the bishop asked, she agreed and told him she'd provide him with proof on the next day, December 11.

However, on that day, his uncle became very sick, and he had to stay and care for him. Juan set out the next to find a priest for his uncle. He took a different route and didn't want to face the Virgin Mary with shame for missing the previous day's meeting. But the Virgin Mary intercepted and asked him what was wrong. He explained his situation and promised to return after he found his uncle a priest.

She looked at him and asked, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” She promised him his uncle would be cured and asked him to climb to the hill and collect the flowers growing there. He obeyed and found many flowers blooming in December on the rocky land. He filled his tilma (cloak) with flowers and returned to Mary.

The Virgin Mary arranged the flowers within his cloak and told him this would be the sign he is to present to the bishop. Once Juan Diego found the bishop, he opened his cloak, and the bishop was presented with a miraculous imprinted image of the Virgin Mary on the flower-filled cloak.

Juan’s uncle was fully healed from his illness and Virgin Mary appeared to him too. She also instructed him on her desires to have a church built on Tepeyac Hill, but she also told him she wanted to be known with the title of Guadalupe.

The bishop first kept Juan's imprinted cloak in his private chapel, but then placed it on public display in the church built on Tepeyac Hill the next year.

The first miracle surrounding the cloak occurred during the procession to Tepeyac Hill when a participant was shot in the throat by an arrow shot in celebration. After being placed in front of the miraculous image of Mary, the man was healed.

Juan Diego moved into a little hermitage on Tepeyac Hill and lived a solidarity life of prayer and work. He remained there until his death on December 9, 1548, 17 years after the first apparition.

During the revolutions in Mexico, at the beginning of the 20th century, nonbelievers attempted to destroy the Image with an explosion. The altar’s marble steps, the flower-holders, and the basilica windows were all very damaged, but the pane of glass protecting the Image was not even cracked.

Juan Diego's imprinted cloak has remained perfectly preserved from 1531 to present time. The "Basilica of Guadalupe" on Tepeyac Hill has become one of the world's most-visited Catholic shrines.

St. Juan Diego was beatified on May 6, 1990, by Pope John Paul II and canonized on July 31, 2002.

Other Saints of the Day
1. Saint Balda
2. Saint Cyprian
3. Saint Gorgonia
4. Saint Peter Fourier
5. Saint Restitutus

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