On December 9, 1531, a Mexican native, Juan Diego, originally named Cuauhtlatoatzin, was hurrying along to make it on time to Holy Mass for the feast day of the Immaculate Conception when he received an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who spoke to him in his native language and who looked like he did — a Mexican native.
Our Lady addressed Juan Diego and told him: “Know for certain that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God.” The Blessed Mother stated that she was the mother of all those who live in his land and he should ask his bishop to build a chapel in her honor on Tepeyac Hill which was the sight of a former pagan temple.
It should be noted that the Virgin Mary was seen by Juan Diego as far along in her pregnancy with the Lord Jesus. Juan Diego’s bishop, of course, had doubts at first, but, as we know, the bishop becomes convinced by the remarkable tilma or cloak which bore Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image. A basilica was erected in Tepeyac Hill and remains to this day one of the most visited pilgrimages sites in the world.
Juan Diego was canonized a saint by Pope St. John Paul II in 2000 and Our Lady of Guadalupe has been declared as the Patroness of all the Americas, both North and South. What can we learn from the life of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe? Perhaps we can glean three things:
First, anyone who genuinely strives for holiness can be a saint. When Juan Diego’s plea to build a church was rejected by his bishop, Juan spoke to Our Lady of Guadalupe and explained that he was not an important man; he was only a simple peasant.
Yet Juan Diego was the man who Our Lady wanted to perform this important task. She did not appear to a wealthy person; she did not appear to the bishop; no, she appeared to a good, holy, simple man. All of us are called to holiness and sanctity.
Second, Mary is for everyone. When Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Saint Juan Diego, she spoke to him in own language. She looked like he did — a native of Mexico. Our Lady, our Mother, is for all peoples, in all cultures, in all languages, for all times.
Recall the words of loving reassurance that Our Lady of Guadalupe offered to St. Juan Diego: “No temas. ¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre ¿No estás bajo mi sombra?” (Don’t be afraid … Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and bosom?”) She says that to all of us, no matter from where we hail.
Third, Blessed Mary appears to St. Juan Diego far along in her pregnancy. Perhaps we can reclaim this feast as one in which we pray for a greater respect for the unborn.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of all the Americas. She is the Star of the New Evangelization. And, above all, she is our loving Madre. May she be loved and praised.