Saint Juan Diego, born in 1474 in Tlayacac, Cuauhtitlan—a region established in 1168 by Nahua tribes and later conquered by the Aztecs in 1467—lived a modest life as a weaver, farmer, and laborer. Situated 20 kilometers north of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), this area was rich in history and culture.
On the morning of December 9, 1531, Juan Diego embarked on a fifteen-mile journey to attend daily Mass in present-day Mexico City. As he neared Tepeyac Hill, he encountered an extraordinary sight: a radiant cloud surrounded by a rainbow and the sound of celestial music. A voice summoned him to the hilltop, where he witnessed a vision of a young woman, resembling an Aztec princess. She identified herself as the Virgin Mary and expressed her wish for a church to be constructed at that site, promising her presence and support to those who sought her.
Though initially met with skepticism by the bishop, Juan Diego was asked to provide evidence of this divine encounter. Amidst these events, Juan discovered his uncle was gravely ill. In his rush to find a priest, he missed his appointment with the Lady. However, she intercepted him, assuring him of his uncle’s miraculous recovery.
Instructed to gather flowers from the frozen hilltop, Juan Diego was astonished to find blooming Castilian roses, a species not native to Mexico. He collected them in his cloak and presented them to the bishop. As he unveiled the roses, an even more miraculous image was revealed: the glowing likeness of the Lady imprinted inside his cloak.
This event led to the construction of a church on the site and catalyzed the conversion of thousands to Christianity. Our Lady of Guadalupe was proclaimed the patroness of the Americas. Juan Diego, known for his profound love for the Holy Eucharist and granted the exceptional privilege of receiving it thrice weekly, passed away on May 30, 1548.
Pope John Paul II lauded Juan Diego for his humble and steadfast faith. He epitomized humility and devotion, once describing himself in his dialogue with the Virgin Mary as “a nobody, a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf,” thereby serving as an enduring example of humility and faithfulness.
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