Advent: December 9th
Little is known about the life of Juan Diego before his conversion, but
tradition, and archaelogical and iconographical sources, along with the
most important and oldest indigenous document on the event of Guadalupe,
"El Nican Mopohua" (written in Náhuatl with Latin characters, 1556, by
the Indigenous writer Antonio Valeriano), give some information on the
life of the saint and the apparitions.
Juan Diego was born in 1474 with the name "Cuauhtlatoatzin" ("the
talking eagle") in Cuautlitlán, today part of Mexico City, Mexico. He
was a gifted member of the Chichimeca people, one of the more culturally
advanced groups living in the Anáhuac Valley.
When he was 50 years old, he was baptized by a Franciscan priest, Fr.
Peter da Gand, one of the first Franciscan missionaries. On December 9,
1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother
appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico
City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request in her name that a
shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace
upon those who invoked her. The Bishop, who did not believe Juan Diego,
asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was true. On December 12,
Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. Here, the Blessed Mother told him to
climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He
obeyed, and although it was winter time, he found roses blooming. He
gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady, who carefully placed
them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof".
When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and there
remained impressed, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed
Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.
With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a
hermit in a small hut near the chapel, where the miraculous image was
placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first
pilgrims, who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus.
Much deeper than the exterior grace of having been chosen as Our Lady's
messenger, Juan Diego received the grace of interior enlightenment, and
from that moment, he began a life dedicated to prayer and the practice
of virtue and boundless love of God and neighbour. He died in 1548 and
was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He
was beatified on May 6, 1990, by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of
Santa Maria di Guadalupe, Mexico City.
The miraculous image, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of
Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is
supported by an angel, whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major
gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her
feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle
about her waist signifies that she is pregnant. Thus, the image
graphically depicts the fact that Christ is to be "born" again among the
peoples of the New World and is a message as relevant to the "New
World" today as it was during the lifetime of Juan Diego.