Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. Isaiah 40:29-31
Juan Diego, a native of Mexico, was born in 1474. Because his father died when he was just a small boy, his uncle took him into his home to raise him and the two grew very close. Later, Juan married Maria Lucia and, when Franciscan missionaries arrived around 1524, Juan and Maria were among the first Catholic converts. Strongly committed to his new faith, Juan yearned to learn as much as he could about it. He walked long distances to receive religious education at the Franciscan Mission.
In 1531, Juan Diego was hurrying to Mass to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which was celebrated on December 9 in the Spanish Empire.
On his way, he stopped abruptly at the sight of a most beautiful woman who introduced herself in his native language as the “ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God.” She told Juan Diego that she was his mother, too, and the mother of all who lived in his land. Then she asked Juan to go to the local bishop to ask him to build a chapel in her honor on Tepeyac Hill.
As Mary requested, Juan Diego asked the bishop to build the chapel, but the bishop had doubts and said he would have to think about it. So Juan, seeing the Blessed Mother later that day, explained to her that he was not an important man and that someone else would have a better chance of success. But Mary wanted Juan, and he was obedient.
So, the next day he returned to the bishop who then requested proof that the apparition was real. Juan went straight to where he encountered Mary before, and met her again. He told her what the bishop wanted, and she said she would give him the proof he needed the next day, December 11. But the next day, Juan’s beloved uncle became very sick, so he cared for him and missed his meeting with Mary.
When Juan set out to find a priest for his uncle on December 12th, the Virgin appeared to him for the 4th time. She asked him what was wrong. Juan explained, and Mary said, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” She promised to heal his uncle. Juan believed her. His dear Mother also provided him with proof so the bishop, too, would believe: the rose-filled cloak with the miraculous image of herself on its fabric. Upon his return, Juan found his uncle fully restored to health.
The Aztecs, who had been deeply suspicious of the religion of their Spanish conquers, trusted Juan Diego one of their own. He became a lay catechist telling and re-telling his story of the miraculous apparitions. What followed was the largest mass conversion of people since the end of the apostolic age. And the person who led his people to Christ and his mother, remained a humble, prayerful man of God until his death, never growing faint in faith.
St. Juan Diego is our eleventh Ornament of Grace.
Observing the Beautiful Ornaments
Are you willing, even without an important title, to speak truth to power? How?
How does prayer give you the strength you need to continue when life is difficult?