History of St. Juan Diego
Juan Diego, born in 1474 in Cuautitlán, Mexico, was the first indigenous saint from the Americas. Not much is known about his early life, but at 50 years old, he and his wife Maria Lucia were among the first people to be baptized into Christianity after Spanish missionaries brought the religion to Mexico. Juan Diego is most recognized for receiving a series of apparitions from the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The first apparition of the Blessed Mother to Juan Diego occurred on December 9, 1531, while he was on his way to Mass. Mary directed him to ask the Bishop to build a shrine in her honor on Tepeyac Hill, now Mexico City. Franciscan Bishop Juan de Zumárraga was unimpressed by Juan Diego’s story and the Lady’s request.
Feeling defeated, Juan Diego went back to the hill, where Mary appeared to him a second time. Juan Diego told her there might be someone more worthy for this task. She assured him that he was the one meant for this mission and told him to go back to the Bishop with her request.
On the morning of Sunday December 10th, Juan Diego went back to Bishop Zumárraga, who still did not believe him, and asked for proof of Juan Diego’s claims. Upon returning to Tepeyac Hill, Mary told him to come back the following day for a sign to show the Bishop. However, Juan Diego could not return the next day, as he was caring for his dying uncle.
Juan Diego saw the Blessed Mother a fourth time on December 12th while on his way to get a priest to bless his dying uncle. Mary told Juan Diego not to worry about his uncle and that he would be healthy again. She told him to go pick the blooming roses at the top of the hill; she arranged the flowers in Juan Diego’s cloak and told him to bring them to the Bishop.
As Juan Diego presented the out-of-season roses to the Bishop, the roses fell to the floor, revealing an imprint of the Blessed Mother on his cloak. The Bishop fell to his knees in wonder and allowed Juan Diego to build the shrine.
Lastly, Mary appeared to Juan Bernardino, Juan Diego’s dying uncle. She told him he would get better and also told him of the mission she had sent his nephew to accomplish. In this final apparition, she declared that she was to be called “Virgin Saint Mary of Guadalupe.”
The news of these events spread fast, and within seven years millions of Mexican natives converted to Catholicism.
Juan Diego lived out the rest of his days in a small hut nearby the chapel on Tepeyac Hill, taking care of the shrine and welcoming visitors until his death in 1548.
Juan Diego was beatified on May 6, 1990 and then canonized on July 31, 2002 by Pope John Paul II at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico. In his homily, Pope John Paul II said, “Beloved Juan Diego, ‘the talking eagle’! Show us the way that leads to the ‘Dark Virgin’ of Tepeyac, that she may receive us in the depths of her heart, for she is the loving, compassionate Mother who guides us to the true God. Amen.”