Thursday, December 9, 2010


Today the Church celebrates the memory of St. Juan Diego. Born Cuauhtlatoatzin (“Talking Eagle”), he took the Christian name Juan Diego at his baptism. On December 9, 10, and 12, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary (since then invoked under the title Our Lady of Guadalupe) appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac hill, near the old Aztec imperial city Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City).

Speaking to Juan Diego, Mary identified heerself as "the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God who is the Author of life, the Creator of all things, the Lord of heaven and earth, present everywhere." She asked "that here, there be raised to me a temple in which, as a loving mother I shall show my tender clemency and the compassion I feel for the natives and for those who love and seek me, for all who implore my protection, who call on me in their labors and afflictions: and in which I shall hear their weeping and their supplications that I may give them consolation and relief.”

The famous image, which miraculously appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak (tilma), has been venerated ever since in the magnificent shrine in Mexico City near the site of the event. In 1988, in the course of a summer spent studying in Guadalajara, I had the privilege of venerating the miraculous picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Basilica in Mexico City. Fifteen years later, in 2003, I was present in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral when a small, half-inch square relic of St. Juan Diego’s tilma was exposed for veneration. The only known such relic in the United States, it was originally a gift from the Archbishop of Mexico to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1941, and in recent years has been displayed in various U.S. cities in commemoration of Juan Diego’s canonization in 2002.

In his homily on that occasion, Pope John Paul II said “Guadalupe and Juan Diego have a deep ecclesial and missionary meaning and are a model of perfectly inculturated evangelization. … In accepting the Christian message without forgoing his indigenous identity, Juan Diego discovered the profound truth of the new humanity, in which all are called to be children of God.”

In 1531, Mary asked for a church to be built. Almost immediately, the Church began to be built among the peoples of this continent, calling and forming disciples throughout North and South America. Under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the building of the Church continues on this continent - inspired by the example of St. Juan Diego to be constantly more evangelizing and more missionary.

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