Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 28, St. Juan Diego

Saint Juan Diego
By Ellen Scarano

I chose St. Juan Diego because he is the patron saint of my third grade class at All Saints Catholic School.

St. Juan Diego was born in 1474 near Mexico City.  His feast day is December 9.  He was canonized on July 31, 2002.  He was a farmer, a landowner and a weaver.  He had to walk 15 miles every day to Mass.  

His story goes something like this: Once upon a time Juan Diego was coming home from church and he saw Mary!  She told him to tell the bishop to build a church in that very spot.  Juan Diego went to the bishop and told him.  The bishop did not believe him and wanted proof.  Juan Diego went back to Mary and told her.  She said to come back tomorrow and get some roses at that spot.  That night Juan Diego’s uncle got very sick.  Juan Diego went a different way to get the priest but Mary found him and told him his uncle would be fine and to go up the hill and get the flowers.  He climbed the hill and picked up some very colorful roses in his cloak.  He brought them to the bishop, the bishop was amazed because it was wintertime and the kind of rose was a kind of rose that does not grow in Mexico.  When he dropped the roses a picture of Mary was on his cloak.  That’s the bishop’s proof, so he built a church right away and they lived happily ever after.  

St. Juan Diego’s cloak, which still has the image of the Virgin Mary on it, is in the church Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. Juan Diego was made a saint because after the church was built, so many Mexicans were converted to Christianity. St. Juan Diego was the first native saint in the Americas.  He lived the first 50 years of his life following the traditions of his native people.  His original name was Cuauhtlatoatzin, which means, “talking eagle” in the Nahuatl language.  After the Spanish invasion of Mexico by Hernan Cortes in 1521 missionaries brought Christianity to Mexico.  Cuauhtlatoatzin and his wife welcomed the Franciscan missionaries and were among the first to be baptized in 1524 or 1525.  Cuauhtlatoatzin took the Christian name Juan Diego and his wife took the name Maria Lucia.  Maria Lucia became sick and died in 1529.  After Maria Lucia died St. Juan Diego lived with his uncle.  St. Juan Diego saw the Virgin Mary for the first time on December 9, 1531.  He was 57.  After the church was built, St. Juan Diego was allowed to live near the church and he got special permission from the bishop to receive Holy Communion three times a week and that was very unusual then.  He lived as a hermit and cared for the chapel and the first pilgrims who came to pray there until he died on May 30, 1548 at the age of 74. 

Pope John Paul II recognized St. Juan Diego as a model of humility.  Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego were very important in bringing Christianity to the different native people of Mexico.  In the seven years that followed the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe the native people of Mexico accepted the Spaniards and 8 million people became Catholic.  Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego are both now strong symbols of the Mexican nation and heritage.

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