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Friday, December 9, 2011

Juan Diego and the Blessed Virgin

Last night on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, some of our committees united to to pray on a spectacular, giant, 500 foot long rosary that was made by my friend Maria M.  She's a spiritual powerhouse, packed into a tiny 4' 11" frame; proving to me once again that great things can manifest themselves in small packages.  Those who were gathered prayed the rosary in three languages: english, spanish and italian. It was marvelous.  Afterwards, anglo that I am, hung around to completely butcher the Marian hymns in spanish with those who remained.  Despite my lameness of skill at singing, speaking or even clapping in spanish, I am humbly reminded that I am part of a beautiful, rich family of faith.  How is this so?  Because we have a common Mother--the most exquisite of God's creations. She unites us all under her mantle of love, as my pastor beautifully recommends in his intentions.   I also realized that it was good for me to listen to the music being sung and lauded about Our Lady & God's grace; even though the words were in a language that I did not understand.  Why?  Because the language emanating from their hearts transcends words.  Their devotion surpasses the senses.  Just like little Bernadette Soubirous did not understand the words "I am the Immaculate Conception" spoken to her by the Blessed Virgin a few centuries ago, as it was way beyond her level of comprehension.  She was 14 years old and had no formal education; yet she somehow knew that it was important that these words reach her bishop .  Perhaps this is how we may someday come to appreciate the music of the angels and the songs of heaven.  Though God's ways are far above our own and Mary is the sublime Seat of Wisdom, the heart language is the common bond, the bridge between two shores.  


I am grateful for the rich spanish cultural influences that have helped shape my faith and graft me into a spiritual family.  I made a Cursillo back in May of 2000 as a 4 year-old fledgling Catholic.  It was in the rollo room of the Mt. Claret Center where I was introduced to Mary as my Mother and climbed our little version of Tepeyac Hill to the Madonna icon which adorned the mini summit; where I learned sweet songs like DeColores, Alabare and Ave, Ave, Ave Maria.  I brought home souvenir words like "mananitas" and "ultreya" and allowed myself to be serenaded by mariachis, (who's name coincides with Maria).  It was a letting go of sorts and as I learned to surrender some of my pride and familiarity, I experienced an appreciation for worshipping Our Lord through His Mother that I had never before known or recognized.  Their vibrant love for Our Lady melted me and made it possible for me to love her too, like a daughter. I am forever indebted to my spanish compatriots for their extraordinary passion to Our Lady. 


So it is fitting that today in the church we celebrate another extraordinary feast of a humble Mexican/Indian Man named Juan Diego.  May Our Blessed Mother's imprint be fixed onto your heart today just as the image was emblazoned onto his mantle; allowing us all to understand the perfect language of love that God longs to impart. I didn't know I was under the mantle back in 2000, but I sure knew that something different was going on.  Maybe a little bit like Juan Diego..."who is this aztec princess adorning me with Castilian Roses and emblazoning me with her image?  It is Mama. 
***
Juan Diego was born in 1474 in the calpulli or ward of Tlayacac in Cuauhtitlan, which was established in 1168 by Nahua tribesmen and conquered by the Aztec lord Axayacatl in 1467; and was located 20 kilometers (14 miles) north of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City).
On December 9, 1531, a native Mexican named Juan Diego rose before dawn to walk fifteen miles to daily Mass in what is nowMexico City. Juan lived a simple life as a weaver, farmer, and laborer. That morning, as Juan passed Tepeyac Hill, he heard music and saw a glowing cloud encircled by a rainbow. A woman's voice called him to the top of the hill. There he saw a beautiful young woman dressed like an Aztec princess. She said she was the Virgin Mary and asked Juan to tell the bishop to build a church on that site. She said, "I vividly desire that a church be built on this site, so that in it I can be present and give my love, compassion, help, and defense, for I am your most devoted mother . . . to hear your laments and to remedy all your miseries, pains, and sufferings."
The bishop was kind but skeptical. He asked Juan to bring proofof the Lady's identity. Before Juan could go back to the Lady, he found out his uncle was dying. Hurrying to get a priest, Juan missed his meeting with the Lady. The Lady, however, met him on his path and told him that his uncle had been cured.
She then told Juan to climb to the top of the hill where they first met. Juan was shocked to find flowers growing in the frozen soil. He gathered them in his cloak and took them at once to the bishop.
Juan told the bishop what had happened and opened his cloak. The flowers that fell to the ground were Castilian roses (which were not grown in Mexico). But the bishop's eyes were on the glowing image of the Lady imprinted inside Juan's cloak.
Soon after, a church was built on the site where our Lady appeared, and thousands converted to Christianity. Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared the patroness of the Americas.
He died on May 30, 1548, at the age of 74.

Juan Diego deeply loved the Holy Eucharist, and by special permission of the Bishop he received Holy Communion three times a week, a highly unusual occurrence in those times.

Pope John Paul II praised Juan Diego for his simple faith nourished by catechesis and pictured him (who said to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf”) as a model of humility for all of us. 

1 comment:

  1. Praise be to the Virgin of Guadalupe and thanks to Juan Diego for the graces and favors given to us who stand with Her image and honor Her in our homes.

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