This month (July, 2002) Pope John Paul II hopes to visit Tepeyac, near Mexico City, to canonize a 16th-century Indian whose influence on the religion of the New World was immense and continues to exceed that of any other human. Juan Diego is more well-known than any king, queen, bishop, missionary or conquistador of that era. Though famous personalities pass away, Juan Diego continues to live in the memory of the people.
Until recently, very little was known except that Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego in December 1531. The apparitions occurred at Tepeyac, a small hill and a former sanctuary to the Aztec goddess Tonanzin. Mary asked Juan Diego to request that the local bishop build a church on that site. There she could be present with all her love and compassion for “all the inhabitants of this land.”
Not believing Juan Diego at first, Bishop Juan Zumarraga asked for a heavenly sign. On the day Mary promised that Juan Diego would receive this sign, his uncle Juan Bernardino was dying of a disease introduced by the Europeans. Instead of going to the Lady for this sign, Juan Diego took another route, seeking a priest to hear his uncle’s confession.
The Lady appeared to him, assuring him that his uncle had been healed, and that on the top of Tepeyac hill Juan Diego would find what the bishop requested. Juan climbed the hill and found its summit covered with beautiful flowers of all colors. He cut the flowers; the Lady arranged them on his cloak of very coarse fiber, known as a tilma, and sent him off to the bishop.
When Juan unfolded the tilma before the bishop and his assistants, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on it. A visit to Juan Bernardino revealed that she had appeared to him, healed him and called herself “Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
This was the first of many miracles worked to this day through her intercession. Juan Diego saw and heard the Virgin; Juan Diego presented her to us on his tilma. Juan Diego told the story not only to the bishop but also to the thousands of people who began venerating the miraculous image. Juan Diego’s tilma and testimony have led millions to the Christian faith in America and beyond. Through his mediation, Christianity took on flesh in America, coming to life in a new way. Christianity no longer opposed the religious expressions of the natives to those of the newcomers but instead combined them in a fascinating way to enrich both.
In the hearts of the ordinary faithful, Juan Diego has always been considered a saint. After all, the Blessed Mother chose him as her beloved and cherished messenger. Precisely because he has served as a role model to Christians for centuries, Cardinal Ernesto Corripio Ahumada of Mexico City decided in 1984 to initiate the official process leading to canonization. For whatever reason, nobody had thought of doing the obvious: officially recognizing what the faithful knew in their hearts—Juan Diego is a saint!
Taken from: American

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