First called Cuauhtlatohuac or Cuauhtlatoatzin (“The eagle who speaks”), Juan Diego’s name is forever linked with Our Lady of Guadalupe because it was to him that she first appeared at Tepeyac Hill on 9th December 1531. After the roses gathered in his tilma were transformed into the miraculous image of Our Lady, little more is recorded about Juan Diego.
During his 1990 pastoral visit to Mexico, Saint Pope John Paul confirmed the long-standing liturgical devotion to Juan Diego, beatifying him. Twelve years later the same pope proclaimed him a saint.
Thousands of people gathered in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on 31st July 2002, for the canonisation of Juan Diego. Saint Pope John Paul celebrated the ceremony at which the poor Indian peasant became the Church’s first saint indigenous to the Americas.
The Holy Father called the new saint “a simple, humble Indian” who accepted Christianity without giving up his identity as an Indian. “In praising the Indian Juan Diego, I want to express to all of you the closeness of the Church and the pope, embracing you with love and encouraging you to overcome with hope the difficult times you are going through,” John Paul said. Among the thousands present for the apparitions were members of Mexico’s 64 indigenous groups.
Juan Diego was a simple man of little means, but he lived and gave to the Lord what he had. He worked diligently in weaving mats, farming the land, and knew the true meaning of hard work throughout his life. When he was not working on Saturdays and Sundays, he would regularly walk around 15 miles just to receive catechesis and celebrate the Holy Mass.
Juan Diego endured many trials and suffering, even losing his wife to illness. Through it all, he kept his faith and sought the Lord even more. After his wife, Maria Lucia died, Juan changed his life to live closer to the church and help his ailing uncle, Juan Bernadino. When he needed to attend to his uncle who was dying, Juan Diego trusted in our Mother Mary to take care of Juan Bernadino in order to fulfil her request. Our Lady visited and healed Juan Bernadino.
Juan Diego believed he had nothing to offer or give, but he gave what the Lord asked of Him. He even ended up giving up his tilma to hold the Miraculous Image. He did not worry about whether Mary was going to give him a new one, he just offered without reserve.
After the Guadalupe apparitions, he gave everything to live near the chapel and stay focused on the Lord. Even then, Juan Diego remained a lay Catholic; giving what he could in the life, he was given.
In time, he lived near the shrine constructed at Tepeyac, revered as a holy, unselfish, and compassionate catechist, who taught by word and primarily by example.
The more we live-out faith in imitation of Juan Diego, the more intimately we can understand the words of our Blessed Mother shared with him.
“Let not your heart be disturbed…
Am I not here, who is your Mother?
Are you not under my protection?
Am I not your health?
Are you not happily within my fold?
What else do you wish?
Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”