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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Juan, the Poor Ambassador Chosen to Call Landless & Homeless Peoples Home

December 12th is the day of annual celebration in Mexican culture of the Virgin Maria de Guadalupe. As history retells the story, it all began with a poor Indian farmer by the name of Juan. He was born around 1474 in the village of Cuautitlan. He was a Chichimeca of the Family of Texcoco. His Indian name was Cuauhtlatoatzin that means "He who talks like an eagle". Juan converted to Christianity around 1525 and was baptized, together with his wife, Maria Lucia, by the Franciscan missionary Friar Toribio de Benavente.

Juan Diego lived before and after the Spanish Conquest of 1521. The Conquest was an apocalyptic event for the indigenous peoples. They lost their freedom, their land, their religion, their culture, their society and their great city of Tenochtitlan, present day Mexico City. Juan's life bridged two cultures from the pre-Conquest worship of false gods and the human sacrifices made to appease them to the post-Conquest worship of the one true God and the end of human sacrifice.

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.” It was here he received from Mary the fresh roses growing in winter and delivered them to the bishop as a sign. A miraculous image of Mary appeared on his tilma upon releasing the roses to the floor of the bishop’s residence.

Juan Diego spent hours in prayer to Jesus and Mary and cared for her Image. He lived a life of poverty, chastity and obedience and was revered by all. He died in 1548 at the age of 74 and was probably buried in his hermitage next to the chapel that he had cared for so well.

In his poverty, Juan Diego was chosen to herald the Son of God to the now landless and homeless indigenous peoples. Our Lady was true to her promise and manifested her Son to the millions of native people who converted to Him. For the next seventeen years Juan lived as a humble hermit in a hermitage at the base of Tepeyac Hill and cared for the nearby church that housed the tilma with Mary’s image emblazoned on it.

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