Juan Diego lived nearly 500 years ago in Mexico. He was a poor farmer who worked hard to support himself and his wife. At the age of 50, he and his wife were among the first to believe in Jesus and be baptized into the Catholic faith in Mexico. He was given the Christian name Juan, which is Spanish for John.
Juan was very devoted to his faith, and walked 14 miles several times a week to attend Mass. Being a poor man, Juan walked barefoot, clothed in a cape , or "tilma", made of fibers from a cactus.
One day, on his way to Mass, Juan heard lovely music coming from the top of Tepeyac Hill. Then he heard a woman’s voice say clearly, “Juan! Little Juan Diego!” He immediately climbed the hill. At the top he found a beautiful lady, dressed like an Aztec princess. She told Juan that she was the Virgin Mary and that she wanted a church to be built on the spot where they stood. She asked Juan to bring that message to his local Bishop. Juan delivered the message but the Bishop didn't believe that the Blessed Mother would appear to someone so lowly as Juan? He asked for a sign that it was truly Mary.
As Juan was preparing to meet with the beautiful Lady again to ask for a sign, he heard that his uncle was very sick. Instead of meeting the Lady as she had asked him to, Juan hurried to find a priest so his uncle could receive the sacraments one last time before he died.
Our Lady found Juan as he traveled, assured him that his uncle would not die at this time and told him to go to the hillside to gather flowers in his tilma as the sign the bishop had asked for.
It was winter and too cold for flowers to be growing, but Juan did as he was told. There, at the top of the hill, he found the most beautiful roses he had ever seen! He gathered the roses in his tilma and presented them to the Bishop as a gift from Mary. As he opened his tilma and the flowers spilled out, everyone was amazed that the image of Mary herself was imprinted on his cloak.
Juan’s tilma still hangs in the Basilica that was built as the Blessed Mother instructed. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe remains miraculously preserved on Juan’s tilma and millions of people visit it every year. It has been studied by many church officials and scientists, who all agree that the image could not have been made by human hands at the time that Juan Diego lived.
Juan lived out his life in a hut built next the church. He died at age 74 and was canonized in 2002. He was the first indigenous American Saint. His feast day is December 9th and we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron of the Americas on December 12th each year.