St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin – 09 November
He was born in about 1474 in Cuauhtitlan in the kingdom of Texcoco, part of present-day Mexico. As an adult he embraced Christianity and he and his wife were baptized. In 1531 the Mother of God appeared to him, on the hill called Tepeyac near Mexico City, and told him to ask the bishop to have a church built on the spot. Through the purity of his faith, his humility and his fervour, a church was built, in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe (whose feast is celebrated on 12 December). He left everything and devoted himself to the care of the sanctuary and the reception of pilgrims until his death in 1548.
Pope John Paul II at the beatification of Saint Juan Diego, 6 May 1990
At the dawn of Mexican evangelization Saint Juan Diego holds a place all by himself; according to tradition, his indigenous name was Cuauhtlatohuac, “The eagle who speaks”. His lovable figure is inseparable from the Guadalupe event, the miraculous maternal manifestation of the Virgin, Mother of God, both in iconographicand literary memorials as well as in the centuries-old devotion which the Mexican Church has shown for this Indian so loved by Mary. Similar to ancient Biblical personages who were collective representations of all the people, we could say that Juan Diego represents all the indigenous peoples who accepted the Gospel of Jesus, thanks to the maternal aid of Mary, who is always inseparable from the manifestation of her Son and the spread of the Church, as was her presence among the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.
The information about him that has reached us praises his Christian virtues: his simple faith, nourished by catechesis and open to the mysteries; his hope and trust in God and in the Virgin; his love, his moral coherence, his unselfishness and evangelical poverty. Living the life of a hermit here near Tepeyac, he was a model of humility. The Virgin chose him from among the most humble as the one to receive that loving and gracious manifestation of hers which is the Guadalupe apparition. Her maternal face and her Saint image which she left us as a priceless gift is a permanent remembrance of this. In this manner she wanted to remain among you as a sign of the communion and unity of all those who were to live together in this land. The recognition of the cult which for centuries has been paid to the layman Juan Diego takes on a special importance. It is a strong call to all the lay faithful of this nation to assume all their responsibilities, for passing on the Gospel message and witnessing to one faith active and working in the sphere of Mexican society.
From this privileged spot of Guadalupe, ever-faithful heart of Mexico, I wish to call on all the Mexican laity, to commit themselves more actively to the re-evangelization of society. The lay faithful share in the prophetic, priestly and royal role of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, 31), but they carry out this vocation in the ordinary situations of daily life. Their natural and immediate field of action extends to all the areas of human coexistence and to everything that constitutes culture in the widest and fullest sense of the term. As I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici: “In order to achieve their task directed to the Christian animation of the temporal order, in the sense of serving persons and society, the lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in public life, that is, in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good” (n. 42). Catholic men and women of Mexico, your Christian vocation is, by its very nature, a vocation to the apostolate (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem, 3).
Therefore, you cannot remain indifferent before the suffering of your brothers and sisters: before the poverty, corruption and outrages committed against the truth and human rights. You must be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Matthew 5:13-14). Thus the Lord says once more to us today: “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Juan Diego too shines before you, raised by the Church to the honours of the altar; we can invoke him as the protector and the advocate of the indigenous peoples.