The Ever-Virgin Saint Mary of Guadalupe and Juan Diego

Our Virgin of Guadalupe appears to Juan Diego | Courtesy of Wikimedia commons

It has been over a decade since the Spanish came to the New World and conquered it, forcing the inhabitants of the continent to accept Spanish rule and culture. Mexicans were still trying to connect themselves with this new Spanish religion after witnessing the death and destruction of their previous leaders and everything they believed in.

In this new society, there was a simple native Mexican born in Cuautitlán, who was just another person trying to adapt to the strict new rule of Spain and its religion. Juan Diego had a respectful but gracious demeanor towards the Virgin Mary, and also a devotion and love towards his very old uncle named Juan Bernardino. On December 9, 1531, at dawn on a Saturday morning, Juan Diego was on his way to mass at a Franciscan church in Tlatelolco. As he walked through the Hill of Tepeyac, he began to hear strains of music and voices singing at the top of the hill. Just after it had begun, the singing stopped and Juan Diego heard someone calling him from the peak of the hill, “Juanito, Little Diego.” When he reached the top of the hill, he saw a beautiful Lady standing there, asking for him to approach her. As he got closer, she exclaimed, “Juan, the smallest of my sons, where are you going?” Juan answered, “My Lady and my child, I have to go to your house in Tlatelolco.”1 Then she spoke:

“Know for certain, least of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, the true God, through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of Heaven and earth. It is my earnest wish that a temple is built here to my honor. Here I will demonstrate, I will manifest, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful Mother, the merciful mother of all of you who lives united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, and of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities, and misfortunes.”2

Miguel Cabrera, 18th Century | Juan Diego | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Without hesitation, Juan Diego accepted the quest and asked for the name of the Lady from Heaven. Shen then responded with the name “Tlecuatlecupe,” which sounds remarkably similar to “Guadalupe” when pronounced properly and also means “the one who crushes the head of the serpent” in the native language of Nahuatl.3

On the same day, Juan Diego went into the city of Tlatelolco and directly to the palace of the Bishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga. Juan Diego shared his experience from the presence of the Virgin and the message she had given him. The bishop answered, “You will come again, my child and I will listen to you more calmly. I will listen from the beginning and will think about the message you have brought.”4 Then Juan Diego traveled back to the hill of Tepeyac to meet the Virgin again, but he felt ashamed of his person as he knew he hadn’t convinced the bishop and had failed the Virgin’s mission. As the Virgin patiently waited for him, Juan Diego arrived at the hill and confessed to the Virgin what had happened with the Bishop. The Bishop had received him and carefully listened to Juan’s message, but he didn’t believe a word from what Juan said. He explained that he did everything she told him to do, but yet failed on his mission. Since Juan had failed his duty, he kindly asked for forgiveness and respectfully suggested to the Virgin for her to choose someone else for the task, someone more important and resilient than he was. After all, he was just a simple man of no importance or strength. The Virgin explained to Juan that she had chosen him and wanted him to complete this task for a reason. She kindly asked Juan again to complete her command and to go back the next day to Tlatelolco and try to share the message again. “Hear, My Little One, and understand that I have many servants and message bearers whom I could charge with delivering my message and make known my will. It is necessary, and my will, that you solicit and help, and that with your mediation my wishes to be fulfilled. I beg you, My Child, the smallest one, and vigorously command you to go again tomorrow and see the bishop. Speak to him in my Name and make known to him my full wishes.”5 Juan agreed to the Virgin’s command and promised to not rest until he finished the task, even with difficulties along the way.

Miguel Cabrera, 1752 | Juan Diego | México | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Early the following day, Juan Diego set out directly for Tlatelolco, arriving at the Palace. With great difficulty, he managed to see the Bishop once again. Crying and overwhelmed with emotions, Juan Diego knelt before the Bishop’s feet and shared the Virgin’s message once again. The Bishop asked many questions, filled with doubt, to test the veracity of the message, and Juan answered every question precisely, and just as he had seen on the hill. But the Bishop still wouldn’t believe a word of the message and replied that he should grant some proof, “My Lord, look and see what proof you want so that I may go and ask the Lady of Heaven for it.” The Bishop wouldn’t specify what kind of proof he wanted but told Juan that it should be enough to prove that the message was truly from heaven, and he dismissed Juan.6

The following day Juan Diego was supposed to return to the Virgin for the proof the bishop asked for, so the message could be proved to be from heaven. When Juan Diego arrived at his house from Tlatelolco the night before, he had found his uncle Juan Bernardino had fallen severely ill. The condition of Bernardino was getting worse by the second and prevented Juan Diego from seeking a doctor, fearing that his uncle would pass away before he could come back with help. Aware of his condition and certain his moment had come, Bernardino asked Juan to leave at dawn for Tlatelolco to bring a priest in order to prepare Bernardino for his last moments and make his last confession. Juan set out to Tlatelolco the next day at the time his uncle told him to, but he took a different route, specifically evading the path through the hill of Tepeyac to avoid the Virgin in fear of her response to his failure in meeting her the previous day. Although Juan took a path to go around the hills, the Virgin stopped him and asked, “Juan, the smallest of my sons, where are you going?” Juan told the Virgin what had happened the previous night and felt humbled for not meeting her. Then the Virgin responded,

“Hear and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son: let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?”7

Jose Guadalupe Posada, 1895 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With a caring tone, the Virgin said to Juan that she would not let his uncle die and reassured him that his uncle’s health had been restored. Juan expressed his gratitude to the Virgin and told her that he would take the proof to the bishop as soon as possible. The Virgin told Juan Diego to go to the top of the mountain and pick some flowers. Accordingly, he went up to the hill, which was dry and barren, and was met with roses. He gathered them in his tilma and brought them to the Virgin, who arranged them and told Juan to take them to the bishop. That was the last time Juan Diego saw the Virgin of Guadalupe.8

Juan Diego traveled rapidly to the bishop’s palace and when he got there, he demanded an audience with the bishop. After waiting patiently for a long time, the bishop and people from the palace gathered around, then Juan repeated the message from the Virgin and unfolded his white tilma. As the flowers fell on the floor, the bishop saw not only the beautiful flowers but also there was then drawn on Juan’s tilma the beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the only God. Bishop Zumárraga wept as he saw the Blessed Mother and asked forgiveness for doubting. He took the tilma and laid it at the altar in his chapel. By Christmas of that year, a chapel was built on top of the hill of Tepeyac in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.9 

On the same day and at the same time Juan Diego talked to the Virgin in the Tepeyac, the Virgin appeared before Juan Bernardino in Cuautitlán and cured him of his malignant illness. The Virgin asked Bernardino to go to the Bishop to reveal what he had seen, and how miraculously he had been cured, and to inform the people that her Blessed Image should be called “The Ever-Virgin Saint Mary of Guadalupe.” This was the last documented appearance of the Virgin Mary. These events helped native Mexicans accept the Catholic religion that Spain brought along with them, and has ended up as an important historical part of what now is the major religion in Mexico today.10

  1. Samuel Martí, La Virgen de Guadalupe y Juan Diego: Guía Histórica Guadalupana= The Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego: Historical Guide to Guadalupe. Bilingual Spanish/English version (México: Ediciones Americanas, 1973), 36-38.
  2. William Saunders, “Saint Juan and our Lady,” Arlington Catholic Herald & Catholic Education Resource Center (website), 2004, https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/saint-juan-diego-and-our-lady.html.
  3. William Saunders, “Saint Juan and our Lady,” Arlington Catholic Herald & Catholic Education Resource Center (website), 2004, https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/saint-juan-diego-and-our-lady.html
  4. Samuel Martí, La Virgen de Guadalupe y Juan Diego: Guía Histórica Guadalupana= The Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego: Historical Guide to Guadalupe. Bilingual Spanish/English version (México: Ediciones Americanas, 1973), 42-43.
  5. William Saunders, “Saint Juan and our Lady,” Arlington Catholic Herald & Catholic Education Resource Center (website), 2004, https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/saint-juan-diego-and-our-lady.html
  6. Samuel Martí, La Virgen de Guadalupe y Juan Diego: Guía Histórica Guadalupana= The Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego: Historical Guide to Guadalupe. Bilingual Spanish/English version (México: Ediciones Americanas, 1973), 42-43.
  7. William Saunders, “Saint Juan and our Lady,” Arlington Catholic Herald & Catholic Education Resource Center, 2004, https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/saint-juan-diego-and-our-lady.html
  8. William Saunders, “Saint Juan and our Lady,” Arlington Catholic Herald & Catholic Education Resource Center (website), 2004, https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/saint-juan-diego-and-our-lady.html
  9. William Saunders, “Saint Juan and our Lady,” Arlington Catholic Herald & Catholic Education Resource Center (website), 2004, https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/saint-juan-diego-and-our-lady.html
  10. Samuel Martí, La Virgen de Guadalupe y Juan Diego: Guía Histórica Guadalupana= The Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego: Historical Guide to Guadalupe. Bilingual Spanish/English version (México: Ediciones Americanas, 1973), 50-51.

Tags from the story

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

23 Responses

  1. Firstly, I love how this article tells a story with very informative details because it really helps the reader visualize and understand everything about it to create a mental picture. I’ve never heard of this story before but I love hearing and learning about new stories and I thought it was a great one.

  2. Coming from a border town and having Mexican parents, I grew up listening to the story of Juan Diego and the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. Enjoying the music and dancing of Matachines in December, singing along to the Virgin, has been a staple to my childhood and culture. This article brought back so many joyful memories and it’s so beautifully written I could visualize myself next to Juan Diego and the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, brought back so many joyful memories.

  3. The story of Juan Diego has always been one of my favorites. I have learned about this story since I was a little kid. Growing up in private school this play was always a staple play at my school. I think it is amazing that this man did so much because of his faith in our mother Mary. This story is beautiful, and it shows just how amazing faith really is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.