The feast of St. Juan Diego is an instructive one for Americans living in the culture of death because he also lived in a culture of death. Juan may very well have witnessed, as a young teenager, the three-day pagan festival held in 1487 when the Aztec priests offered 80,000 human sacrifices. They cut out the still-beating hearts from the chests of their victims before thrusting their bodies down the stairs of the pyramids.
After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs by Cortes in 1521 human sacrifice and devil-worship were banned, but the native population continued to practice its pagan rituals in secret. Although Juan Diego was among the first to convert to Christianity, little progress was being made by the Catholic missionaries. That is until the Blessed Mother appeared to Juan four times on Tepeyac Hill in 1531.
Juan Diego was up early on the morning of the first apparition to walk the 15 miles to daily Mass. As he passed the hill he saw a glow and heard music and a woman's voice calling to him, "Juanito." Juan met the Blessed Mother dressed as an Aztec princess. She told him to go to the bishop and ask him to build a church there. Juan Diego obeyed, but the bishop, although kind, did not believe him. On another visit the bishop asked for a sign. When Juan told the Blessed Mother, she promised to give him one the next morning.
But on that day Juan's uncle was deathly ill so he attempted to avoid Mary by rounding the hill on the other side in order to hurry and fetch the priest. Our Lady, however, met him on the side of hill. "Where are you going, my little son?" she asked. When he told her about his uncle's illness, she replied, "Nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. 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." She assured him that his uncle would get better and again commissioned him to take her request to the bishop.
Although it was winter, Mary sent Juan Diego to gather roses as the sign the bishop sought. He did and Mary herself arranged them in his tilma before sending him off as her ambassador. When he opened his cloak in the bishop's office and the roses fell to the floor, there embedded in the weave was the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In the next few years millions of natives converted to Catholicism because of the miracle. The symbolism of the image spoke a clear message that God had visited His people through the Holy Virgin.
St. Juan Diego, on your feast day we beg for your intercession to build in America a culture of life. Please ask the Blessed Mother to act as she did in Mexico to end the human sacrifice of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and all other assaults against human life.