Skip to comments.Canonization of Juan Diego drawing Texans to Mexico City
Posted on 07/21/2002 8:38:11 AM PDT by Illbay
When Carmen Riojas Zapata was 6, her grandmother told her that if she prayed to the Lady of Guadalupe, everything would be all right.
Almost seven decades later, Zapata still follows her abuela's advice.
That's why she will be one of an expected 4.5 million pilgrims in Mexico City next week when Pope John Paul II proclaims sainthood for Juan Diego, the Indian visited in 1531 by apparitions of a black-haired, brown-skinned young woman now venerated as the Lady of Guadalupe.
"Nearly 500 years we have been waiting for Juan Diego to be recognized as a servant of God, to become a saint," said Guillermina Bowers, another Houston pilgrim heading to Mexico City. "I look at him as a hero."
For Mexico and countless Mexican-Americans, the July 31 canonization Mass is the highlight of the pope's 10-day visit to Canada, Guatemala and Mexico, which begins Tuesday. John Paul II also will celebrate Mass at World Youth Day in Toronto, canonize a Franciscan monk in Guatemala and beatify two martyrs in Mexico. About 600 youths from the Diocese of Galveston-Houston will attend World Youth Day (which began Thursday and continues through July 28) in Toronto.
The story of Juan Diego and the Lady of Guadalupe is an integral part of the national identity of Mexico. Guadalupe and Catholicism united the often-warring tribes through a common faith, said the Rev. Jesus Garza, a former Mexico City seminary teacher now based in Monterrey.
"It was born as a nation through evangelization and with the appearance of the Blessed Mother," Garza said. "Before, we were (numerous) Indian nations and not organized."
The report and image of the Virgin Mary transformed into a native Indian led to mass conversions to Catholicism, an estimated 8 million in the six years after 1532.
According to the story that skeptics claim is a legend, Juan Diego was a poor, humble widower who walked five miles daily to attend Mass.
On Dec. 9, 1531, a young woman with Indian features appeared to him on a small hill named Tepeyac. She identified herself as Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, and instructed him to ask the local bishop to construct a church at the site.
The skeptical bishop asked for a sign. The young woman gave Diego roses to carry in his tilma, a cloak similar to a poncho. When he released the roses for the bishop, an image of the virgin appeared on the fabric. The tilma today hangs over the central altar of the current Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of several built over the centuries near the hill.
Zapata, 73, has visited the basilica more than 20 times since 1970.
"I have always been spiritual, and I have always been a devoted follower of Our Lady of Guadalupe since I was 6," Zapata said. "I think she is miraculous."
Zapata credits Guadalupe with the miracle of helping her find a much-treasured ring she lost "slopping the hogs" at her blind grandmother's home in Pflugerville. "I was crying and crying, and my grandmother told me to pray to the Lady of Guadalupe and she would help me find the ring," Zapata said.
The then-6-year-old retraced her steps and found the ring near the hog trough. "I picked it up, and from that moment on I knew (the Lady of Guadalupe) was with me. I became a believer, a total believer."
Zapata wants to attend the canonization because she believes Juan Diego was divinely chosen to bring dignity to the conquered and humiliated tribes of Mexico.
"(Guadalupe) wanted to put into the minds of people the idea that the Indians were human beings and children of God," said Zapata, a retired social worker and college instructor. "It was a clever way of choosing an indigenous person to show how very dignified they were; it was an empowerment of the indigenous people, an empowerment of the poor."
Zapata and Bowers, a Houston Independent School District social worker, are among more than 120 people departing Houston on tours to the canonization.
"This is a very significant moment for (Hispanic) people as well as the church," said Lazaro Contreras, assistant director of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston's Office of Hispanic Ministry. He is representing the diocese on the tour.
Carmen Gallegos, a 34-year-old homemaker, admires Juan Diego because he accepted the messages from the Lady of Guadalupe with the faith of a child.
"I wish we could be as childlike as he was," said Gallegos, whose devotion to Guadalupe was passed down from her Mexican-born grandmother to her mother to her.
"It is in the family," she said. "I want my (two) kids to inherit this good spiritual belief."
Joining the Houstonians will be pilgrims from Louisiana and New Mexico.
Antonio Salinas, a high school math teacher from Espanola, N.M., shares a belief in the Guadalupe story and disregards scoffers who call the apparitions a pious legend or doubt that Juan Diego existed.
"I truly believe the Lady of Guadalupe did appear to him," said Salinas, whose sister lives in Houston. "I am not concerned with what anyone else believes."
Salinas and his wife, Josefina, will thank God at the basilica for his recovery from kidney cancer.
"I am blessed in the fact that I don't have cancer anymore," said Salinas, who lost one kidney. "I am going for the purpose to give thanks to the Lord that I am still alive."
Respect for the pope is drawing many of the pilgrims.
John Paul II, a staunch believer in the Lady of Guadalupe, spent time praying before Juan Diego's tilma during a 1999 visit to Mexico City. In 1990, when he beatified Juan Diego in the first step toward sainthood, the pope praised him as a model Christian.
"Juan Diego is an example for all believers because he shows that all believers in Christ, regardless of place and state, are called to holiness by God, each one according to his path in life," John Paul II said during the beatification at the basilica.
Zapata attended the pope's public Mass outside Mexico City in January 1999, enduring hours of cold, thirst and hunger to see "the representative of Christ on this Earth."
"I am going for his blessing," she said. "His blessings are the most important aspect of my trip. His blessings are like an anointment."
Gallegos also went to Mexico City in 1999, fearing it might be John Paul's last visit to Mexico.
"His body is wearing out, but he is there," Gallegos said. "Now we have to be there for him."
JUAN DIEGO: FIRST INDIGENOUS SAINT OF THE AMERICAN CONTINENT
VATICAN CITY, JUL 31, 2002 (VIS) - Today John Paul II canonized Blessed Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, who became the first indigenous saint from the American continent, in the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Several cardinals and Mexican bishops from America, the Philipines and other places attended the ceremony, as well as the president of the republic, Vicente Fox and civil authorities. There were also many indigenous people who came from different regions in the country, representatives of Mexico's many ethnicities and cultures.
In addition to the 12,000 people that packed the basilica, another 30,000 followed the canonization from the square outside thanks to giant screens.
In the homily, the Pope affirmed that Juan Diego was "the simple and humble Indian who contemplated the sweet and serene face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, so dear to the peoples of Mexico."
He continued: "In accepting the Christian message without forgoing his indigenous identity, Juan Diego discovered the profound truth of the new humanity, in which all are called to be children of God. Thus he facilitated the fruitful meeting of two worlds and became the catalyst for the new Mexican identity, closely united to Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose mestizo face expresses her spiritual motherhood which embraces all Mexicans. This is why the witness of his life must continue to be the inspiration for the building up of the Mexican nation, encouraging brotherhood among all its children and ever helping to reconcile Mexico with its origins, values and traditions."
The Holy Father emphasized that "the noble task of building a better Mexico, with greater justice and solidarity, demands the cooperation of all. In particular, it is necessary today to support the indigenous peoples in their legitimate aspirations, respecting and defending the authentic values of each ethnic group. Mexico needs its indigenous peoples and these peoples need Mexico!"
"At this decisive moment in Mexico's history, having already crossed the threshold of the new millennium, I entrust to the powerful intercession of Saint Juan Diego the joys and hopes, the fears and anxieties of the beloved Mexican people, whom I carry in my heart. Blessed Juan Diego, a good, Christian Indian," he concluded, "whom simple people have always considered a saint! We ask you to accompany the Church on her pilgrimage in Mexico, so that she may be more evangelizing and more missionary each day."
I am watching on my computer as I type!
Should say on EWTN right now.
They were just telling the story of Juan Diego going to tell the bishop that Our Blessed Mother wanted a church built on the site. Then the roses and the story of her image being imprinted on his tilma when the rose fell out in front of the bishop. The Basilica to Our Lady of Guadalupe was built!
And thanks for the ping, S!
One of the most reverent and beautiful canonization masses ever!!! The fusion of indigenous and liturgical music was astoundingly breathtaking. I don't recall ever seeing so many priests, bishops, cardinals and prelates gathered together to celebrate the life of a saint. The media has had a hey day, continuing with their focus on the pope's health. Anyone who watched these ceremonies could plainly see that this pope is like a national hero in Mexico. At 82, his physical body shows all the signs of arthritis and parkinson's disease, but his eyes are fully alert and receptive to all the proceedings.
For those who missed this mass, it will be repeated again. Check the www.ewtn.com web site for the correct rebroadcast time. Also, EWTN plans to show the canonization mass that took place in Guatemala, this past Wednesday. According to the commentators, this is another MUST SEE!
In a ceremony Wednesday that drew more than 1 million cheering and weeping believers into the streets, the pope called Juan Diego a catalyst in the conversion of millions of Indians to Christianity.
Although some question whether Juan Diego actually existed, John Paul stressed his importance as a man who helped the worlds of Spain's conquistadors and Mexico's native peoples come together. But the pope made clear that Indians 10 percent of the population have been let down by Mexican society.
"Mexico needs its indigenous peoples and these people need Mexico," John Paul declared, setting an agenda for his church, which is battling inroads among Indians by evangelical Protestants.
Inside the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, dancers dressed in feathered Aztec costumes shook rattles and blew into conch shells as the image of the new saint was carried to the altar. Priests read from the Bible in Spanish and in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.
If you missed this incredibly beautiful mass, it will be replayed on EWTN, Saturday August 3, 2002 7:00 PM (EST). The music alone is worth the listen.
December 9, 2006
St. Juan Diego
Thousands of people gathered in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe July 31, 2002, for the canonization of Juan Diego, to whom the Blessed Mother appeared in the 16th century. Pope John Paul II celebrated the ceremony at which the poor Indian peasant became the Churchs first saint indigenous to the Americas.
The Holy Father called the new saint a simple, humble Indian who accepted Christianity without giving up his identity as an Indian. In praising the Indian Juan Diego, I want to express to all of you the closeness of the church and the pope, embracing you with love and encouraging you to overcome with hope the difficult times you are going through, John Paul said. Among the thousands present for the event were members of Mexicos 64 indigenous groups.
First called Cuauhtlatohuac (The eagle who speaks), Juan Diegos name is forever linked with Our Lady of Guadalupe because it was to him that she first appeared at Tepeyac hill on December 9, 1531. The most famous part of his story is told in connection with the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12). After the roses gathered in his tilma were transformed into the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, however, little more is said about Juan Diego.
In time he lived near the shrine constructed at Tepeyac, revered as a holy, unselfish and compassionate catechist who taught by word and especially by example.
During his 1990 pastoral visit to Mexico, Pope John Paul II confirmed the long-standing liturgical cult in honor of Juan Diego, beatifying him. Twelve years later he was proclaimed a saint.
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