Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Juan Diego, whose story, briefly, goes like this: On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, was walking on his way to Mass in what is now Mexico City. When he reached Tepeyac hill, a former sanctuary to the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, Juan Diego heard beautiful music and saw a glowing cloud. He then heard woman’s voice calling him by name, “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.” He followed the voice to the top of the hill, where he saw a beautiful woman. She called him closer and said to him in his native language, “I am your Compassionate Mother, yours, for you yourself, for everybody here in the land, for each and all together, for all others too, for all folk of every kind…here I shall listen to their groanings, to their saddenings; here shall I make well and heal up their each and every kind of disappointment, of exhausting pangs, of bitter pain.”
The woman instructed Juan Diego to convey to the bishop of Mexico that she wanted him to build a church on the hill. Perhaps not surprisingly, the bishop was skeptical of the story. After Juan returned a second time telling the bishop that the woman was Mary, the Mother of God, the bishop asked him to bring some proof of the her identity.
When Juan Diego told the Lady of the Bishop’s request for proof, she instructed him to climb to the top of the hill where they first met. When he arrived he found a beautiful rose garden. He brought a bouquet of roses to the Lady. She arranged them in his cloak and told him to them to the bishop. Juan Diego did as the Lady instructed, and when he opened his cloak to give the flowers to the bishop, the bishop saw a glowing image of Mary imprinted as though painted on his cloak. Soon after, a church was built at the top of the hill where Mary appeared to Juan Diego. Thus, was born devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe
Many people react to the idea of Marian apparitions with some embarrassment or suspicion and skepticism. But the truth is the God continually reaches out to each of us, sometimes dramatically and sometimes in simple ways. Our God is a self-communicating God who continually speaks to us. Is it really so strange that one of the vehicles God might use to communicate with us is Mary, whom he chose to be the mother of Christ? Perhaps, rather than suspicion and skepticism, our stance should be one of openness to the possibility of God speaking to us through Mary.