December 9, 1531: The Virgin of Guadalupe first appears to Juan Diego
The Holy Mother Mary has appeared to the faithful throughout history in various forms, making her presence known. The Virgin of Guadalupe is an iconic image and stands as a symbol of the Catholic faith, Mexico, and having unwavering devotion. Juan Diego was a humble indigenous peasant, but he was called to serve after bearing witness to a presentation of the Holy Virgin Mary more than once.
The woman on the hill
Before Juan Diego would become honored as a saint, he was but a simple man by the name of Cuauhtlatoazin. Juan was born in what is today Mexico City, and later became a convert of the popular and growing established Catholic faith.
When it comes to witnessing figures of devotion, sadly, many people are apt to believe that one is drunk or lying. When Juan Diego was on his way to mass on December 9, 1531, his life was forever altered when he approached Tepeyac Hill. Floating before him, surrounded in a bath of heavenly light, was the Virgin Mary herself.
Of tongues and faith
One would think, that a religious figure like a bishop would be ecstatic to hear that a follower of the faith had been visited by Mary. Instead of always doing favors for the faithful, the Virgin Mary had asked a favor of Juan Diego. Juan had been charged with petitioning the local bishop to build a shrine in her honor on Tepeyac Hill.
The bishop did not believe a word Juan was saying, even though the Holy Mother had spoken to Juan in his native language. Considering that mass and other religious affairs were conducted in the language of Latin, the bishop should have caught a hint. Dismissive of Juan’s relay of information, the bishop instructed Juan to bring back some hard evidence that he really saw Mary on the hill, and wasn’t having visions.
Coming up roses
Mary, once again, appeared to Juan on the 12th of December, proving that heavenly deities know a thing about good timing. Juan was in need of a priest to deliver last rites to an ailing uncle, and he still needed a miracle to prove to the bishop he wasn’t lying. The Virgin of Guadalupe was quick to aid Juan, and prove that the church had better build her that shrine.
Despite it being the middle of winter, Juan was instructed to gather roses found atop Tepeyac Hill, which he would bring to the bishop. Juan returned to the bishop, opened his coat, and out fell roses, and a visible image of Mary was emblazoned inside. The bishop immediately had a church built atop Tepeyac Hill in Mary’s honor, where the faithful still make a pilgrimage to this day.