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The Simple Obedience of St. Juan Diego

The Simple Obedience of St. Juan Diego

Sometimes simple obedience is all that stands between us and the awesome power of God.

This truth is dramatically evident in the life of St. Juan Diego, the Aztec Indian whose faithfulness changed the course of history.

In December of 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill near present-day Mexico City and asked him to give a message to the local bishop, Juan de Zumarraga. She wanted the bishop to build a chapel on Tepeyac, where she would hear the cries of the people and “help their many sorrows, necessities, and misfortunes.” A recent convert to Catholicism, Juan Diego promptly obeyed and went to Zumarraga. But the bishop didn’t take him seriously. When Mary asked him to go back, Juan told her to send someone more eloquent. Mary insisted, saying, “There are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen.”

Juan obediently returned to the bishop, who told him to ask for a sign. Juan brought him not one sign but two: Castilian roses, which normally don’t grow in December, and most surprisingly, a beautiful image of Mary, miraculously imprinted on his cloak. To this day, the cloak depicts the image of Mary pregnant with Jesus, her feet crushing the head of Satan.

Because Juan Diego said “yes” to Mary’s request, the church she asked for was built. Juan lived beside the church for the rest of his life, telling visitors his story and showing them his miraculous cloak. As the news of Mary’s appearance spread and more people came to the church, millions gave up the superstitions of their ancestors and were converted to Christ. It was the first great evangelization of the Americas.

These events happened centuries ago, but they still speak to us today. In a culture desperately in need of the gospel, we too are called to be a light to God’s people. Like St. Juan Diego, we cannot tell what the results of our obedience will be. The task the Lord gives us may look very simple indeed. But if we feel the impulse to say, “Not me!” let us remember that our “yes” may be the key that unlocks a miracle.

“Holy Spirit, let me be open to whatever inspiration you send me today. I want to be like Juan Diego: your humble instrument to lead others to Jesus.”