Wednesday, December 01, 2010


“Humility is the fundamental virtue by which a person remembers his utter dependence on God and God’s laws and God’s providence, and the utter folly of any action or any judgment or any self-glorification that is contrary to the will of God.”(1) 

St. John Chrysostom remarked that “Humility is the root, mother, nurse, foundation, and bond of all virtue.” Reverend John Mason of England exclaimed, “True humility makes way for Christ and throws the soul at his feet.” (2)

Abbe De Brandt told us, “Humility, to be true, must be deeply rooted in our hearts. Let us beseech our dear Lord to make us more clearly perceive, by the help of His grace, what means we should take in order to become truly humble. Humility must grow up out of our hearts perennially – a blossom growing from the deeply-rooted conviction of our nothingness.” (3)


Feast Day -December 9
Symbol - Eagle
Devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe

St. Juan Diego exemplifies the Virtue of Humility par excellence.  His own very humble beginnings as a poor farm worker who labored in the fields and made mats well-prepared him for his extraordinary encounters with the Virgin Mary.  Juan had become a convert to Catholicism around 50 years of age.  When he first met Our Lady on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico,  he had been widowed in 1531 and was childless.  He was, no doubt, on his way to perform  corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Pope John Paul II praised Juan Diego for his simple faith nourished by catechesis and pictured him as a model of humility for all.    Juan Diego had defined himself to Our Lady of Guadalupe as, "I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf."  (4)

Our Lady appeared to Juan about 10 years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Catholicism had begun to replace paganism but with litle success.  As a result of Our Lady's apparitions  and subsequent miracles, 8 millions souls became Catholic in a period of 7 years.
Juan Diego's journey on that December morning began the devotion to Our Lady of almost an entire nation.  (5)

Juan's native birth name Cuautlatohuac meant "he who speaks like an eagle," and he took the name Juan Diego when he was  baptized in 1527.   He received 4 apparitions of Our Lady from December 9 to December 12, 1531.  The First one occurred early in the morning when Juan was walking by a hill and heard singing like "the song of many precious birds."  When the singing  stopped, it appeared as if the hills were answering the birds with even more beautiful songs.  He said to himself " by any chance am I worthy, have I deserved what I hear?  Perhaps I am only dreaming it"  Perhaps I'm only dozing? Where am I?  Where do I find myself?  Is it posible that I am in the place our ancient ancestors, our grandparents, told about, in the land of the flowers, in the land of corn, of our flesh, of our sustenance, possible in the land of heaven?"  (6)

As he looked up to the top of the hill and heard someone calling to him  "Juanito, Juan Diegito." He climbed the hill unafraid and met a maiden beckoning him closer.  Her clothing was shining like the sun and sending out waves of light.  All of the plants were shining.  He prostrated himself before her and heard her say, "Know, know for sure, my dearest and youngest son, that I am the perfect ever virgin holy Mary, Mother of the one Great God of Truth who gives us life, the inventor of men and women, the owner and lord of what is around us and what is touching us or very close to us the owner and lord of the sky, the owner of the earth.  I want very much that they build my sacred little house here in which I will show Him; I will exalt Him on making him manifest.  I will give him to the people in all my personal love, in my compassionate gaze, in my help, in my salvation, because I am truly your compassionate mother...." (7)

Then Juan's humility was expressed.  "My Lady, my Little Girl, now I am going to make your venerable breath, your venerable word, a reality;  I, your poor Indian, am leaving you for a while."
He proceeded to Mexico City and to the palace of the Bishop who listened to him and then asked him to return another time.  On his way home he met Our Lady again and told her of his dissappointment in not receiving permission to proceed.  He asked her to send a  nobleman who would be better received.  He is instructed to return himself the next day.   This time the Bishop is willing to accept the message and the messager if the Lady gives him a sign. 

Juan reports this to Mary in the Third Apparition.  She requests that he return the next morning for a sign and he continues on to visit his very ill uncle.  Juan missed his visit with Our Lady on Dec. 11 as the uncle had asked Juan to send for a priest.  On Dec. 12  when Juan went to bring back a priest, Our Lady made her 4th appearance.  Mary tells him his uncle is already well and sends him to the top of the hill to pick roses as a sign. Later on Juan carries the roses in his tilma (cloak) to the Bishop.  When he opens the tilma to display the roses, the image of Our Lady miraculously appeared.  The Bishop and all present knelt and were full of awe and reverence. The Bishop initially took the tilma to his private chapel.  Finally it came to its final place of honor in 1666 in the Chapel on Tepeyac.

One final apparition of Our Lady was on the same day, but she appeared to Uncle Juan Bernardino  and cured him at the very moment that Our Lady was telling Juan about his uncle being cured. (8)

Juan Diego lived to be 74 years old.  He was given special permission to receive the Holy Eucharist 3 times a week, and he walked 15 miles to receive the Lord.  (9)  He was canonized in 2002.


For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. Luke XIV:11


Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.

Blessed Juan, you faced the skepticism and rejection of a bishop and the crowds to bring Mary's message to Mexico. Pray for us that when we are faced with obstacles to our faith we may show that same courage and commitment. Amen.  (10)

Happy Juan Diego, true and faithful man! We entrust to you our lay brothers and sisters so that, feeling the call to holiness, they may imbue every area of social life with the spirit of the Gospel. Bless families, strengthen spouses in their marriage, sustain the efforts of parents to give their children a Christian upbringing. Look with favor upon the pain of those who are suffering in body or in spirit, on those afflicted by poverty, loneliness, marginalization, or ignorance. May all people, civic leaders and ordinary citizens, always act in accordance with the demands of justice and with respect for the dignity of each person, so that in this way peace may be reinforced.  (11)

Beloved Juan Diego, "the talking eagle"! Show us the way that leads to the "Dark Virgin" of Tepeyac, that she may receive us in the depths of her heart, for she is the loving, compassionate Mother who guides us to the true God. Amen.  (12)


1. "Catholic Treasures," Issue 88-89

2. New Dictionary of Thoughts, Standard Book Company, 1960 p. 281

3. Growth in the Knowledge of Our Lord, Herder Book Company, p. 151

4. John Paul II - Canonization homily, July 31, 2002

5.  A Handbook on Guadalupe - Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, 1996 

6.- 8.


10. - 12. John  Paul II  Op cit