Article published in the December 13,
issue of The Catholic Post, Peoria, Illinois
The Way I See It:
The Example of Juan Diego and Maria Lucia
When the Blessed Virgin appeared to the poor
Indian Juan Diego in 1531, she bid him take a message to the Bishop of
Mexico. But after the first encounter with the prelate, Juan
asked her to send someone important instead ― "someone
well known, respected and held in esteem, so that it will be believed."
She told him she had many servants and
messengers, but it was necessary that her wish be carried out through his
He was, then, necessary to heaven's design.
Several months ago* my wife and I were in Tulpetlac,
Mexico, at the place where it's believed Juan's uncle was cured. The
spot is where there is a church now, and a priest serving there, told us
something which may be part of why Juan was chosen.
He said, "El y su esposa tomaron n voto de
castidad," which means in English that Juan Diego and his wife took a vow of
chastity. Although it isn't expressed so formally, there is an account of
such a matter, in a history written originally in the Aztec language by
Antonio Valeriano with additions by Alva Ixtlixochitl.
This history tells us Juan was baptised in 1524
or soon after, as was his wife, Maria Lucia. They heard a sermon
praising chastity and angelic purity, and how pleasing to God are those, who
for His sake, abstain from what is lawfully allowed the married. It
touched their souls deeply, and they were so fired by a love for the
virtue that they desired to live accordingly.
By mutual consent and with the help of God, they
undertook this heroic proposal, and lived in "perpetual continence" from the
time of their baptism or shortly thereafter. It is recorded as an
example of "what God's grace can and does accomplish at all times and among
all classes and conditions of people, none excepted..."
Maria Lucia died in 1529, two years before the
apparitions. While Juan was in his 50's when Mary appeared to him, the
priest in Tulpetlac told us Maria died young, and that it was she who wove
Juan's tilma, the cloak Mary's image is imprinted upon.
I can see where God's design in all this could
have included the weaving of the tilma, and where, in a way, it could echo
Mary's Immaculate Conception. God arranged that sin never touched
Mary, and He could have arranged that the cloth her holy image would be
imprinted upon, would be woven by special hands, pure and chaste!
The story of Guadalupe is extraordinary, and the lives of
Juan Diego and Maria Lucia add meaning to it.
I can also see where their lives speak to us today.
If by the grace of God they were able to live in total abstinence, is
it not possible for people today to live part of the time in self-denial
― in conformity to God's will and the church's
doctrine on the regulation of birth?
I read a report in Human Life International that "Many
priests and religious are discouraged supporting or even mentioning 'Humane
Vitae' publicly..." and that "there is a conspiracy of silence around the
church sexual ethic in many of our parishes, rectories, schools, colleges an
religious houses." Some taking the position, the report says, "that
'Humanae Vitae' sets too high of a standard for human beings." If such
were the case God would not expect such a standard.
The report also said "Once a culture accepts
contraception, it inevitably legalizes abortion." According to
this then, the one leads to the other. It may also lead to the
question of whether many within the church, by being silent or ignoring God
on the matter of "the transmission of life," bear some responsibility for
We need the example of Juan Diego and Maria Lucia
before us. We need them to help evangelize in our times ― not only
within our own culture, but within our own faith!
Detail of above picture
Serafina and the priest at Tulpetlac, Mexico, on December
9th, 1991, the 460th anniversary of the first appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe
to Juan Diego. They are
standing in the church where the house of Juan Bernadino is believed to have
stood, and where this uncle of Juan's was cured. The date also
happened to be the birthday of Serafina's late mother, Leocadia Leiva de Gonzalez
, who was born in the former colony of British Honduras as was
Serafina herself. That day Serafina arranged with the priest to have a Mass said for her
According to the the ancient account written in Aztec,
the Nican Mohopua, Tulpetlac is not only where Juan Diego's uncle
lived, but where Juan lived as well. It was north from the lake where
the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was situated and where Mexico City is
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