Patroness of the Americas and Protector of the Unborn
[In the diocese of the United States]
Ten years after the occupation of Mexico City by the Spanish, the war had ended and there was relative peace among the peoples. Early one Saturday morning, the ninth day of December, 1531, an Indian named Juan Diego was walking to church. He was about 50 years old and a native of Cuatitlan. Walking by a large hill called "Tepeyac," Juan Diego heard beautiful singing that sounded like the singing of many birds. He stopped and said to himself, "What is this I hear? Where am I? It sounds like heaven."
All was quiet and Juan Diego heard a voice calling from the top of the hill.
"Juanito. Juan Dieguito."
He called the hill in order to see who was calling him and saw a lady standing there. She asked him to come closer. Walking toward her, he was amazing by her beauty and saw that her clothes were as radiant as the sun. She said to him, "Juanito, the smallest of my sons, where are you going?"
"Lady, I am going to Tlatilolco to listen to the teachings of the priests," Juan replied.
The lady said, "Know that you are the most humble of my sons, and that I am Mary, the mother of the true God, the Lord of heaven and earth. I want you to build a church here for me. Go to the house of the bishop of Mexico City and tell him that I have sent you to make known to him that I greatly desire he build a church on this hill. Be assured that I will repay you for your work. Go and do as I say, the smallest of my sons."
"Lady," answered Juan Diego, "I will go right now and do as you have asked me. I, your humble servant, ask your leave."
Juan went to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga and told him all that he had seen and heard. But the bishop did not believe him and sent him away.
The same day, Juan Diego sadly returned to the place where he had seen the Lady from Heaven and when he saw her he fell to his knees and said, "My Lady, I went and did as you said; the bishop kindly listened to me but he thought I made up everything. Good lady, send an important person for I am just a humble man. Forgive me and do not be angry with me."
"Listen, my son, " responded the Virgin, "I have many messengers and servants, but it is precisely you that I want. Go back tomorrow and let the bishop know my wish."
"My Lady and my Daughter of the best intentions, I will do as you say. Tomorrow, Sunday, I will go and deliver your message." The following day, the bishop asked Juan many questions, but he still did not believe him. He asked Juan to bring him some sign so that he might truly believe he was sent by the Lady from Heaven. Juan Diego returned to the hill, Tepeyac, to give the Lady the bishop's request.
The Virgin Mary told Juan Diego, "Tomorrow come back here to receive the sign the bishop requests. After this, no one will continue to doubt you."
The following day was Monday, but Juan did not return because his uncle, Juan Bernardino, was very ill. His uncle asked him to go to Tlatilolco to find a priest. On his way, he passed Tepeyac where he had been accustomed to going, and he said to himself, "I better keep going because the kind Lady may detain me and I really need to find a priest for my uncle."
Yet the Virgin Mary appeared on his path and called to him, "My son, where are you going?"
Juan Diego replied, "My Child, how are you this morning? In telling you this I am going to cause you much sadness. You know, my Child, that my poor uncle is gravely ill and now I need to go find a priest in order that my uncle may go to confession. After I return I will deliver your message. Tomorrow I will go right away."
The Lady said to him, "Listen, my son, don't fear your uncle's sickness. Am I not here as your mother and protector? Your uncle will not die, but be healed."
Juan Diego was consoled and asked the Virgin Mary to give him the sign to take to the bishop.
"Climb to the top of the hill where you first saw me," the Lady said, "and there you will find many flowers. Cut them and take them to the bishop as proof."
Juan Diego went to see the bishop and waited a long time. In the presence of the bishop and his helpers, Juan timidly uncovered the flowers that he kept hidden in his mantle. They were amazed at the beauty and fragrance of the flowers that did not grow in this time of the year.
Juan Diego said to the bishop, "Here is the sign, Sir, that you asked of me in order that you might believe the Lady from Heaven asked you to build a church."
Juan Diego told the bishop everything the Virgin Mary had told him that she wanted. Later, he took off his white mantle and drawn on it was the image of the Virgin Mary. The bishop fell to his knees and asked pardon for not having believed from the beginning. He took the mantle of Juan Diego and placed it in the church.
The first church, made of clay and reeds, was dedicated to Our Lady on December 26th, 1531.