My Faith/Teen Faith

Lessons from St. Juan Diego

The Glass Half-Empty

I am not an optimist. It’s very easy for me to see something lacking rather than the good that’s there. I do that a lot with my faith too. I see brokenness, hurt, and fallen away Catholics instead of seeing the beauty of conversion and the good that is happening in our Church. When I start to feel that way, I am reminded of St. Juan Diego, who showed me the importance of persevering through seemingly difficult situations. The witness of Juan Diego reminds me that when I follow the Lord, mountains move.

Juan Diego himself was a catalyst in bringing the Catholic faith to the western hemisphere. When the first Catholic Missionaries arrived in Mexico from Spain, Juan Diego was one of the few natives to convert. The Catholic faith wasn’t taking root in Mexico. Many were hesitant about this new religion and what they viewed as a foreign threat. Still, it was during this time of tension that Juan Diego fell deeply in love with Catholicism. And it was in the midst of this growing relationship with Jesus that the Lord chose to change the world forever through Juan Diego.

Be Bold and Stand For Truth

During his daily routine one day, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego. Her mission for him was one of boldness. Mary sent Juan Diego to petition the bishop to build a new cathedral for all peoples at the site where she had appeared. With boldness of heart and trust in the Lord, Juan Diego went and petitioned the Bishop. He was skeptical of Juan Diego, a man who out of nowhere claimed to have spoken with Mary, the Mother of God. He sent Juan Diego away.

Yet day after day, Mary continued to send Juan Diego to the bishop to petition for this new church. There was one day, though, when Juan Diego tried to avoid Our Lady by walking another way; but she just appeared to him on his alternate path instead, to remind him of the mission she had for him. And so Juan Diego continued trusting in Mary’s direction.

From his persistence, I’ve learned the value of being bold about what I know is true. It can be hard to speak into matters of the faith sometimes. When it comes to sharing our convictions with our fellow Catholics, priests, and religious, it can be a little intimidating. I usually end up belittling myself. “Who am I to tell others what I think God is doing. They’re all much holier than I am.” I second guess what the Lord has revealed in prayer and asked me to say in boldness.

Your voice is important. And what you have to say may spark a revolution of change and a continued revival of beauty in the church. Trust what Jesus is telling you in prayer. Even if you don’t receive an outstanding reaction to what you have to say or if your words aren’t received well, know when you are being called to boldness and share what if necessary for the good of the Church.

Speak to the Culture

After multiple meetings, the Bishop asked Juan Diego to come back with a sign that would prove his words to be true. He asked for roses — but not just any roses — Castilian Roses. These roses are only found in Spain and would’ve been impossible for Juan Diego to find in Mexico. To have these roses alone would have been a miracle. Yet Mary gave them to Juan Diego, placed them in his tilma (his traditional native garb) sent him back to the bishop. When Juan Diego arrived, he poured out the roses for the bishop to see. The roses were a beautiful miracle of God’s faithfulness. Yet Mary didn’t stop there. She did something more. Imprinted on his tilma was a stunning, miraculous image of Mary — what we now know of as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The most beautiful aspect of this miracle is how Mary chose to reveal herself in the image on the tilma. She appears as a native Mexican. She speaks in Nahuatl, Juan Diego’s native tongue. She dresses in Juan Diego’s culture and declares it good. Through Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, God reveals something about Himself. He reveals that he is a God who desires to speak into our lives, our cultures, and our upbringings — He longs to relate to us and meet us precisely where we are. God doesn’t want to eradicate our cultural heritage. He affirms it as good and is glorified in it. Juan Diego shows us that living the Catholic faith is not exclusive to any culture and inviting others into it is what we’re called to do.

Be the Foundation of the New Church

Today, Tepeyac, the place where Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary, is the site of one of the most visited basilicas in the world. The same tilma that Juan Diego wore now hangs in this church for all pilgrims to see. With the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the church came alive in Mexico and eventually the whole of the Americas. All of this was possible because of the openness and humility of Juan Diego.

Approaching faith with an attitude of what is lacking will never sustain us. When we, like St. Juan Diego, boldly share truth and proclaim Jesus to our cultures, even when it’s scary, intimidating, or we don’t know what His plan his, we become a force for real glory in God’s Kingdom.

When it comes to living your faith, don’t be discouraged or nervous in the face of what has yet to happen. Instead, like Juan Diego, go where you are sent and trust that the Lord has a plan.

About the Author

Kiernan Doyle

Florida State University graduate working in production in New York City. I’m the happiest when I’m hiking with good friends and listening to Mumford & Sons. Currently scheming to take over, “The Tonight Show” from Jimmy Fallon. Follow me @kiernandoyle.

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