¡Víva Juan Diego!

For those of you who happen to be my friend on Facebook, you’ll probably notice that my middle name   seems too Hispanic for this Filipino.  Honestly, “Juan Diego” is not my real middle name–my middle name is my mother’s maiden name 😉 (Yes, like Hispanics, Filipinos do this as well)

Or maybe you actually clicked the About Me section of my blog and noticed that I briefly explain why I sign my blog posts as “JD.”  But…who exactly is this Juan Diego and why am I taking on his name?

FIrst, a little bit of background.  Some Catholics have the custom of choosing a “Christian” name, often that of a saint, at Baptism or Confirmation.  Catholics practice this custom so that young Catholics can gain a better appreciation for the saints.

As for me, when I was going through preparation for Confirmation, I had to choose a Confirmation saint.  Ideally, confirmandi (a candidate prepping for Confirmation) should choose a saint that they can relate to in order to have that better connection and appreciation for the saints in general.  These Confirmation saints are also our intercessors and our patrons praying to God on our behalf.

Man, in this important choosing process, even though I was in high school, my Catholic decision-making was definitely still elementary or junior high at best.

The following was my only requirement for a Confirmation saint:

  1. Cool sounding name
And being the lacking-in-knowledge Catholic that I was in early high school, I didn’t know too many saints.  I spent some time researching, but I didn’t find any particular saint that stood out to me.
But then I recalled my childhood.  PBS was really cool back then.

And I remembered one particular Wishbone episode:

¡Víva, Wishbone!

And that’s why I chose St. Juan Diego to be my Confirmation saint!
Done and done.

lol jk

Now if you didn’t watch the Wishbone episode and/or would like more of an explanation, allow me to summarize St. Juan Diego’s story and further explain why I chose him to be my Confirmation saint.
Our Lady and Juan Diego
St. Juan Diego’s original name was Cuauhtlatoatzin (other variations too), which translates to “Talking Eagle” in the Nahuatl language.  He was an older man of native Mexican descent.  He lived through Hernán Cortés’ conquest of Mexico in the early 1500’s.  Upon the arrival of Franciscan missionaries, he and his wife were baptized and Cuauhtlatoatzin took on the Christian name, Juan Diego (oh hey… 😉 ).

Not gonna lie, this guy was hardcore.  He walked miles and miles to go to Mass.  I’m talkin’ like, greater than 10 miles, one way.  One particular December day, he was walking along his usual path to Mass when he heard music and the voice of a young maiden calling out to him.  He stops and talks to her.  The young maiden reveals herself to be the Virgin Mary and asks St. Juan Diego to go to the bishop and have him build her a shrine/church on the hill where she appeared to St. Juan Diego.

So he goes to visit the bishop.  After waiting for hours, he finally sees him.  St. Juan Diego explains the Virgin Mary’s appearance to the bishop and skeptical, he asks Juan Diego to bring him a sign.

Returning back to the place where the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, he explains to her that the bishop is doubtful and that he, himself, is not worthy to carry out this task of convincing the bishop to build her church.  Mary insisted that Juan Diego-a-go back to the bishop and ask again.  Like before, the bishop had his doubts and wanted to see a sign.

Discouraged, Juan Diego returned to Mary.  She told Juan Diego that he will find his sign tomorrow.  After returning home, Juan Diego found his uncle deathly ill.  So the next day, instead of going to visit Mary, he tries to find a Catholic priest to give his dying uncle last rites.  But!  Mama knows best–she intercepts Juan Diego when he tried evading the spot where she normally appears.  She assures Juan Diego that his uncle will not die and instructs him to go on top of the hill for the sign that she promised.

Now, recall that it is December.  When Juan Diego went up that hill (not to fetch a pail of water), he saw Castilian roses that only come from Spain.  Growing.  In December.  #FunFact, Castille, Spain is the hometown of the bishop.  Mary also appeared atop the hill (but not to come tumbling down after) and helped Juan Diego arrange the flowers in his tilma (a cloak that you wear) and told him not to open it before showing the sign to the bishop.

Juan Diego treks back to see the bishop.  As he unrolls his tilma to show him, the roses fall to the ground and brilliantly appearing on the tilma is the miraculous image below:

Bishop, moved by this image, then agrees to build the shrine/church for Mary.  St. Juan Diego took care of this church until the day he died.

Mary’s title in appearing to St. Juan Diego is Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Why I Chose St. Juan Diego As My Confirmation Saint
Really, two reasons:

  1. Cool sounding name
  2. Initially learned about him through that Wishbone episode
Yes, these are simple reasons, but truly the reasons why I chose St. Juan Diego.  Nothing profound here.  However, as I’ve grown in my faith and in age, I see St. Juan Diego’s influence on me.  True story:  I started going to Daily Mass for the first time after I chose him to be my Confirmation saint and getting Confirmed since I read about him going to Mass err’day and walking miles and miles just to go.  I live five minutes away from my church so … I can’t complain.   And then, probably what I find most inspiring about St. Juan Diego is his devotion and obedience to our Blessed Mother.  Yeah, I probably listen to my mom more than I do my dad…and there was a time in college where I extremely disappointed my mom and it was torturous for me to endure–yet, even in disappointment, she still loves me.  And we kind of see that in St. Juan Diego when he wasn’t able to get bishop’s approval to build the church for Our Lady, initially.  
Depending on who you ask, some Catholics can relate really, really well to their chosen Confirmation saint.  As for me, I think St. Juan Diego’s role in my life will be increasingly more apparent as time goes on.  This is how it’s worked out between us so far, haha.  Also, I have a great appreciation for Hispanic and Latino culture.  Perhaps that is a consequence of my being Filipino…which definitely has Spanish influence as well.  With that said, Our Lady of Guadalupe is so integral to Mexican culture, and none of this would have been possible were it not for St. Juan Diego’s help.
Other Fun Things
  • This all went down in the early 1500’s in Mexico.  Millions and millions of native Mexicans converted to Catholicism in the years following the bishop building the church for Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Interesting enough, on the other side of the world…Europe was losing millions of Catholics due to the Reformation around this time period.
  • St. Juan Diego’s tilma survives today, nearly 500 years later.  You can see it at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  The tilma has been the subject of scientific inquiry because it shouldn’t have lasted this long.  I definitely want to blog about this further separately.
  • Mary has a habit of appearing to people in different places and different time periods, and whenever she does…she usually takes on the race of the individual(s) she’s appearing to.  In this case, she appeared in the form of a young mestiza.  
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of the Americas

Anyway, yeah St. Juan Diego is pretty cool.  I know that by sticking close to him, I’ll stick close to our Blessed Mother.  And by sticking close to our Blessed Mother, I can grow closer to Christ because everything about Mary points towards her Son.  And to remind myself of my connection with St. Juan Diego, I sign off my blog posts as “JD” and my displayed middle name on Facebook is his name.

St. Juan Diego’s feast day is December 9, to commemorate the day when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to him.

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, the day when Our Lady gave him the flowers and the miraculous image appeared when St. Juan Diego unraveled his tilma.

¡Nuestra seńora de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros!
– JD