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   Article published in the December 13, 1992
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 intercession.
      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 abortion itself. 
      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! 
                                                                                                            
                                                                                                              ―John Riedell          

      
    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 mother. 
     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 today.  

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*Accordingly, this article was written during the course of 1992, some months before its publication.

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