Facebook Twitter Pinterest Youtube Instagram Give

 

 

The account of the siege of Czestochowa which we present here is based on the Memoirs of the Siege of Czestochowa by Father Augustyn Kordecki and the reflections of Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira.

 

Introduction: Siege of Czestochowa

Poland stands in the middle of vast plains and rolling hills. With few natural barriers, armies have overrun the country many times through history. Strong fortifications became the norm for castles, important towns, and even monasteries.

During the religious wars of the 17th century, the Protestant and Catholic powers vied for dominance in Europe. In 1655, King Charles X Gustav of Sweden launched an invasion known as The Deluge. Protestant Swedish soldiers soon overran Catholic Poland, desecrating churches and plundering the countryside.

The monastery of Jasna Gora (Polish for Bright Mountain) stood like a bastion in the medieval city of Czestochowa, the last remaining holdout. This symbolic heart of Poland was home to the miraculous icon of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. With only 70 religious, a handful of nobles and their servants, and 160 infantrymen, Father Augustyn Kordecki led a heroic resistance against overwhelming odds. In one of the greatest interventions of Our Lady in history, the Siege of Czestochowa shows the power of confidence in the Mother of God to change certain defeat into a stunning victory.

 


 

Tensions were high. The news was not good. The Protestant Swedish army had swept through Catholic Poland, virtually unchallenged. Now, after conquering Krakow in the far south, King Charles X. Gustav of Sweden ordered an army of 2,250+ men with 19 cannons, under the command of General Burchard Miller, to take the fortress—sanctuary of Czestochowa.

“We must not let them take her!” Father Augustyn Kordecki’s clenched fist hit the thick slab of wood that served as a table with a thud. The men gathered around him and rose as one. They knew they must protect her at all costs—The Black Madonna of Jasna Gora.

 

Friends and Foes Approach

Many of the Catholic nobility fleeing before the Swedish advance sought refuge in Jasna Gora. One of them, Count Stephan Zamoyski, counseled the religious not to give in to the enemy, and affirmed that those who sought refuge there were prepared to die in defense of the holy place.

Stanislaw Warszycki, noble lord of the Castle of Krakow and First Senator of the Crown, provided help by sending provisions and 12 cannons. Meanwhile, Count Jan Wejchard of Wrzeszczewicz, a noble of less noble ideals, in order to win the good graces of the advancing King, demanded that the monks hand over Jasna Gora to the Swedes. Father Kordecki, calling together the council of the monastery, communicated his decision to stand firm. The monks unanimously approved: “It is better to die worthily, than to live impiously.”

 

Preparing for Battle

Far from relying on material resources alone, Father Kordecki encouraged all to place their hopes in the Blessed Virgin, “who in such an extreme necessity would not fail them with her help.” He asked them to be present at the Mass he would offer before the sacred Image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. He also ordered that the Blessed Sacrament be carried in procession along the walls and bastions. Father Kordecki personally blessed the cannons, cannonballs, bullets, and barrels of powder!

In November of 1655, the Swedish army reached the foot of the monastery. General Miller sent a written peace proposal to the monks, urging the surrender of Jasna Gora so as to avoid “unnecessary bloodshed.” The troops of General Miller were already in position for the siege, and his soldiers studying the positions of the cannons of the fortress. “It did not seem fitting to answer that letter in writing,” reported Father Kordecki. “It was no longer the time to write, but the time to take up arms... We answered by the muzzles of our cannons...” The answer was so convincing that General Miller was forced to beg for a truce. He sent another delegate to try to convince the Friars to surrender, warning them that the resistance of Jasna Gora was unreasonable in view of the fact that the entire country had already surrendered.

It was nighttime, and the following day being Sunday and a Feast of Our Lady, there were various ceremonies lined up; among them a procession with the Blessed Sacrament, inside the walls. Far be it from these devout men of God to allow a war to interrupt their traditional devotions to God and Mary Most Holy. In view of this, the Swedes had to wait until midday for their answer, which was, again, a resounding “No!”

 

The Battle of Jasna Gora Begins

Infuriated, the Protestant army concentrated a three-day attack on Jasna Gora, launching grenades and cannonballs, trying to set fire to the monastery. By night, they dug trenches leading toward the walls.

In the midst of the noise of the bombardment, a pious and sacral hymn was mysteriously heard, coming from the height of the tower of the sanctuary, and giving new energy to the defenders. From then on, it became customary to hear in the midst of the fight, hymns which emanated from the majestic tower.

A bomb, launched at the chapel where the miraculous picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa miraculously “turned back toward the enemy as if it had been touched by an invisible force, spreading a terrible fire through the air.”

 

Catholic “Commando” Raid

One of the five nobles who defended Jasna Gora, Sir Piotr Czarniecki, Commandant of Kiev, decided on a bold strike against the Swedes. Sallying forth at night with a detachment of soldiers, he managed to get into the rearguard of the enemy camps without being detected. Commander Czarniecki dispatched the commandant of artillery with various officers and soldiers. The skirmish was successful; after seizing two cannons he returned to the monastery within the walls.

This incident resulted in great confusion and panic among the Swedes, many of them coming out into the open. The cannon of Jasna Gora completed Czarniecki’s blow by eliminating more of the besiegers. Meanwhile, Czarniecki lost only one of his men in the expedition.

Convinced that it would not be easy for him to take the fortress, General Miller sent a message to Count Arvid Wittenberg, commander of the Swedish armies in Krakow, asking him to send a cannon powerful enough to break down the walls and additional infantry.

 

Psychological Warfare

Awaiting military aid, General Miller employed more deceptive tactics. A respectable Polish noble, unsuspected at first, was sent to the fortress. Attempting to persuade its defenders to surrender, he said, “I consider that it is a pretension beyond the bounds of reason for a monastery to wish to resist the Swedish power, when the whole country has buckled under… the continuation of the resistance can only stir up the violence of vengeance ....Act as the others have done, for your own good. Moreover, the aim of a religious order is to abstain from temporal matters… Ponder it well, lest the arms which you brandish instead of your Rosaries, carry you to perdition.”

General Miller knew that his messages were presented before all the monks and many of the civilian defenders as well. In this way, he played on public opinion against Father Kordecki.

The following day, Father Kordecki was informed that some members of the garrison were plotting to flee. Acting immediately, he expelled the chiefs of the revolt from the fortress, increased the salaries of the garrison, and obliged all to swear an oath that they would fight until the last drop of their blood.

 

A Hostage Situation

To gain time, two religious were sent to the Swedish camp, under the pretext of studying the proposals of General Miller. The Father Prior continuously tried to entertain the enemy with this exchanging of messages. Part of his strategy was to delay things so as to push the siege until winter became more intense, or reinforcements arrived.
General Miller received the two delegates with open arms, gave them six great fish as a sign of his “generosity,” and sent them back with his conditions for a treaty: “the monks must recognize the Swedish King and abjure King Jan Kazimierz.”

Father Kordecki sent him the following answer, with the two monks: “By no means can we deny the rights and protection of King Jan Kazimierz.... If some have abandoned our legitimate King, by no means may this proposal to us be an example, to us who are ready to seal with our blood our fidelity to our Lord.”

Angered, General Miller imprisoned the two religious. The general affirmed that he would have the hostages executed if the defenders of the monastery fired on his soldiers. The besieging army began to move their cannons to positions nearer the walls, always repeating the slogan “shoot and we will eliminate your monks.”

Father Prior did everything possible to rescue the hostages, accusing General Miller of violating the law of nations, the right of immunity of delegates, of showing himself a man without honor. The strategy had an impact on General Miller and he freed one of the hostages.

The Protestant General hoped the hostage would tell what he had seen in the enemy camp. This in fact took place and after relating what he had witnessed, the monk concluded by saying it was madness to continue resisting in the face of such a powerful enemy. Nevertheless, the monk also declared that he was prepared to give his life if his superiors decided otherwise. Thus, the first hostage returned to the Swedish camp, prepared to sacrifice himself for the glory of God.

General Miller pondered the situation and decided to send the second hostage, only to get the same results. The second hostage was returned to him proclaiming his willingness to die for his God and his country. Both were to be executed the next day by hanging. They exclaimed to the shock of the Swedes: “Why may we not die today, if we must be immolated tomorrow for God, for the King and for our Fatherland?” On the following day, the execution was postponed indefinitely.

In spite of all this, General Miller sent yet another messenger demanding surrender. Father Kordecki answered him by asking: what guaranty could he have that the Swedes would fulfill the agreements they made, if they kept his delegates hostage? Disappointed in his hopes to take Jasna Gora by peaceful means, General Miller ordered the freeing of the two hostages.

 

Our Lady Sends Encouraging News

On the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, another Polish noble was sent to the fortress to press the monks to surrender. But to the great surprise of the monks of Jasna Gora, he encouraged them not to give up, saying that the invading armies had begun to suffer their first defeats, and that the violence of the Swedes— sacking of the nobles, murders of priests, profanations of churches, violations of women—were stirring up great reactions in the country.

The following day, one of the villagers, disguised as a Swedish soldier, reached the walls and informed its defenders that the besieging army was about to receive six heavy cannons from Krakow plus reinforcements of 200 infantrymen. On a more positive note, the monks learned that the Tartars, a Turkic people living in Asia and Europe, were joining the ranks of the Polish army, increasing the chances of a Catholic victory. He also threw in a letter signed by the prior of the Paulist Convent in Krakow, which described the atrocities committed by the heretics and recommended Father Kordecki not be deceived by General Miller’s promises.

A little later, a Tartar, permitted to come within the walls, after contemplating the sanctuary, surprised the monks with words of encouragement, urging them not to permit that “perjurers occupy the place consecrated to the Most Pure Virgin.” With all these events, the Catholics recovered their confidence.

 

The Battle Rages On

With the peaceful strategy having failed, General Miller decided to launch a brutal attack upon the walls of Jasna Gora. The bombardment of the monastery took on a terrible fury and it was as if “hell itself was vomiting against the sacred icon.” Undeterred, the monks carried out their customary ceremonies in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Eucharist was carried in a procession along the walls. Father Kordecki said that the cannonballs passed close to the heads of the defenders, but that only after the ceremonies did they respond to the attack.

About midday, the enemy ceased fire and sent a message asking the monks to accept the protection of the Swedish king. But the Prior was not in a hurry: he told them that he would send his answer the next day. Immediately, the Swedes renewed the heavy bombardment. The following day, the scene was repeated, and the monks responded once again: “such important matters must be pondered at length...”

By now, the winter was becoming more intense, so the Swedish soldiers lit bonfires at night. In this way they revealed their positions, becoming easy targets. They quickly learned that, between cold and death, it was better to be cold.

The Swedes were easily repelled, because their movements showed up against the snow. But a dense fog covered the mountain, making it possible for them to move their assault machinery closer, unperceived. To combat the fog, the Prior selected one of the religious to “cry out for help from the powers of God against the spells of the enemy.” This tactic cleared the darkness from the air, and once again the Swedes were exposed.

 

The Enemy Within

Some of the nobles who had taken refuge began suggesting to the Prior that he reach an agreement with the enemy. The Swedes have dominated the whole country, they said, and will not be intimidated.

We have no prospects of receiving reinforcements. So, why not accept an accord with the Swedes, while our situation is still good?

Father Kordecki answered: “...but the enemy will not concede all that we demand; we desire that the place consecrated to the Virgin Most Pure never be stained by the impious feet of the heretics. You, dear sirs, overcome by adversities, desire to reach an accord so that, relieving yourselves of the unhappiness of the siege and the discomforts of the war, you will then be able to enjoy an agreeable peace… do you think that, if we surrender, you will be free? The capitulation will become for you, then, a spring of misfortunes and defeats; but if, on the contrary, bearing the slight inconveniences, we overcome the obstinacy of our enemies with the help of God, then we should surely win a certain stable peace.”

 

A Gathering Darkness

The defenders of Jasna Gora saw on the horizon wagons loaded with gunpowder, and heavy guns coming from Krakow. Fear once again came to dominate the besieged. Many nobles tried to convince the monks to surrender. “Is it right for a religious, who has renounced the world and consecrated himself to the spiritual service of Christ, to take up the sword and shed blood?”

The older monks, however, were of exactly the opposite opinion, and they managed to make their counsels prevail. “If we once give in to the enemy, then there will be no more possibility of correcting our error…That most glorious Lady will extend her hand once again, so that we may understand that the Kingdom of Poland will recover its ancient grandeur only by the power and the protection of its Queen.”

It was now Christmas Eve and the religious spent all night awake: some watching on the walls, others encouraging the garrison; but the majority stayed in the church praying.

 

A Christmas to Remember

More intense movement in the enemy camp and more campfires presaged something menacing for that Christmas Day. At midday, the massive attack commenced. “The cannons to the north thundered, and the balls struck with such force on the walls of the cloister, that, in many places they went right through them, flying and bouncing around amid the debris and dust scattering in the corridors and stairways, and causing such fear among its residents that no one had the courage to look out the window.”

Father Kordecki reported that, at nightfall, finally, one of the heavy guns which was doing the most damage, burst, putting an end to the attack. A report from an eye witness related that the last shot from that cannon had bounced back from the wall hitting the cannon, destroying it and killing the gunner.

Never allowing the discomforts of war to interfere with their devotions, the monks continued the commemorations of the Nativity, with chants and ceremonies. In hearing hymns of praise, rather than cries of defeat, the Swedish troops thought that it was the celebration of some victory, and began to abandon their positions. The officers concluded in their turn, that the besieged forces must be very well provisioned in food and in munitions, to permit themselves such festivities. Thirty-eight days after the beginning of the siege, the heavy guns were retired from their positions; the next morning, the commanders withdrew.

 

“Terrible as an Army Set in Battle Array” (Cant. 6:10)

According to the direct testimony of the Protestant Swedes themselves, it is clear that Jasna Gora was defended miraculously. Lord Grodzicki, Commandant of artillery, revealed that General Miller had said that the only motive which led him to end the siege of Jasna Gora was the word and the menacing face of a noble lady, who appeared before him, leaving him perturbed. The report circulating among the Swedes was that General Miller lifted the siege because he was deceived by a maiden at the service of the monks. What was said among the people, however, was that the general was severely warned by a lady who appeared to him.

Invited to eat with some Swedish commanders, Father Blazej Wadowski heard such blasphemies from the mouths of the Swedes as: “What witch is this that is to be found in your cloister of Czestochowa, who covered with a blue mantle sallies from the cloister and walks along the walls, resting from time to time on the bastions—and whose sight makes our people drop with terror?”

Father Kordecki himself writes, “The Swedes affirmed that some of them saw a Lady on the walls, pointing the cannons and furnishing with her own hands the necessary arms to the defenders who were in the trenches; This was also heard from the Swedes by Sir Aleksy Sztrzalkowski, who told it to the monks, on his word of honor.”

Another reliable source of Our Lady’s intervention comes from letters of the Dominican nuns to the sisters who were in Jasna Gora. They contain the following facts: “Gen. Miller observed with great attention, here in the church, the picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa, and since his interpreter asked us to give him a small copy of the image, we gave it to him, and Miller took it from his hands. Thus it became clear to us that General Miller wanted to find out if the vision he had at night was similar to the picture.” Upon viewing the image, General Miller said the following: “It is absolutely not comparable to that virgin who appeared to me; for it is not possible to see anything comparable on earth. Something of the celestial and divine, which frightened me from the beginning, shone in her face.”

Queen Mother of Poland

Once the faithful forces had been gathered together, the King of Poland made his way to the Cathedral of Lwow, and there proclaimed Our Lady of Czestochowa Queen and Mother of Poland.

The act was carried out before the altar of the Most Holy Virgin with the following words:

“Great Mother of God and Most Holy Virgin! I, John Casmir II, by the grace of Thy Son, the King of Kings, and by Thy Grace, I, the King, casting myself on my knees at Thy Most Holy feet, take Thee today as my Patroness and Queen of my dominions… I cry humbly, from this pitiful and devastated state of my Kingdom, for Thy mercy and assistance against the enemies of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, and, grateful for the immense benefits conferred by Thee, I sense with the nation, a commanding desire to serve Thee zealously, and, in my name and in that of the administrators and of the people, I promise to Thee and to Thy Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, I will spread Thy glory though all the countries of our Kingdom....Grant, Oh most loving Queen and Lady, that I obtain the grace of Thy Son to do all that I propose, to which Thou Thyself has inspired me!”

The people wept with emotion on hearing the words of the King, realizing that, from then on, the Blessed Virgin would be recognized as Queen of Poland.

 

Our Fight Today 

The Catholic Church today is embroiled in a battle; She is besieged on all sides in the cultural war. Sadly, there are even those within Her walls that, with saccharine voices, tell her to surrender. Let us take courage from the monks of Jasna Gora. Let us continue the fight and never cease our hymns of praise, knowing full well that Our Lady is right here amongst us. As she did in 1655, she will surely today put the enemy to flight, securing the fulfillment of her promise at Fatima: “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph!”

 


All Photos Courtesy of Michael Gorre 

 

 

 

 

DAILY QUOTE for December 14, 2017

Contemplation is nothing else than a secret, peaceful, and l...

read link

December 14

 

Contemplation is nothing else than a secret, peaceful, and loving 
infusion of God, which
if admitted,
will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.


St. John of the Cross


 BLASPHEMIES? Even at CHRISTMAS? NEVER!

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. John of the Cross

While assaulted with terrible temptations, he was also perse...

read link

St. John of the Cross

John’s father, Gonzalo de Yepes, was of a prominent family in Toledo, Spain. At his marriage to a poor girl, Catherine Alvarez, he was disinherited, and tried his hand at the silk-weaving trade. When Gonzalo died young, Catherine was left destitute with three young sons, John being the youngest.

Sent to a poor school in Medina, John found work at the city’s hospital, and there labored for seven years.

Already given to the practice of prayer, and to bodily austerities, he studied with the Jesuits. It was revealed to him that he was to serve God in an Order, the ancient perfection of which he would help to renew.

At twenty-one he took the Carmelite habit as John of St. Matthias. Though meaning to be a lay brother, he excelled in theology and was ordained in 1567. Early on, he obtained permission to follow the original Carmelite rule, without the mitigations allowed by various popes.

When St. Teresa of Avila, the great reformer of Carmel, met John in Medina-del-Campo, she knew he was the man for the reform of the male branch of the order.  Though John was small in stature, Teresa sensed his courage and commitment. With all the proper backing and credentials, she and John proceeded to found reformed branches of the Carmelite Order in Duruelo, Pastrana, Mancera and Alcalá. As a reformed Carmelite, John took the name of John of the Cross, indeed a prophetic title.

Around this time in his life, after tasting the joys of contemplation, John entered a period of aridity, scruples, and interior desolation. While assaulted with terrible temptations, he was also persecuted with calumnies. His book, Dark Night of the Soul is the child of these trials. But in the calm that followed the storm, St. John became a great mystic, writer, and is deemed one of the best poets that ever lived.

He later, along with St. Teresa, suffered much by confusions generated within their order, as a result of the reforms. He was imprisoned by his own brothers, as he was pressured to abandon the reform. He also suffered a severe beating at the hands of the Vicar General, which marks he bore until his death. After nine months of incarceration, he managed to escape, and fled to a reformed friary.

In 1579 he became head of the college at Baeza, and in 1581 was chosen prior at Granada. It is around this time that he began the writings on mystical theology that made him a Doctor of the Church.

But troubles within the order followed him. At one point he was stripped of all status and was sent to a remote friary. Another time there was a threat of expulsion of the holy reformer from the order. Ultimately, he died in a friary whose superior was hostile to him though, ultimately, repentant.

But John of the Cross had reached that level of sanctity where crosses were welcomed and gladly embraced in union with his crucified Lord. After suffering acutely for three months, he rendered his sterling soul to God on December 14, 1591.

WEEKLY STORY

The Miracle

On July 31, 2002 the Holy Father canonized Juan Diego, a hum...

read link

The Miracle

On July 31, 2002 the Holy Father canonized Juan Diego, a humble Indian to whom the Mother of God appeared in Mexico in 1531 and on whose cloak she left her image as Our Lady of Guadalupe. With this canonization, the Church has placed one more seal on the authenticity of the apparitions that changed the course of the history of Mexico and gave all the Americas a great patroness. Alongside our invoking the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe, we may now also say, “Saint Juan Diego, pray for us.” We dedicate the following article to him.

 

"Eagle that speaks"

In the year 1474, a boy was born in Aztec Mexico in the village of Cuautitlan, about seven miles from the capital of the Empire, then known as Tenochtitlan, today Mexico City.

He was named, Quauhtlatoatzin, or “Eagle that speaks.” His origin was humble and poor, yet this boy had been chosen by God to convey one of the greatest messages ever delivered to any nation.

Despite having reached the first degree of civilization with its cities and writing system, Mexico’s religion was satanically barbarous. In the words of one historian: “Nowhere else in human history has Satan so formalized and institutionalized his worship with so many of his own actual titles and symbols.” This was the old Empire of Mexico worshiping the “Lord of the Dark” and the “Stone Serpent,” requiring a quota of, at least, 50,000 human sacrifices each year.

When “Eagle that speaks” was thirteen years old, a sacrifice of no less than 80,000 victims was offered to inaugurate the greatest of all pyramids. As he witnessed these horrors, maybe the young boy sent up a prayer for the accomplishment of an old Mexican prophecy that, one day, a God who hated human sacrifice would reach Mexico. Oddly enough, this prophecy even specified the year and the date on which this God would arrive.

Click here to order your Free Rosary Guide Booklet

Sails on the horizon

The year by the Christian calendar was 1519; the day was a Good Friday. Montezuma II, then Emperor, a superstitious man, was on high alert because that was also the date in the Mexican prophecy.

If any Aztecs scanned the horizons of Mexico on that Good Friday morning, they saw eleven ships bearing great white sails marked by a black cross heading for their shore.

Commanded by the thirty-three-year-old Spaniard Hernan Cortes, the fleet anchored. Soon, at the captain’s orders, a cross was planted in the sand.

Hernan Cortes and his six hundred warriors were descendants of men who had battled Muslims for eight hundred years to free their beloved Spain from the dominion of Islam. It took all that bravery seething in their veins to tackle the monumental task that lay ahead of them: namely, to snatch fifteen million people from the darkness and oppression of a satanic regime and introduce them to the sweet yoke of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sinking his ships in a gesture of unparalleled bravery so as to spare his men the temptation to flee, Cortes set his face and his small army to conquer Mexico for the Faith. The next year saw a series of battles of biblical proportions, terrible defeats, renewed attacks, great feats of diplomacy resulting in solid alliances with certain native tribes, and daring coups. The odds were those of one against ten thousand but, like Emperor Constantine of old, Cortes launched his mission under the banner of the cross, telling his men: “Brothers and companions, let us follow the sign of the Cross with true faith and in it we shall conquer.”

At the end, Montezuma was dead, Mexico City had been conquered, a new government was established and churches began to rise in place of the old pagan temples.

Twelve Apostles

By this time, “Eagle that speaks” was a man entering middle age. He was married to a good woman and worked at farming, weaving mats, making furniture and anything else that would support them. He had an innate sweetness and compliant nature and a very humble disposition coupled with a quiet dignity.

One day, a few barefooted men in brown habits entered his village. They were Franciscans, a few from a group of twelve sent by Emperor Charles V of Spain for the evangelization of Mexico. These brave and zealous men had arrived in 1521, only two years after Cortes.

“Eagle that speaks” attentively listened to all they had to say and was soon bowing his head before one of them to receive the redeeming waters of Baptism. He was Christened Juan Diego. Baptized alongside him were his wife and uncle, who received the Christian names of Maria Lucia and Juan Bernardino. Juan Diego and his family were among the first natives to accept the Catholic Faith in Mexico. It was the year 1525.

After baptism, Juan Diego and Maria Lucia often continued to walk to Mass and instructions to the new church in Tlatelolco near Mexico City, about fifteen miles from their village.

Click here to order your Free Rosary Guide Booklet

Tepeyac Hill

On December 9, 1531, which was then the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Juan Diego again made his way among cactus plants and mesquite bushes to the Church at Tlatelolco near Mexico City as was his custom. He now covered the distance alone since his good wife had died two years before. He must have missed her sorely for he had moved to Tepotzotlan to be with his uncle.

Nearing Mexico City, Juan Diego always passed a hill called Tepeyac. Its summit had been the site of a former temple to the pagan “Mother God.”

This morning as he neared Tepeyac, he suddenly stopped, hearing ineffable music that seemed to come from the top of the hill. Juan strained his bewildered eyes as he looked upward in hopes of discovering the source of so delightful a melody. It was then that he saw a dazzling cloud, emblazoned by a brilliant rainbow. Suddenly the melody ceased altogether and he heard the sweetest of all feminine voices calling his name in his native Nahuatl: “Juantzin…”

The voice used the diminutive of his name and it is impossible to convey what that meant as far as affectionate expression. Maybe, in our English it would be something like: “My dear little John.”

Without fear, Juan Diego clambered up the 130-foot-high summit and found himself facing a lady of dazzling beauty. Her garments shone like the sun and the light streaming from her person transformed all nature around her into a play of color as if seen through a stained glass window. Even the smallest leaves looked like sparkling emeralds and turquoises and the tiniest branches as if dipped in gold.

The lady motioned for Juan Diego to approach and as he did so, she spoke:

“Listen, my dearest little son, Juan, where are you going?”

“My lady, my queen, my little girl,” answered the happy Indian, “I am going to your little house in Mexico-Tlatelolco, to follow the things of God that are taught to us by those who are the images of Our Lord, our priests.”

“Know for certain, my little son,” said the lady, “that I am the perfect ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the one true God…. I am your merciful mother, yours and of all the people who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me and of those who trust in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow and will remedy and nurse all their troubles, their miseries, their suffering.”

Then she went on to ask Juan Diego to go to the Bishop of Mexico, Don Juan de Zumarraga, to ask him to build her a house on the hill. She finished by thanking him for his trouble and promising to reward him abundantly.

After some difficulty, Juan Diego saw Bishop Zumarraga who listened to him attentively but did not take him very seriously. The bishop dismissed him kindly, promising to think about all he had said and to see him again.

Knowing he had not convinced the prelate, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac Hill and found the Mother of God waiting for him. At her feet, he told her all about the interview and begged her to send someone of more renown, of a higher station in life, one who would be more readily believed.

Our Lady replied affectionately: “Listen, my little son, I have many servants, many messengers… but it is most necessary that you go personally to plead, and that, through you, my will be realized… So, go and tell him once more, that it is I, the ever-virgin Holy Mary, I who am the Mother of God, who sends you.”

On the next day, a Sunday, Juan Diego returned to the bishop’s house. After much difficulty with the servants, he was received. Juan Diego again delivered his message. Bishop Zumarraga questioned him closely and finished by asking for a sign.

“Señor Governador,” answered Juan Diego, “think about what the sign you ask for will be, because then I will go to ask for it of the Queen of Heaven who sent me.”

Once Juan Diego left, Bishop Zumarraga had him followed. But near Tepeyac, his followers lost sight of him. Quite upset, they returned to the Bishop convinced that the Indian was only making up stories. So it was decided that when he returned he would be punished.

Meanwhile Juan Diego was with the Virgin explaining to her the bishop’s request for a sign.

“That’s fine, my little son, return here tomorrow so you may take to the bishop the sign which he asks. With this he will believe you and no longer doubt this and no longer suspect you. And know well, my little son, that I will reward you all the trouble and fatigue that you have undertaken for me. Go now. I will be waiting for you tomorrow.”

Juan evades the Virgin

But the next day, Juan Diego did not return. His uncle had sickened and was dying, so Juan spent all of Monday with him. On Tuesday, before dawn, the good Indian made his way to Mexico City to call a priest to give his uncle the last rites. Passing Tepeyac hill, he thought of skirting it so the Lady would not see him and stop him.

As he did so, however, he saw her coming down the hill to meet him.

“What’s wrong, my little son? Where are you going?”

Bending low, Juan Diego greeted her and wished her a good morning as he explained his uncle’s predicament.

“Listen, and place it deeply in your heart, my littlest son,” spoke the Queen of Heaven. “What frightens and worries you is nothing. Do not let it disturb you. Do not fear this sickness, or any other sickness, or any sharp and hurtful thing. Am I not here, your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and my protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you; do not let your uncle’s illness upset you, because he will not die of it now. You may be certain that he is already well.”

Juan Diego, greatly comforted at these words, begged her, instead, to send him to the bishop with her sign. Then the Blessed Virgin told him to go to the top of the hill and gather the flowers he would find there.

Astonished at the beauty of the blooms miraculously growing in that spot, he gathered them all and returned to where the Lady awaited him. With feminine touch, she arranged them with her own hands inside his tilma, a cloak he wore to shield him from the cold, and bade him go to the bishop again.

Click here to order your Free Rosary Guide Booklet

The miracle

The servants at the gates of the bishop’s residence would not listen to the poor Indian’s entreaties to see Don Zumarraga. Juan Diego, having no other recourse, waited patiently for a long time. Seeing him standing there holding something in his tilma, the doorkeeper and servants became curious and began to harass him so that he let them have a peek.

Great was their amazement at the sight of the exquisite flowers, their perfume, and the fact that this was not at all the season for these blooms. Three times they tried to grab a few out of Juan Diego’s tilma but, as they attempted to do so, the flowers became as if painted on the cloth, thus evading their grasp.

The servants then ran to tell the bishop what they had seen. Hearing this, Don Zumarraga realized that here was the sign he had requested and had Juan Diego brought in immediately.

As soon as he entered the bishop’s chamber, Juan Diego prostrated himself in his presence and related to him all that had happened and how he had found these beautiful flowers blooming out of season on top of the hill at the Lady’s command.

The humble Indian then held out his tilma and just as the flowers cascaded to the floor, before all present, O marvel, there appeared on the cloth an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary just as Juan Diego had seen her.

Weeping and falling to his knees, Don Zumarraga, asked the Mother of God’s forgiveness for not having immediately carried out her will.

Then, untying the tilma from around Juan Diego’s neck, Bishop Zumarraga had the miraculous icon placed in his private chapel. 

Guadalupenos

As Juan Diego returned home, he found his uncle cured and ecstatic with joy because the Lady of Tepeyac had also appeared to him. On delivering him of his illness, she had also revealed her name: “Coatlaxopeuh,” or “she who crushes the serpent.” It soon was to be understood as Guadalupe.

Meanwhile, as Bishop Zumarraga prayed fervently before the miraculous image of the resplendent Virgin of Guadalupe, his heart overflowed with gratitude as he remembered a prayer of some time before.

Two of the first Spanish governors appointed to Mexico were cruel to the Indians. Other Spaniards in authority also had more heart for gold than the welfare of the natives. He, Zumarraga, eventually had these men ousted but, meanwhile, the Indians threatened to revolt. The Indians also felt that they had lost their identity on accepting the religion of the Spaniards. Before, despite the horrors of paganism, they were Aztecs. But now, what were they?

In his affliction, Bishop Zumarraga had asked for a sign of the Mother of God that she would protect the new colony. He had asked for Castillian roses not native to Mexico. And Castillian roses were the very flowers that had cascaded onto the floor as Juan Diego opened his tilma! And then the Mystical Rose herself had left her wondrous portrait.

Our Lady, by appearing to an Indian in the turquoise robes of Aztec royalty with their own brown features, had sent the whole of Mexico the message: “I am your Queen, your Mother and you are my very own.” The natives now had a place and a name: the place was the very heart of God’s own Mother and the name, Guadalupenos.

A chapel was soon built on Tepeyac Hill, to be followed by a great basilica. Former Aztec Indians began to flock there by the thousands with the result that in seventeen years the number of baptisms had catapulted from two hundred thousand to nine million.

Juan Diego spent the rest of his life by his beloved Virgin. He died in 1548 venerated by his people for his untiring service and solid virtue. To this day the greatest blessing of Mexican parents on their children is: “May God make you like Juan Diego.”

By A. F. Phillips

Click here to order your Free Rosary Guide Booklet

 

On July 31, 2002 the Holy Father canonized Juan Diego, a humble Indian to whom the Mother of God appeared in Mexico in 1531 

Let’s keep in touch!