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By Lynn and Bob Gillen

Links for Learners | July 2002

"St. Juan Diego: New World Apostle”


Finding Curriculum Connections
Understanding Basic Terms
Why Does Mary Make Her Presence Known?
Would Mary Choose You?
Additional Guadalupe Resources
Research Resources

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Links for Learning

Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

• World history—world event timelines parallel to Mary's apparitions
• Christian lifestyles—importance of faith and prayer; Mary's role in evangelization
• Science—role of paleontology in miracle authentication

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for these key words and terms as you read the article.  Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Link for Learners. 





La Morenita

Our Lady of Guadalupe





Secondary model




Why Does Mary Make Her Presence Known?

What reason could Mary possibly have for appearing to a man like Juan Diego? Was it to magnify her own name? Or to have yet another church built? To better understand Mary's purpose, first review the story of Juan Diego, and especially Mary's words to him. What elements can you identify in the story?

It should be clear that Mary chooses a person of faith and simplicity. She then calls forth a deeper response in faith. She asks for prayer. She directs Diego to tell others about her message. Mary always talks of Jesus. She requests that a church be built in Tepeyac as a place where many believers can gather in faith and prayer.

All this aims at strengthening faith in her son Jesus. In Juan Diego's situation, she sought to support the spread of the Christian faith in Mexico and the Americas.

Mary's appearances, her interventions in our lives, occur in times hostile to faith. Consider a historical timeline of the period. Juan Diego encountered Mary in 1571. Missionaries preaching in the Americas were associated with the Spanish conquistadors, who were brutally suppressing native religions and oppressing the peasants in the newly discovered land.

Yet because of Juan Diego, Indians native to Mexico and the Americas came to believe in Christianity. They saw that Mary, the mother of the Christian God, had spoken to one of their own in his own language and miraculously left her image in his cloak.

Look at several of Mary's other apparitions that have occurred since Guadalupe. Reviewing concurrent timelines will show that Mary appears in times when faith is in crisis. Mary appeared to the teenaged Bernadette at Lourdes in 1858, in a time when France was in turmoil after years of war. She left believers with a healing spring to restore health and, most importantly, faith.

In 1917 Mary made herself known to several children in Fatima, Portugal, a country on the brink of totalitarianism following the revolution of 1910. Church property was confiscated, religious orders were broken up, and political leadership was openly anti-religious. World War I was raging in Europe. Yet the faith of the Christian peasants in Portugal was strong. Mary's appearances and miraculous signs brought many back to belief.

Beginning in 1969, Mary again made her presence felt in a series of events, this time in Akita, Japan. Speaking to a simple Sister in her convent chapel, Mary revealed herself as Our Lady of Sorrows, suffering because so many rejected the love of her son Jesus. A wooden statue of Mary in the chapel repeatedly shed human tears, including once on television when a camera crew was doing a report on the occurrences. Mary used the power of technology to reach a broader audience!


Would Mary Choose You?

As you've been reading and thinking about Mary's apparitions, does something familiar come to mind? Read the Gospel of Luke 1:26-56. The people like Juan Diego who hear a divine message and respond in faith are just like Mary herself. Mary was a poor, simple teenage girl when God's angel first spoke to her. Yet she was extraordinarily strong in faith. The angel Gabriel said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God." She opened her heart in faith when she responded, "May it be done to me according to your word." Her faith set in motion Jesus' coming into our lives.

Juan Diego, the children at Fatima, Bernadette at Lourdes—all opened their hearts to Mary's message and responded in faith. In so doing, they played a part in spreading the word of Jesus' love.

Note that Mary did not communicate with the bishops of the church. Nor with politicians. Nor with wealthy landowners and business people. Not even with the missionaries in early America. Rather she spoke to such as Juan Diego, the kind of simple man who would be kept waiting for hours before reluctantly being admitted to see his bishop, yet a man courageous enough to be an early convert to the Christian faith.

Regretably, many of us would have to admit that even though we may not be bishops and politicians, we nevertheless aren't the kind of person Mary would appear to. For the most part, we strive to be popular. We live comfortably. We often obsess over grades. We are concerned with appearances. We can be wise in the ways of the world. We are not proficient at listening with an open heart. We want our own way.

Mary's messenger will always be strong in faith, a person of prayer, open to Jesus' love.

We don't need extraordinary or miraculous interventions in our lives in order to be a messenger of God's love. Learning to pray with an open heart will gradually transform us into persons of deep faith. Try taking a few minutes away from surfing the Internet or instant-messaging, and use your computer to pray. You can simply read a Bible passage and let its message sink in, visit's Minute Meditations or see Sacred Space, the site for daily 10-minute guided prayer. A simple openness to God's words will show us how to live.

Additional Guadalupe Resources

See the University of Dayton for an extensive bibliography on Our Lady of Guadalupe.

For a glimpse at the lives of paleontologists and archeologists, see National Geographic's Explorers-in-Residence series. These specialists assist in authenticating miraculous events, such as the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the simple cloak of Juan Diego.

Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further general reference.  Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The New American Bible

Documents of Vatican II 

The Vatican

The New York Times

The Los Angeles Times

The Chicago Tribune

The Washington Post

The Miami Herald

The Associated Press

Time Magazine



ABC News

Pathfinder—Access site to a number of online news publications

People magazine

The History Channel

The Close Up Foundation Washington, D.C.-based organization

Channel One —online resource for the school channel

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