Question: Who was Juan Diego, the saint recently canonized by Pope John Paul in Mexico?
Answer: The man we know as Juan Diego was born in 1474 in the Aztec city of Tlayacac, Cuauhtitlan, just a bit north of what is today known as Mexico City. Given the Nuhatal name Cuauhtlatoatzin, which means "eagle that talks," the future saint grew up in the pagan culture of the Aztecs. In addition to economic oppression, the Aztecs and their neighbors were subject to being offered to the "gods" in human sacrifice. The blood of men, women, and children was deemed imperative to feed the gods that provided the necessities of nature. At important ceremonies, the number of human victims would rise into the tens of thousands at a single occasion. But when Cuauhtlatoatzin was about 45 years old, the Spanish under Cortez arrived to break the hold of the Aztec Emperor over the people we now call Mexicans. Centuries of oppression and human sacrifice gave way to the worship of God in the unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass.
Cuauhtlatoatzin, at about age 50, a married man with no children, became an enthusiastic convert to the religion of his deliverers, receiving the baptismal name of Juan Diego as his wife became Maria Lucia. For several years, as often as possible, the two made the hours long journey to Tlaltelolco to attend holy Mass together. But by December of 1531 Juan Diego was a widower.
In that month, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Juan Diego three times, and sent him to Bishop Juan de Zaumárraga, with a request that a church be built in her honor. The bishop was convinced of the truth of Juan Diego's account because our Lady sent him carrying a bouquet of Castillian roses (out of place and out of season) in the fold of his tilma, or cloak. Even more convincing was Mary's highly detailed image on the front of the cloak -- detailed enough to later reveal a microscopic image of Juan Diego reflected in the pupil of the Virgin's eye -- and left on a garment of vegetable fiber that should have decayed quickly, but still can be seen today. Further, the Virgin referred to herself in the Nuhatal language with a word that sounded in Spanish like "Guadalupe," a well known place of pilgrimage in Spain. After completing the mission of the Holy Virgin, and living the remainder of his life in holiness, Juan Diego died on May 30, 1548. He was Canonized July 31, 2002 at the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico by Pope John Paul II
Sad to say, however, the canonization was marred by liturgical dancers dressed as pagan priests! Apparently, in a mere 470-odd years they have forgotten that "the gods of the gentiles are devils."