VATICAN CITY, DEC. 20, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II today approved the canonical decree recognizing the miracle attributed to the intercession of Juan Diego, the Mexican Indian who witnessed the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1531.
The miracle, which occurred on May 6, 1990, at the very moment the Holy Father was proclaiming Juan Diego blessed, changed the life of drug addict Juan José Barragán Silva.
Barragán, then in his 20s, had been using marijuana for five years. That day, exasperated and under the drug´s influence, he stabbed himself with a knife in his mother´s presence, and went to a balcony to throw himself over.
His mother tried to hold him by the legs, but he managed to free himself and plunged head first to the ground. He then was rushed to the intensive care unit of Durango Hospital in Mexico City.
J.H. Hernández Illescas, regarded internationally as one of the best specialists in the field of neurology, and two other specialists, described the case as “unheard of, amazing, and inconceivable.”
Other medical experts who were consulted could not explain the case, given the height of the balcony (10 meters), the youth´s weight (70 kilos, or 154 pounds), and the angle of impact (70 degrees).
Suddenly and inexplicably, three days after the fall, Barragán was completely cured. Subsequent examinations confirmed that he had no neurological or psychic effects, and the doctors concluded that his cure was “scientifically inexplicable.”
Medical experts say the youth should have died in the fall, or at least been left seriously handicapped.
Esperanza, the youth´s mother, said that when her son was falling she entrusted him to God and the Virgin of Guadalupe. Invoking Juan Diego, she implored: “Give me a proof … save this son of mine! And you, my Mother, listen to Juan Diego.”
The miracle should be the decisive factor in the recognition of Juan Diego´s sanctity.
Cuauhtlatoatzin — this was Juan Diego´s Indian name — was born in 1474. He was converted to Christianity between 1524-25 and was baptized, together with his wife, by Franciscan missionary Friar Toribio de Benavente.
On Dec. 9, 1531, 10 years after the conquest of Tenochtitlan, today´s Mexico City, Juan Diego witnessed the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin on Tepeyac hill.
Our Lady spoke to him in Nahuatl, his native tongue, and used affectionate language, calling him “Juanito, Juan Dieguito” — “the littlest of my children,” “my little son.”
According to tradition, there were five apparitions, the last being on Dec. 12. That day, as his uncle was seriously ill, Juan Diego went to find a priest. He went around the hill so the Blessed Virgin would not see him, but she came looking for him, and calmed him about his uncle´s illness: “I give you absolute certainty that he is already cured,” she said.
Pointing to some flowers, and asking Juan Diego to gather them, the Virgin Mary continued: “My dearest little son, these different flowers are the proof, the sign that you will take to the bishop. On my behalf, tell him to please see in them my wish and, therefore, to do my will.” The Virgin´s wish was the construction of a shrine in her name.
Once in Bishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga´s residence, Juan Diego showed him the roses he carried in his “ayate.” As the flowers fell out, the image of Mary suddenly appeared on the fabric. Juan Diego´s “tilma” continues to be studied by scientists, who are unable to explain how the image was imprinted.
In the decade preceding the apparitions, Franciscans and missionaries converted 250,000 to 300,000 Indians in Mexico. After the apparitions, 8 million people were converted in just seven years.