REL Support for Juan Diego is strong locally

By Christina Killion Valdez

The naysayers aren't being heard locally, where faith in Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe remain strong.

"Personally, I find it difficult that anyone could find substantial evidence to support a claim against the existence of Juan Diego," said the Rev. Glenn Frerichs of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Rochester.

Frerichs will be the spiritual leader for a pilgrimage out of Dallas to the Basilica in Mexico City, and he hopes to be there when Pope John Paul II canonizes Juan Diego. Frerichs leaves July 25 and returns July 31. "It's a way I can express my devotion and love for God and love for the mother of God," he said.


No doubters exist at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Austin either. Rather, a small group of parishioners met Friday to decide how the parish will celebrate the canonization, said the Rev. Kurt Farrell.

"It's a big deal for them," Farrell said. "For the Mexican people, Our Lady Guadalupe is a sign that God cared enough about them to be one like them. To be one with them in their state, in their poverty, in their loneliness."

Most respect the decision of the Vatican.

"The Vatican always makes very careful provisions to make sure it's credible," Frerichs said.

In the early centuries, questions about the authenticity of saints were raised, but there wasn't a process like there is today, he said. A commission of 30 people substantiated the existence of Juan Diego, he added.

"For me, there's the story, then there's the tilma (sarape)," Frerichs said, referring to the garment Juan Diego had worn and is now kept at the Basilica in Mexico City.

Part of the miracle surrounding Juan Diego is that the material of his 16th-century tilma should have disintegrated within 30 years, but it's still in its original condition, according to Frerichs. Furthermore, on the tilma is an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her cloak is bordered with a gold line that is thinner than the width of a human hair and couldn't have been created by man.

Pointing to a replica of the tilma in his office, Frerichs explains the imagery.


It has been said the stars on Our Lady of Guadalupe's cloak line up with the constellations of when the she appeared to Juan Diego. And the flowers on her dress are a map of the hills of the area, Frerichs said. "It's really a wondrous thing."

But most importantly, she stands in front of the sun and on top of the moon, the two most powerful Aztec gods, he said. Her position "reveals the strength of the one true god, her son, the one to be worshiped," he said.

Juan Diego lived in a turbulent time for Mexico. The Spanish were conquering the area and missionaries were trying to convert the people. Yet he would walk 14 miles each day to go to Mass and receive the Eucharist. "He was an outsider, worshiping a god most people were not at the time," Frerichs said.

"I think the canonization of Juan Diego will hold him up and his life as a model for all Christians," Frerichs said. "Juan Diego and Our Lady Guadalupe don't just speak to the people of Mexico, but to all of the Americas."

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