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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

San Juan Diego: Roses in the Wilderness

©2009, Randall A. Beeler

In The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton notes a horrible historical fact about the Americas at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards:

the demons have really been in hiding since the coming of Christ on earth … But before Christendom, and especially outside Europe, this was not always so. In the ancient world the demons often wandered abroad like dragons. They could be positively and publicly enthroned as gods. Their enormous images could be set up in public temples in the centre of populous cities … some of the very highest civilizations of the world were the very places where the horns of Satan were exalted, not only to the stars but in the face of the sun. Take for example the Aztecs and American Indians of the ancient empires of Mexico and Peru … We know that the … priests of this … people worshipped … gods, who accepted as the nectar and ambrosia … incessant human sacrifice accompanied by horrible torments … to be drunk by great gods wearing goggling and grinning masks and called on in terror or torment by long cacophonous names that sound like laughter in hell.
In the wake of this hideous practice, the peoples of the Americas were subjected to the ravages of European diseases, against which they had no natural immunity; upwards of nine of every ten Meso-America succumbed to small pox, cholera, and other plagues. Thus, the Spaniards could conquer enormous empires with a small retinue of horsemen. And conquer and enslave they did, much against the efforts and protests of the Spanish Friars who desperately sought to save the indigenous peoples.

Thus, the children of the Americas, reeling from this triple decimation, could hardly hear the Gospel, could hardly respond to the Church.

Until San Juan Diego.

The story is well recounted in other places, but one detail is often left unmentioned. The Virgin Mother who appeared to San Juan Diego, who showered him and the Americas with roses, who left Her image indelibly painted on his tilma—Our Lady of Guadalupe—is one of the few apparitions of the Blessed Mother that is obviously … pregnant.

A Native-American woman. Pregnant.

A Native-American woman, crowned with rays and clothed in stars. Pregnant.

The demons who had once enjoyed human sacrifice could hardly have expected such a thing.

But their hatred of everything human blinds them to little San Juan Diego, who, like Frodo and Sam escaping Shelob, finds a back door behind the sentries of Mordor. And like those little-regarded halflings, San Juan Diego climbs a little-trodden path to the place where his little-regarded faith becomes the gate by which God, through Our Lady of Guadalupe, throws the demons into the Lake of Fire.

For it is a comfort that we little remember what the Americas were known for before Our Lady of Guadalupe.

For She is with child. She makes the wilderness a garden of roses—in the very wastelands where Satan once consumed the children of men.

Pray through the intercession of San Juan Diego today, his Feast. Pray for the Americas. Pray through the intercession of the One Who is with Child, the Christ Child, ever blossoming in our wildernesses, ever filling them with running streams, ever bearing the piercing sword of the thorns and emitting the fragrance of roses to us, Her children.

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