St. Juan Diego’s amazing miracle story

St. Juan Diego’s amazing miracle story

St. Juan Diego


If we do not believe in miracles, we do not ask for them. If we do not ask for them, they will not be granted.

We are not alone: the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant are closely knit, interwoven in charity. We on earth must intercede for each other and believe and ask for the intercession of the saints.

Today is the Feast of St. Juan Diego, of Our Lady of Guadalupe fame.  Mexican, native-American St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (+1548), was granted an apparition by Our Lady Virgin Mary four times on the hill of Tepeyac.   He had been declared Venerable in 1987.  St. John Paul II decided to beatify him without the approved miracle.  He was beatified on 6 May 1990.

Under normal circumstances, for a beatification there must be a miracle which has been rigorously studied and approved by the Congregation for Causes and Saints accepted by the Holy Father.   St. John Paul bypassed the process.  Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have done the same occasionally… well… Francis pretty often, as it turns out.

There was a miracle for Juan Diego’s canonization, however.  It is quite a story.

Juan Jose Barragan Silva, of Mexico City, was a drug addict from his adolescence.  He and his mother had been abandoned by his father.

On 3 May 1990 – note the date – Juan Jose, after getting drunk and high on marijuana with a friend, went home and started to cut himself on the head with a knife.  His mother, Esperanza, tried to get the knife away but failed.  She implored him to stop abusing himself and give up the alcohol and marijuana.   He shouted that he didn’t want to live any more so loudly that the neighbors came to see what was going on, but the door was locked.

Juan Jose threw himself off the balcony of their second floor apartment (in the USA this would be counted as the third floor).

In that moment, Esperanza had a “flash”.  Knowing that Pope John Paul was to be in Mexico for the beatification of Juan Diego, she called on Juan Diego to intercede for her son.

Juan Jose fell about 10 meters and landed close to a friend of his, Jesus Alfredo Velasquez Ramirez, who saw him land on his head on the concrete pavement.  Juan Jose was bleeding copiously from the mouth, nose and ears.  They covered him, thinking he was dead.  He suddenly sat up, rose and went to the stairs leading to his apartment.  On meeting his mother coming down the stairs he asked his mother’s forgiveness.  They embraced and remained that way for another ten minutes or so before the ambulance came.

During the ambulance ride Juan Jose said he had lost his vision.  He was able to say a Our Father.  He was registered at Sanatorio Durango at 1830.

The medical prognosis was very pessimistic.

The doctor, Juan Homero Hernandez Illescas, later explained that it was already incomprehensible that he was still alive.

They did tests immediately and found that Juan Jose had a fracture of the epistropheus, a large hemotoma in the right temporal-parietal region extending to the lateral part of the neck and lacerations of the muscles about the parapharyngeal space,  fractures from the right orbital to the clivus, intracranial hemorrhages and air in the cranial cavity and in the cerebral ventricals.

Fr. Manuel Ponce gave him the last rites under the impression that Juan Jose would soon be dead.

He continued to live.

Fore the first few days Juan Jose was sedated. On the fifth, doctors found that his pupils were symmetrical and reactive and that he could move his arms and legs.  On the sixth day he was released from the ICU to a regular ward.  On the seventh day his feeding tube was removed.  He was released on the tenth day after the fall.   Subsequent tests by neurologists and other specialists showed a total recovery.  Juan Jose subsequently gave up his drug habit and started school.

It was determined that his change of condition came on 6 May at the very time John Paul II beatified Juan Diego.

For a miracle of curing to be authenticated as such, the cure has to be sudden, complete and lasting.  It has to be inexplicable by science. It has to be demonstrated that the venerable or blessed was invoked in a particular way.  There are usually spiritual effects, such as conversion of life of the person cured and also witnesses.

The decree concerning this miracle was promulgated on 20 December 2001.  Holy Father Pope John Paul II canonized St. Juan Diego on 31 July 2002.

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