Friday, December 9, 2011

St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin - The Story of Rose Prince - Benefit Dinner Recipients Receive Cheques

Today there is the possibility of an optional memorial of St. Juan Diego, the key player in the dramatic manifestation of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day is December 12, and which the Canadian Church celebrates as the day of prayer with and for Canada's aboriginal peoples--the First Nations. 

The Canadian Aboriginal Council features each year a member of the indigenous peoples whose life as a disciple of Christ was exemplary.  This year the focus is on Rose Prince (cf. below).

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O God, who by means of Saint Juan Diego showed the love of the most holy Virgin Mary for your people, grant, through his intercession, that, by following the counsels our Mother gave at Guadalupe, we may be ever constant in fulfilling your will. Through our Lord.

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St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Little is known about the life of Juan Diego before his conversion, but tradition and archaelogical and iconographical sources, along with the most important and oldest indigenous document on the event of Guadalupe, "El Nican Mopohua" (written in Náhuatl with Latin characters, 1556, by the Indigenous writer Antonio Valeriano), give some information on the life of the saint and the apparitions.

Juan Diego was born in 1474 with the name "Cuauhtlatoatzin" ("the talking eagle") in Cuautlitlán, today part of Mexico City, Mexico. He was a gifted member of the Chichimeca people, one of the more culturally advanced groups living in the Anáhuac Valley.

When he was 50 years old he was baptized by a Franciscan priest, Fr Peter da Gand, one of the first Franciscan missionaries. On 9 December 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who invoked her.

The Bishop, who did not believe Juan Diego, asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was true. On 12 December, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. Here, the Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and although it was winter time, he found roses flowering. He gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof". When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.

With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus.

Much deeper than the "exterior grace" of having been "chosen" as Our Lady's "messenger", Juan Diego received the grace of interior enlightenment and from that moment, he began a life dedicated to prayer and the practice of virtue and boundless love of God and neighbour. He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He was beatified on 6 May 1990 by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Guadalupe, Mexico City.

The miraculous image, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is supported by an angel whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle about her waist signifies that she is pregnant. Thus, the image graphically depicts the fact that Christ is to be "born" again among the peoples of the New World, and is a message as relevant to the "New World" today as it was during the lifetime of Juan Diego.

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Catholics remember Rose Prince in prayers for Aboriginal peoples


As Catholics prepare for the 2011 National Day of Prayer for Aboriginal Peoples Dec. 12, the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council (CCAC) has focused its annual message on a young woman named Rose Prince.


Every year hundreds of people make a pilgrimage to her grave site and some have claimed to have found healing as a result of her intercession, says the CCAC message posted on the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

The CCAC is an advisory body of the CCCB composed of seven Aboriginal members from across Canada and two bishops.

Born in 1915 to a devout Catholic family at Nak’asdli, a First Nations community near Fort St. James in northern British Columbia, Prince was born with a spine curvature that formed a hump on her back and made it difficult for her to walk or kneel.

She attended the Lejac Residential School and asked to remain there after graduation as a lay staff member, doing various tasks from sewing to secretarial work.

“Rose’s life was marked by cheerfulness and gratitude,” said the CCAC message. “She helped other students with their school work and they sought her ought for guidance.”

“She was known to hum or sing as she worked and she gave away her paintings and intricate crochet and bead work as gifts to the Sisters [of the Child Jesus] and other students on special occasions.”

Prince died of tuberculosis in 1949 at the age of 34 and her quiet, hidden life of prayer and cheerful devotion to God might have been forgotten if, in 1951, her casket had not broken open when workers moved some graves close to the school to a bigger cemetery nearby.

“Those present were able to see Rose’s face in perfect condition, that is to say uncorrupted by the two years in the ground,” says an account at a website dedicated to her. “When witnesses were asked to see, the school priest and Sisters, they said she was ‘transparent,’ that is to say, her body was still fresh, and ‘as if she was sleeping,’ with ‘just a tiny little smile on her face.’

Witnesses agreed “the entire body and the clothing were in a state of perfect preservation.”
Devotion to Rose Prince has grown over the years to include an annual pilgrimage that began in 1990 and attracts hundreds.

As the CCAC raises awareness of little known Aboriginal Canadians who were known for their holiness like Rose Prince, the advisory body met recently in Ottawa at the CCCB Secretariat.

“There are a lot of good things going on in Aboriginal communities,” said CCAC member Rennie Nahanee of the Squamish First Nation, following the meeting. “It’s not all dark.”

As Catholics remember Aboriginal peoples on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12, Nahanee hopes they will consider some of the history that does not get into the books and the difficulties First Nations peoples have faced through colonialization, the loss of their traditional hunting and fishing groups and being forced onto reserves.

“Remember who your neighbour is and the story of the Good Samaritan,” he said. “Aboriginal people have contributed a lot to Canada and not just lands, minerals,-- and resources."

The problems on reserves are problems that face many other communities, he said.

Though Nahanee said the Indian Residential School policy to “take the Indian out of the child” had a devastating effect on individuals, families and communities, not everything about the schools was bad. He said lifelong friendships were formed among students, because that was the only family they knew.

“Aboriginal people had very good relationship with the Church prior to residential schools,” he said, noting that priests learned the native languages and some even created dictionaries, which helped preserve them.

Nahanee pointed out for many First Nations “our spiritual values were similar to the Church’s. That’s why the Church was readily accepted.”

By Deborah Gyapong (Canadian Catholic News)

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Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Grant that your people, we pray, almighty God, may be ever watchful for the coming of your Only Begotten Son, that, as the author of our salvation himself has taught us, we may hasten, alert and with lighted lamps, to meet him when He comes. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Thursday morning at the Diocesan Centre a brief presentation ceremony was held to hand over to the three beneficiaries of the Archbishop's Benefit Dinner the proceeds.

Representatives of the Catholic Immigration Centre, Catholic Family Services of Ottawa and the Waupoos Foundation for Families were in attendance along with Louise Morton our Director of Development.

Here are some other photos (credit: Robert Du Broy):




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