Childhood Memories of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe
Another excerpt from my book about the 'Good Priest'. Young Father Bart and attorney Nadia Carson are on a quest to free Bart's grammar school friend from Death Row. They visit cartel member Casimiro Castillo in a Canadian prison, asking for testimony to assist them. Before Casimiro responds, the gangster places his elbows on the table, revealing a tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This kindled childhood memories for Father Bart when he played the bishop, and his friend, Joe, played the humble peasant, Juan Diego.
Sitting across from Casimiro Castillo proved to be one of the most disturbing encounters of my life. Had he gone to my high school, he would have played on the o-line in our football team, his girth so generous. His appearance further distracted me as nothing about him added up. His gold front tooth and gangster status contrasted deeply with his bashful lack of eye contact and the ornate blue-green tattoo of the Virgin Mary, half-hidden by the sleeve of his orange jumpsuit.
It was the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A bittersweet pang hit me as I recalled learning the story in the fourth or fifth grade when our class reenacted the account. All the boys vied for the part of Juan Diego, a meek, yet graced peasant, while all the girls pined to be cast as Our Lady, or more familiar to us, Virgin Mary.
I burned with jealousy when Joe landed the part of Juan, while I got the consolation prize of bishop. Even
then, it registered with others how much Joe was truly the humble soul.
The play was simple. While walking to Mass one day, Our Lady of Guadalupe stopped Juan. “Go tell the bishop, on this spot on Tepeyac Hill, he is to build a shrine for the faithful.”
“But Our Lady,” Juan replied. “I am nobody. Please find someone more esteemed. The bishop won’t listen to me.” Although reluctant, Juan obeyed and repeated Virgin Mary’s request to the bishop, who duly refused. He told Juan to bring proof. Our Lady found the humble peasant once again.
“Go to the same hill,” Our Lady instructed. Then, in the middle of winter, she directed Juan to a beautiful rose bush, with pure, white blossoms. “Take these to the bishop. Now he will believe you.”
Juan cut the flowers, placed him in his cloak, gifting them to the bishop.
Not only did the impossible bouquet convince the bishop, but the miraculous image of Our Lady on his tilma sealed the deal.
I remember falling on my knees next to Joe while reciting my triumphant line, “It is because of your faith and obedience, Juan Diego, that Our Lady’s wishes will be fulfilled, and many yearning souls will be able to worship.”
A meek peasant, a simple man, much like Joe, I thought.
I remained motionless, waiting for Casimiro to respond. He scratched his feet on the floor, wrinkling his forehead. Finally, Nadia turned her head to view the clock. Time was slipping by.
“Okay, Amigos.” Casimiro rolled his elbows off the table and leaned far back in the chair. “I’ll tell you exactly what happened that summer day. And no. Joe did nada. Never killed a soul.” Then he muttered to himself. “How different things coulda been…”