Our Lady of Ocotlan - Mexico
Our Lady of Ocotlan
The Miracle Image found in the Ocote Tree
Just ten short years after our Lady appeared to Juan Diego on Tepayac Hill she came to another Indian - Juan Diego Bernardino (no relation to Juan Diego) in Tlaxcala.
The Indians of Tlaxcala had been a fierce tribe.
They had never been defeated.
And yet, these same Indians were the first to befriend Cortes and the first to accept Our Lord Jesus and His Church in the New World.
They were the first Christians!
In the beginning of 1641, a devastating plague (believed to be Small Pox) attacked the Indians of Tlaxcala.
Nine out of every ten died.
There was not a family left untouched by this disease that spread like a fire out of control.
The Indians turned to their medicine men.
They were helpless!
They had never seen anything like it.
The Indians plunged their fever-ravaged bodies into a river they believed contained curative properties.
On June 24, 1641, we find Juan Diego Bernardino, jug in hand, journeying to the river to retrieve some water to bring back to his family who had also been struck down.
Having filled his jug with his last hope (he thought), he set out across the hills to his family.
As he made his way through the ocote (pine) trees in the forest, he found himself suddenly blocked by the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
She looked like a queen!
What would someone of her importance be doing here before him, a humble peasant.
She gently addressed him with these words: "May God save you."
And then she asked him: "Where are you going?"
Can you picture yourself in the presence of Mother Mary?
And we have a 2000 year tradition of Our Mother!
We have read of Our Lady's coming to her children in Mexico, Italy, France, Spain and on and on.
Therefore, it would be easier for us to accept a heavenly Lady appearing.
But these dear simple believers knew very little about Our Lady. There were very few known apparitions of Our Lady in the world of the 16th century.
It is true, Our Lady had appeared to another Juan Diego just ten years before, in a far off state.
But communication being what it was at that time, I wonder if this Juan Diego Bernardino even knew who the Mother of God was and what she looked like.
It's true he worked for the Franciscan brothers, but you have to remember he was going for help to a helpless stream; how solid was his knowledge of God and His Mother?
When, at last, he summoned the courage to speak, he weakly replied: "I am taking some water from the river to my family who are dying from the plague."
I can just see the huge black eyes of this Indian open even wider, gleaming, as Our Lady waved to him to follow her with these words: "Then follow me. I will give you water to cure the disease. It will not only cure your family but all who drink it. My heart is always ready to help those who are ill, for I cannot bear to see their suffering and pain."
Although he had never seen a body of water of any kind in the forest of the ocote, he followed, skipping lightly, confidant that the Lady would be true to her word. As they approached the edge of a cliff, he looked down, to where the Beautiful Lady was pointing. To his amazement, in the ravine below, was a spring of gushing fresh water. She told him to take as much as he needed, and "know that those who are touched by the tiniest drop will receive not only relief from their pain but will be restored to perfect health."
A little water and a lot of faith.
Juan Diego Bernardino emptied his jug of water from the river and refilled it with the blessed water. He bowed to the Lady and begged his leave.
She stopped him once more.
She wanted him to bring a message to the Franciscans at the church of Saint Laurence: "Tell the religious that in this place they will find a statue of me. It will not only manifest my perfections but through this image I will bestow many favors and compassion. When they find it they are to bring it and place it in the the church of Saint Lawrence"
This humble, gentle Indian, like another Indian named Juan Diego, was to be sent on a mission to speak to his superiors! After all, he worked for the Franciscans.
The beautiful Lady's words resounding in his ears and heart, Juan set out, with a spring to his walk, to bring the miraculous water to his family.
He gave the water to his family and they were immediately cured.
The moment they were healed, Juan and his family went out to all the villagers sharing the Good News of their miraculous healing. Juan shared the water with all the afflicted.
As they drank the tiny drop of water Juan sparingly gave them, they too were instantly healed.
The Good News spread quickly from all corners of this town to the neighboring towns. Juan would repeat the story of the Lady and the spring over and over again.
Having completed his mission to his family and neighbors, Juan descended upon the unsuspecting Franciscans.
He recounted what had transpired between him and the precious Lady. He carefully, meticulously shared the Lady's message to them, just as she had given it to him.
They questioned him over and over again. His story and the message was always the same.
Finally convinced this was important enough for them to look into, they told Juan Diego to go to the spot where our Lady had appeared and to the miraculous spring.
They waited until dark, as they did not want Juan Diego to know they were following him, and they did not want the villagers to get involved in case it was a hoax.
Now, Tlaxcala was a very small village. The moment the first villager spotted the Franciscans, practically the whole village knew and followed. They had grown to love them. Were the Franciscans going to leave them?
When the informal procession arrived at the forest, they fell back. The whole forest was on fire!
Especially, the largest ocote tree. The flames were encircling it, like huge tongues, devouring it.
As it was very late and they had not come prepared for such a catastrophe, they left. Juan had to have really been convincing for the Franciscans to return, but nevertheless the next day they and the entire town were on their way once more to the ocote grove.
As they rounded the crest of the hill called Hill of Saint Lawrence or Cerro de San Lorenzo to their amazement, the forest appeared untouched.
There was the giant ocote without even smoke damage. The Franciscans ordered the tree to be split open.
We do not know if this was to see if there was a smoldering fire inside that could later ignite the forest once more and spread, or maybe could they have had a thought from some unknown source as the world would say?
Or if we look at these people of faith, could it have been their Guardian Angels or perhaps the Queen of the Angels who placed that thought in their minds? I'll opt for the Queen and her Angels every time.
When the tree was split open, to their astonishment, there in the corazon, the heart of the great ocote tree, was the image of Our Lady, the Holy Mother of God.
SIDEBAR) We have been to Ocotlan and have seen this image, on display in the Church of St. Lawrence. We documented this in our dvd- see below SIDEBAR)
And she was magnificent!
Juan Diego just stared at her! There is nothing to indicate that he knew who she was, at the time she had appeared to him. But he had been taken with her, he could not refuse her anything. She was a Queen! She did not look like anyone or anything he had ever known in this world. He could not get her out of his mind.
Upon experiencing the presence of the Lady, all he wanted to do was serve her. His yes, his Fiat so like that of the Lady when she was a young girl, was to bring our Lady not only to him for that short time but to the people of his town, his state, his country and the world for over 400 years with her image Our Lady of the Ocote Tree or Ocotlan!
The Franciscans recognized the image before them immediately. She was Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
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