Matt C. Abbott
The miracle of 'Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos'
By Matt C. Abbott
June 29, 2018

The following are excerpts from the book Miraculous Images of Our Lady, by Joan Carroll Cruz. Thanks to TAN Books/Saint Benedict Press, LLC for granting me permission to publish these excerpts in my column. Click here to order a copy of the book.

Excerpted introduction to Miraculous Images of Our Lady

By Joan Carroll Cruz

Catholics do not adore statues or other representations of Our Lord, His Mother or the Saints, nor do we pray to these images. In early childhood, we are taught from our Catechism that "we do not pray to the crucifix or to the images of Christ and of the Saints, but to the persons of whom they remind us." Because they represent holy persons, images are treated with becoming reverence, even as the picture of one's mother would be.

This subject was clarified by the Council of Trent during its 25th session in December 1563:
    'Moreover, [the faithful must be instructed] that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other Saints are to be placed and retained especially in the churches, and that due honor and veneration is to be given them ... because the honor which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which they represent, so that by means of the images which we kiss and before which we uncover the head and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ and venerate the Saints whose likeness they bear. That is what was defined by the decrees of the Councils, especially of the Second Council of Nicaea (787 A.D.) against the opponents of images.'
From the earliest days of the Church, images were painted on the walls of the catacombs as religious expressions of the faithful, as acts of veneration and as aids in visualizing Our Lord, His miracles and His Holy Mother. We are told by St. John of the Cross in Book III, Chapter 35 of The Ascent of Mount Carmel: "The Church established the use of statues (and images) for two principal reasons: the reverence given to the Saints through them and the motivation of the will and the awakening of devotion to the Saints by their means. Insofar as they serve this purpose their use is profitable and necessary." The Saint also tells us, "Since images serve as a motivating means toward invisible things, we should strive that the motivation, affection, and joy of will derived from them be directed toward the living object they represent."

Without question, the most popular image of a Saint found in churches throughout the world is that of the Queen of Saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary. One would be hard pressed to find a church, chapel or oratory that does not contain an image of the Mother of God.

Of these images of our Holy Mother, some have been identified as being miraculous. It is not that the statue or painting is miraculous of itself, but it does seem that Our Lady favors certain of her replicas and often honors the requests of those persons who visit them to express their needs and their love for her.

The purpose of this work is to identify 100 of these favored images and to chart their histories and the reasons for their designation as miraculous objects. It must be understood that the Blessed Virgin does not perform the miracles by herself. It is ultimately our Heavenly Father who performs the miracles according to His holy will at the request of Our Lady. For this reason, the Virgin Mary is known as the Mediatrix of All Graces who pleads our cause before God's holy throne....

Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos (Our Lady of St. John of the Lakes)

Jalisco, Mexico – 1623

The second most popular image of Mary in Mexico, second only to Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the statue of Our Lady of St. John of the Lakes. In the early years of the 17th century, the holy Franciscan missionary Fray Miguel de Bolonia brought the statue to the village, then known as San Juan Bautista Mezquititlan, which was inhabited by the Nochiztleca tribe. Depicting the

Immaculate Conception, it soon became a favorite of the Indians and was the center of their devotion. It became known beyond the village during the year 1623 when, according to an early legend, a spectacular miracle occurred.

A certain aerial acrobat was traveling along the Camino Real, "the King's Highway," from San Luis Potosi to Guadalajara, performing in the towns along the way. His act included his wife and two daughters. His stunts included swinging from one high point to another by means of ropes, in somewhat the same fashion as trapeze artists of today. To add excitement and an element of danger, the artists had to fly over swords and knives that were stuck in the ground with their points positioned upward.

While performing in the village, the younger daughter, a child of six or seven, slipped, fell upon the knives and was mortally wounded. After preparing the body and wrapping it in burial cloths, the grieving parents brought the child's body to the chapel of Our Lady of San Juan for burial.

Meeting them at the door of the chapel was the 78-year-old Ana Lucia, the wife of Pedro Antes (the caretaker and custodian of the beloved statue). Feeling pity for the grieving family, she exhorted them to have confidence in La Virgencita, who could restore the child to them. Taking the statue from its altar in the sacristy where it had been consigned because of its poor condition, Ana Lucia laid it on the child's dead body. In a few moments, they detected a slight movement under the shroud. The parents quickly unwrapped the cloth to discover the child well and unharmed. This first miracle of Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos became known in neighboring villages and towns. Numerous other miracles and favors followed, until now Our Lady is venerated by pilgrims from throughout Mexico and the United States.

The statue was in poor condition at the time of the first miracle because of its composition. Made of pasta de Michoacan, a combination of cornstalks and glue, it was brittle and considerably damaged by the elements. Because of its sad state, the grateful father asked if he might take the statue to Guadalajara to have it restored. The pastor, Don Diego Camarena, gave his permission and sent two Indians of the village to accompany him so that they could return the statue to the chapel while the acrobat went on his way.

As soon as they arrived in Guadalajara, they were approached by a man who asked if they were in need of someone to repair a statue. Since he was an artist, he offered his services. After settling on a price, the artist was entrusted with the statue. In a few days, the image was returned beautifully restored, with the face and hands of exceptional beauty. The artist however had vanished, and no one could tell the acrobat anything about him. The circumstances surrounding the artist have always remained a mystery.

The spread of devotion to the miraculous image required a larger sanctuary, so one was built in 1631. The popularity of the chapel was such that on July 14, 1678, Don Juan Santiago de Garabito, the bishop of Guadalajara, ordered an accounting of all the miracles worked through the intercession of Our Lady of San Juan during the preceding ten years, as well as other information regarding the sanctuary. The detailed reply presented by Nicolas de Arevalo provides the researcher with all the facts regarding the early history of the image and its sanctuary.

By the year 1732, the sanctuary was unable to accommodate the multitudes who pilgrimaged from all parts of Mexico to observe the feasts of Our Lady. The first stone for a magnificent temple was laid in November of the same year.

A great distinction was awarded the shrine on August 15, 1904, when the statue was liturgically crowned by Don Jose Jesus Ortiz, the archbishop of Guadalajara. Pope St. Pius X authorized the crowning because of the great devotion to Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos, the antiquity of the statue, and the abundance of miracles attributed to Our Lady's intercession through the miraculous image.

The crown used for the ceremony is of gold measuring some seven inches high and weighing six pounds. It is adorned with 197 precious stones including diamonds, emeralds and sapphires.

Although the statue is made of a substance composed of cornstalks and glue, which has a tendency to crumble in a relatively short time, the image has remained in excellent condition for over 350 years. Measuring about a foot in height, the face is well proportioned and slightly dark in color and the hands are gracefully joined in prayer. The statue is clothed in beautiful garments and stands atop a crescent moon. Above the image are two Angels of silver who support between them a silver ribbon with the words in blue enamel: Mater Immaculata, ora pro nobis.

The main feast days are February 2, which is Candlemas Day, and December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The wonder-working statue is found in the parish church named for the Immaculate Conception, where it draws thousands of pilgrims from all over Mexico. The feasts are times of great joyfulness and are observed with fiestas, dancing, bullfights, cockfights and various amusements.

However, inside the church great solemnity is observed as local pilgrims demonstrate the urgency of their needs by traveling on their knees from the back of the church to the main altar.

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media, and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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