Juan Diego v. John Donne

In the penultimate matchup of the Round of 32, Juan Diego faces off against John Donne. Yes, one of these saints will be Juan and Donne (or 'one and done,' if you prefer).

Yesterday, Jonathan Daniels swept past Rutilio Grande 79% to 21% to make the Saintly Sixteen, where he'll face Josephine Bakhita.

Obviously you watched Monday Madness yesterday. But if you insist on watching it again, you can watch it here. Tim and Scott thank you.

Time to vote!

Juan Diego

Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (whose Indigenous name means “He is who speaks like an eagle”) was born in what is now known as Mexico in 1474. Although not poor, Juan was not considered rich or influential. But he was very devout, and every day, he walked from his home to see the Franciscan friars at the chapel at Tolpetlac. Along the way, he passed a hill at Tepeyac.

In December, 1531, he saw the Virgin Mary, appearing as a young Indigenous girl, standing on the hill. She told him to go to the bishop and tell him to build a chapel in her honor so she could help the locals who suffered. Juan immediately did so, but the bishop was not convinced. When Juan returned home past the hill, Mary was still there; he told her about his failure and suggested she send someone more important. She insisted Juan do it, and he agreed to go back to the bishop again.

The next day, the bishop was a bit more agreeable but asked for some sort of sign before he invested in the building project. Juan ran back to the hill and informed Mary, who agreed to provide a sign the following day.

However, on the next morning, when Juan was supposed to arrive at the hill to fetch his sign, he was instead caring for his uncle, Juan Bernardino, who had taken ill during the night. On the next day, as his uncle appeared to be near death, Juan left to fetch a priest to administer last rites. He intentionally avoided Tepeyac so as not to run into Mary, but Mary managed to show up to him anyway. He told her what had happened, expecting her to yell at him. Instead, she told him “¿No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre/Am I not here? Me, your mother?” She said she had healed his uncle and for Juan to go up the hill and fetch the flowers blooming there to take to the bishop. Juan piled the flowers into his cloak, and when he unfurled it, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared on his cloak. The image convinced the stubborn bishop.

On December 26, 1531, the bishop led a procession to move Juan’s cloak to a hastily constructed adobe shrine on Tepeyac hill, and Juan spent the rest of his life serving there. He died in 1548. While the apparition of Guadalupe was recognized early on, Juan himself wasn’t made a saint until 2002, becoming the first Indigenous saint of the Americas.

Collect for Juan Diego

O God, you have brought us near to an innumerable company of angels, and to the spirits of just men made perfect: Grant us during our earthly pilgrimage to abide in their fellowship, and in our heavenly country to become partakers of their joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Megan Castellan


John Donne

Gifted preacher, gifted writer, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, prisoner, poetic rake, deeply faithful Christian: these titles all describe John Donne.

Donne was born into a Roman Catholic family in 1572 but struggled with religion for many years. During much of his youth, he was marginally spiritual and definitely not traditionally religious. A perpetual university student, he attended some of England’s finest universities yet never obtained a degree. He traveled Europe and spent time courting affluent ladies wherever he went while writing groundbreaking, edgy, and even scandalous poetry. His charm and intellect guided him into a promising political career. He sat in Queen Elizabeth’s last parliament and worked for the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, a prestigious office of the court. The rake had turned a corner… almost. But Donne, who did not live life by halves, fell in love with Anne More. Her father was vehemently opposed to the match, so the two married in secret in 1601. When the marriage became public, Donne was fired from his post and imprisoned. Donne was eventually released from prison, and by all accounts, Anne and John lived a sincerely committed life together.

During this time, John became deeply involved in Anglicanism. As early as 1607, his friends encouraged him to seek ordination, but he refused and instead wrote about religious matters. His essays were widely published and captured the attention of King James, who wanted Donne to become a priest so badly that he declared to all of England that Donne could not be hired except in the church. Donne was ordained in 1615 and soon became known as a great preacher in an age of great preachers.

After serving in several congregations, John was named dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 1621. His sermons attracted large audiences with his wit, intelligence, and passionate devotion to Christ. He served as dean until his death in 1631. Knowing his death was near, John planned his monument at St. Paul’s; it does not depict him in pompous glory but rather in his burial shroud. For John, a life of faith saw God’s love even in death. He believed with every bit of his soul that the resurrection wasn’t just a story but truth. His statue survived the 1666 fire at St. Paul’s and still watches over the cathedral where he preached the Good News.

Collect for John Donne

O God of eternal glory, whom no one living can see and yet whom to see is to live; grant that with your servant John Donne, we may see your glory in the face of your Son, Jesus Christ, and then, with all our skill and wit, offer you our crown of prayer and praise, until by his grace we stand in that last and everlasting day, when death itself will die, and all will live in you, who with the Holy Spirit and the same Lord Jesus Christ are one God in everlasting light and glory. Amen.

Laurie Brock


John Donne: National Portrait Gallery, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Juan Diego: Miguel Cabrera, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


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77 comments on “Juan Diego v. John Donne”

  1. Of his church the unruliest son
    In him poet and preacher formed one.
    Both celestial and earthy,
    Of the Halo he’s worthy;
    Pray advance him, or else I’m un-Donne.

  2. I've always loved and admired John Donne (and his poetry) but appreciate Juan Diego and his witness of The Virgen of Guadalupe even more. Our Hispanic sisters and brothers hold her in their hearts, so today I'm voting for Juan and his red roses.

    1. Come to Detroit's Most Holy Trinity Church on December 12, as the community observes the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe!

  3. With no better reason, I picked Juan Diego because I am sure there is some amazing Kitch to see if he makes it to round 3.

  4. I always love simple belief and faith. Donne is certainly worthy and will probably win today but I had to vote for Juan and his flowers.

  5. Megan swayed my vote. I had marked Donne as my choice, but after reading the story of Juan Diego, I changed my mind. I am also voting to honor my Mexican-born grandson Wesley Diego

  6. I still remember studying Donne in HS English Lit, but I went with Juan Diego because I've always been fascinated by his story. It's beautiful and reminds us that God's image is to be found in ALL people, anyone can be chosen to do God's work, and running from our call is ultimately futile.

  7. In my city there is a procession from the Eastside Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine to the cross at the top of Mt. Rubidoux in December. Last year 1000 folks made the pilgrimage. The roses, the cloak, the Virgin's image, the dancing, music, and altars are all a gift of vibrant love in communal action.

  8. My vote goes to John Donne for the simple reason that he was living proof that God can make silk purses out of sow's ears.

  9. We Lift Up Juan Diego and John Donne Both - Tune: Hymnal #255

    Now, a First Nation person, the finally sainted Juan,
    is matched against the Old World in a face-off with John.
    We lift up Juan Diego and John Donne, worthy both.
    Diego saw the Virgin, Donne preached of love and growth.

    When Mary came to visit Diego on a hill,
    she sent him to the bishop with her request to fill.
    For a church in her honor that served the poor in town.
    The bishop wanted signs or else he would turn it down.

    Well in due time the sign appeared on Diego's coat:
    the miracle of roses, for doubt the antidote.
    John Donne was not as saintly his early rakish days,
    when he wrote saucy sonnets, a mistress for to sway.

    In time he turned his passion to love that's from the soul:
    For Anne a love forbidden that landed him in gaol.
    And then his deepest love was fixed on Christ glorified.
    Donne wears a shroud and crown for the Love that never dies.

    1. Excellent! As you have so eloquently stated (or sung!), both men are well-deserving of accolades for their dedication and faith.

    2. Thank you, Terry for putting into song the attributes of both of these saints. A very creative way to honor each one.

  10. Another two great men of faith. It thrills me reading the differences of two people serving faithfully the teachings of Jesus. Some evangelize. Some have visions, some are well educated and worldly, some are poor, some are wealthy, and it seems they all have struggles and they all serve God’s children to God’s glory. God reaches His children in ways His children are able to receive the message! What an amazing God we have! Glory be to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

  11. In honor of the Guadalupanas Benedictinas de Cristo Rey, the Benedictine nuns who have provided hospitality to many groups from my church over the years, I'm voting for Juan Diego. The sisters' mother house in Mexico City is a few blocks from the basilica where Juan Diego's tilma (cape) is still displayed. Along with many peregrinos from around Mexico,and all over the world, I have climbed Tepeyac on the fiesta of the Virgin of Guadalupe and prayed and lit candles. Adelante Juan Diego!

  12. What a tough choice. The Virgin of Guadalupe -- and everything she means about God's love for oppressed people -- is so important. But this writer and former English major can only vote for John Donne, he of the glorious verse. Today's write-up only mentioned Donne's poetry in passing. Here's a link to his life: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/john-donne. And here's a link to some of his poems: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/john-donne#tab-poems,

  13. After voting, I saw that Donne was/is in the lead, and prior to reading their stories and thinking about the role of Juan Diego in advancing Christianity in South America, I would have voted for Donne. Reading certainly changed my mind, and I sincerely hope it does others, as well.

    1. My young son and I loved the Wishbone series and the historical characters portrayed.

  14. As a perpetual student myself, my vote goes to John Donne. The complexities of Donne's life, his reluctance to settle to anything, his scandalous youth, his coming to Anglicanism through imprisonment, his devoted marriage, all suggest that someone, somewhere needs to make a film of his life.

  15. Who else could this poetpotterpriest vote for than the poet and priest who formed and re-formed himself all of his life, taking upon himself the yokes of Christ, of marriage, and of the Church?

    Besides, these days we sorely and constantly need Donne's eloquent reminder of what we are made for and called to: love of neighbor, ubuntu, and beloved community.

    No man is an island entire of itself; every man
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
    if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
    is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
    well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
    own were; any man's death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind.
    And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

  16. As a historian who has written several books on sixteenth-century Mexico and who has studied the history of the Church extensively for the period, there is essentially not a shred of historical evidence that Juan Diego ever lived. It is a pious legend, of which we have numerous in the Church. The events of Tepeyac wer never even mentioned in his lifetime, but only surfaced in a book published in Guatemala a full century later.

  17. So I am wondering why the collect for Juan has no mention of Mary? I am voting for Juan.

  18. When in Mexico City, I visited the shrine to the Virgen de Guadalupe. I was amazed (in a spiritual way) of the devotion of the people who approached the shrine on their knees. Sometimes their children or grandchildren moved their rugs so the knees would be spared the roughness of the courtyard stones. But I also saw those who did not have a rug or mat still crawl from the gate to the church. It was truly inspiring. However true or not the back story might be, it made me wonder if I would have done the same. As I entered the church, it was spiritually uplifting as I walked around the perimeter in awe and wonder.

  19. Another day when I can't vote on my iPad. So weird. Luckily my phone allows me to vote for Juan Diego, who waited so long for sainthood.

  20. It was a blessing to learn about Juan Diego. I knew very little about him even though I have been to Guadeloupe. Since I first heard the phrase "ask not for whom the bell tolls..it tolls for you," and someone told me that John Donne was the author of those lines, I have been devoted to him and to the God he loved and served.

  21. Juan Diego’s witness gives birth to the Virgin of Guadeloupe as the first apparition of Mary as an indigenous woman in the Americas. Today, her image is as much an emblem of faith as it is a symbol of social justice. Look for her image the next time you attend any kind of gathering in support of marginalized people.

  22. What’s Juan with you putting the John’s against each other?? I surely knew of Donne through both secular & church history but Diego was new to me. Needing a pronunciation guide to pronounce his indigenous name no wonder he’s known as simply Juan! I’ve been Donne today by new knowledge & voted Diego for his perseverance & the Spanish phrases i recognized!

  23. Well this is a real test of political correctness, isn't it. Choose between the extremely intellectual dead white English-speaking male, or the indigenous peasant all wrapped up in the sort of Roman Catholic Latino folk-religion Marian stuff that some of us, at least, were brought up to dissociate ourselves from as heirs of the Reformation.

    Luckily, while this is a zero-sum game, the Kingdom of Heaven is not, and there is room for both.

    What an Anglican-via-media reply, and I ain't saying which I voted for.

    1. The power and eloquence of Donne's poetry has little to do with the confines and stereotypes of political correctness. I'm not sure how that lens helps us here--unlike reading and engaging with his poetry and other writings, which still speak with depth and beauty.

  24. The story of Juan Diego lacks credibility because Cortez' conquest of Mesoamerica was completed in 1521. Following this conquest, European diseases overtook much of the population, To have an established Indigenous Hispanic in such a short time following the conquest lacks credibility. Had this story occurred in the next cohort of history when there when the next generation of people there were a blend of Indigenous and European, and the Spanish Culture was firmly established, then the story would have some merit.

  25. Another hard choice, but I went with Donne. My family's unofficial motto is, "Words matter," and Donne was nothing if not a master of words. In the midst of this penitential season, my intellect is piqued and my heart moved by the wonderful punniness of the last lines of each verse of his poem, "A Hymn to God the Father" for which music was composed in his lifetime (see Hymnal 1982, #140):

    Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
    Which is my sin, though it were done before'
    Wilt Thou forgive that sin through which I run,
    And do run still, though still I do deplore'
    When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
    For I have more.

    Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
    Others to sin? and made my sin their door'
    Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
    A year or two, but wallowed in a score'
    When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
    For I have more.

    I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
    My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
    Swear by Thy self, that at my death Thy Son
    Shall shine as he shines now and heretofore;
    And, having done that, Thou hast done,
    I fear no more.