The roses of Alcalá

The Miracle of the Roses by Annibale Carraci . National Museum of Art, Barcelona.

While doing research for my upcoming book on Our Lady of Guadalupe I ran — almost miraculously I must say — into a piece of Catholic history that was totally unknown to me. It was the biography of Saint Didacus of Alcalá, better known as St Diego of Alcalá, (1400-1463) the same saint that the Spanish colonizers gave to a village in California, now the city of San Diego.

The saint was born in Seville, the city where St Leander, St Isidore where bishops but his name was forever associated with Alcalá de Henares, a city located a few miles east of Madrid. Things natural of Alcalá are called complutenses in Spanish (singular complutense) retaining the Latin name of the city in Roman times: Complutum.  The place has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The city is much older than Madrid and was home to saints since ancient times. Saint Justus and Saint Pastor lived and gained souls for God there.

After 711 it was refunded by the Moors and given its present name Al Qallah meaning “the citadel” in Arabic. The Archbishop of Toledo, Bernard de Sedirac reconquered the city 899 years ago. After that the Castilian kings often resided there during their military campaigns in the south of Spain.

That was the place where Columbus met Ferdinand and Isabella for the first time. Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra, the Author of Don Quixote was born there in 1547. St John of the Cross lived there also. One of the first (if not the first) polyglot Bibles was produced there the Biblia Complutense  in spite of the many Protestant claims that the Bible was hidden and left to rot in Medieval Spain … oh well. The city was once home to a thriving Jewish community and many Jewish families who bear Spanish names can be traced to that era. That may be the reason why so many Jewish men in the Spanish world are called Santiago — a strange thing since that is the Spanish Christian name for St James!

That is a very imperfect historical vignette on the city of the saint we are talking about, St Diego from whom St Juan Diego — of Guadalupe fame — took his name. You may have guessed the theme of this article when looking at the illustration. If you are well aware of the lives of the Catholic saints you may already know it. I must confess I was completely in the dark about the life and deeds of St Diego of Alcalá until yesterday when I read a brief biography of him. This is the part that knocked my socks off:

San Diego by Zurbarán

“St Diego is depicted carrying something hidden in his cloak: either roses or food for the poor.  He was a the porter or doorkeeper in various convents and he used to give to the poor everything he could. The story tells that one day he was taking food to a poor beggar when he run into his Superior — a very stern man — who asked him what was he hiding under his cloak. Very scared poor St Diego answered that he was carrying some roses. When his Superior told him to open the cloak several dozen roses cascaded down to the floor.”

The similarity of this story with the story of St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin is obvious. What is not so obvious is that this miracle happened and was known one hundred years before St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548) was baptized selecting St Diego of Alcalá for his Christian name.

That is a hidden miracle revealing that Our Lady was already working in the life of St Juan Diego at the time he was baptized. From outside time God is gazing at our whole life from beginning to end. Our Lady of Guadalupe waited one hundred years until 1531 to reproduce the miracle of St Diego with Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.

In my soon to be published book Guadalupe: A River of Light, I have recorded hundreds of these strange “coincidences” that span several centuries. The object of the book is to show what I call “The Grand Parable” of Guadalupe, a series of interconnected events, names, and places that could not possibly have been arranged by human agents.

Why is it that our bishops and priests neglect teaching the Catholic people about the rich heritage of the Church? I think I know the sad answer to that but I will remain silent out of respect for the hierarchy. It seems to me that the time has come for the stones to hail Christ. (Luke 19:40) We have to spread the knowledge of these marvelous signs of the power of God as we approach the end of this age of darkness.

The Church remembers St Diego of Alcalá on November 13.


2 thoughts on “The roses of Alcalá

  1. Carlos,
    You might already know of this, but just in case ….The miracle of roses here reminded me of yet another – connected to St Germaine Cousin, Patron Saint of abused children. Here’s a bit on it from :

    No matter how little Germaine had, she shared it with others. Her scraps of food were given to beggars. Her life of prayer became stories of God that entranced the village children.

    But most startling of all was the forgiveness to showed to the woman who deserved her hatred.

    Hortense (Germaine’s stepmother), furious at the stories about her daughter’s holiness, waited only to catch her doing wrong. One cold winter day, after throwing out a beggar that Germaine had let sleep in the barn, Hortense caught Germaine carrying something bundled up in her apron. Certain that Germaine had stolen bread to feed the beggar, she began to chase and scream at the child. As she began to beat her, Germaine opened her apron. Out tumbled what she had been hiding in her apron — bright beautiful flowers that no one had expected to see for months. Where had she found the vibrant blossoms in the middle of the ice and snow? There was only one answer and Germaine gave it herself, when she handed a flower to her mother and said, “Please accept this flower, Mother. God sends it to you in sign of His forgiveness.”

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    • Thank you, Caitlynne! I did not know! Another great miracle. We are told that St Juan Diego was the most humble, long suffering, and generous man just like San Diego and St Germaine. To his last days he humbly cleaned the floors at Our Lady’s sanctuary. We really need to take in his example these days!
      Excellent post! Thank you!


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