This past Sunday we decided to attend Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I’d been wanting to go since we arrived and took this opportunity to go for the day. It was a first for both of us to make a trip like this. When we got off the metro there was all sorts of stalls selling any type of religious icon you can imagine and when we turned the corner onto the street we saw this in the distance:
We passed people, whole families, walking on their knees. Up the whole street. Even little kids.
When we finally made it up to the square, we could see the original Basilica (built in 1709), canted from sinking, and the new Basilica, (built in the 70’s).
The Church was huge. Before we left we wanted to make sure they had Mass around the time we arrived and boy were we shocked to find out that they have Mass EVERY hour until 7 or 8 at night. So once we got there we walked around a little and tried to sit as close to the front as possible, which was difficult because it was packed.
We ended up pretty close. Can you see the image? Its in the lower right corner of the picture, underneath the giant cross in the goldish-frame. The Mass was surprisingly personal for being in such a huge location. And guess what? I understood the homily :) I didn’t catch which readings it was and there were wayyy too many people for missals (at least that I saw) but it was clear to me that that the homily was about faith (and checking the readings later confirmed that!). The priest said if you want to be truly happy, you must have faith and you must be holy. The problem is how to increase your faith, but that’s best done by prayer. At the end we all prayer together for more faith and to help make us holy. The homily was also about abortion and how its easy to loose faith in crisis situations. I’m not sure if the priest said this but if its any wonder why Christians are against abortion (despite the obvious reasons) consider that if abortion had been legal during Christ’s time, we might not have a Savior. Its the startling truth.
After Mass we were able to get a closer view of the image of the Virgin by going underneath the altar. We got confused at first and ended up in the crypts underneath the altar at first (surprise!) but eventually got straightened out by following the masses of people to the Virgin. Here she is, nearly 500 years later…
I do love the giant Mexican flag (although all the flags of the nations are presented to the side of the altar as well). For those of you that don’t know the story, Mary appeared to a a young Indian guy, Juan Diego, several times near this exact location. No one believed him when he told them that Mary told him to build a church.
“Know and understand well, you the most humble of my son, that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows. And to accomplish what my clemency pretends, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here on this plain a temple be built to me; you will accurately relate all you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you, because I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue in what you will obtain of what I have entrusted. Behold, you have heard my mandate, my humble son; go and put forth all your effort.”
After several times, he eventually returns to the Bishop having collected many beautiful flowers from a hill in the dead of winter as proof of seeing her, and when he hands out the flowers that were wrapped in his cloak, the image of the Virgin was imprinted on his cloak. This is same cloak that is displayed in the Basilica today.
This story is extremely important to Mexicans because the mother appeared to them, the native Mexicans, during a turbulent time in history. For this reason Mexican’s have a great devotion to Mary. Even during the independence and revolution many years later, Fr. Hidalgo and others used this image to gather support. To say that its a symbol of national pride would be an understatement.
Anyway, I have many thoughts about Mexico and its Catholicism and what happens with separation of church/state that hopefully I’ll find time to write about later.
I have to say that this past week was one of my favorite psalms, its too bad I didn’t recognize it! The Timothy books are one of my favorite books as well.
Reading 1 Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4