Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe
Today is the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Twelve years ago, I visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the first time. I wasn't much of a Catholic at the time; I was 20. I was in my rebellious years, questioning everything, but somehow, visiting such a holy place still broke through my walls. When we left the Basilica, I knew without a doubt that the Blessed Mother had known we were there, and she had recognized me...and had somehow placed her hand upon me.
Two years later I returned to Mexico to visit friends, and even though I had backslid even further from my moral upbringing, I was still drawn to return to the Basilica. I purchased some rosaries, a couple vigil candles, and left a couple on behalf of my family and myself. And I prayed...something I didn't do very often at the time.
Making that pilgrimage is an awesome thing. We were only tourists, marginally Catholic, and yet we could not help but be affected by the incredible devotion of the people everywhere. I saw so many who suffered debilitating deformities, were unable to walk and unable to afford a wheelchair. They had no one to help them and so moved themselves in whatever way they could across the huge plaza and into the church. Some could walk perfectly well...and yet they chose to crawl on their knees as a form of penance and humility.
In looking back, I would not be surprised if some of them offered some of their pain and suffering on behalf of the souls of myself and my friends, for we clearly did not exude the reverence toward the Lord that most people did who visited that holy site of Our Lady's appearance.
Yet, Mary is our Mother, and Mothers still love their rebellious children. I remember my sense of sinfulness in that place; as though I was not worthy to be there and so how could I pretend to be Catholic and sully the church with my presence? And yet I looked up on a large marquee over the entrance to the Basilica and was comforted by the words (in Spanish) spoken to Juan Diego so long ago;
"Am I not your mother?"
It occurred to me today that perhaps I am still Catholic and I have found my way home because of those trips to the location of Our Lady's appearance in Mexico.
I just hope and pray that one day I'll be able to go back again, the next time with full understanding of our faith, a more open and prayerful heart, and perhaps, finally, it will be a true pilgrimage versus just a stop on a tour.
Santa Maria, llena de gracia
El Senor es contingo.
Bendita eres entre todos las mujeres
y Bendita es su vientre Jesus.
Salve Maria, Madre de Dios
Ruega por todos nos pecadores
Ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte
Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, ruega para nosotros!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for us!