“Like a pilgrim of hope, I say to you with St. Paul: Do not let yourselves be saddened like those who have no hope.”
– Pope Benedict addressing Mexican people 2012
There is a special joy and consolation which arises from sharing in the same faith with others. As a Catholic, you can find yourself surrounded by thousands of strangers, people that you probably will never see again, and yet you can know that the whole crowd is united by a single baptism, united under “one and the same Standard of Christ.” And, that the union is at the deepest and most intimate part of the human person: their relationship to their Creator. This communion is just one of the many things we were able to experience in our pilgrimage to Mexico which we undertook with some parishioners on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to that country. We would like to share with you some of what we were able to do.
Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe
Our Visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After a long bus trip from Phoenix, Arizona to Mexico City, Mexico (a trip enlivened with prayers, Mexican songs, jokes, games, and prizes) we arrived at our first destination. The Holy Mass at the foot of Our Lady was one of the most important moments of our whole trip. The words that Our Lady said in 1531 to the indigenous man Juan Diego continue to resound like an echo throughout the entire Basilica and in the hearts of every pilgrim: “My most beloved son…Am I not here, do I not have the honor of being your mother? Is there ever a time when you are not beneath my shadow, under my protection? Am I not the fountain of your joy? Are you not in my lap, in the cradle of my arms?…Please, let nothing make you anxious, let nothing perturb you.”
Climbing the Hill of Tepeyac. The Hill of Tepeyac was a silent witness to five apparitions of the Virgin from the 9th to the 12th of December in 1531. In the final apparition which took place at the foot of the hill, the Empress of the Americas asked Juan Diego to climb to the summit in order to collect the roses he would find there. The roses were flourishing out of season; a miraculous sign, for the icy cold of winter does not normally produce life, especially not for the small shrubs that grow on the hill throughout the rest of the year. The Virgin took the roses in her hands before placing them on Juan Diego’s tilma (a traditional piece of clothing for the indigenous people which resembles a poncho), on which would later appear the image we still venerate today: a shining and beautiful image, an image of incomparable loveliness, one of the greatest signs of Evangelization.
Benedict XVI: A Pilgrim of Hope
The Holy Father, Received with Love. We continued our pilgrimage, traveling to Leon, Guanajuato where the Pope was going to arrive. We were astonished and amazed by the exuberant and affectionate reception the people gave the Holy Father. Thousands and thousands of people had gathered to accompany the Successor of St. Peter during his visit. There was not a segment of the papal route through the city (over 35 km in total) that was not lined with walls of hundreds of people wearing white and yellow colors. Pope Benedict XVI later said, “I have made many trips, but never have I been received with such enthusiasm.”
The Mexicans were particularly enthusiastic in light of the Pope’s message: “Like a pilgrim of hope, I say to you with St. Paul: Do not let yourselves be saddened like those who have no hope.” The Holy Father had come to “strengthen the faith of those who believe in Christ, to reinforce them and animate them, to revitalize the school of the Word of God, the sacraments, and the consistency of life [so that they may be able] to share their faith with others, to be missionaries among their brothers.”
“Tu Eres Pedro.” On many posters and pamphlets throughout the city, you could see pictures of the Pope with the inscription written in capital letters: TU ERES PEDRO (You are Peter). By this the people were showing their fidelity to the Holy Pontificate, recognizing in him the Vicar of Christ on earth, the legitimate successor of Peter. All the many signs of affection and respect given to the Holy Father during his visit manifest the Mexicans’ deep love for the Pope and the Church.
The night before his departure for Cuba, the Holy Father donned a Mexican sombrero and said, “My dear friends, many thanks for your enthusiasm, I am very happy with you…Mexico will always remain in my heart. Now I understand why John Paul II once said: ‘I feel like a Mexican Pope.’” His words unleashed a deafening cry from the crowd: “Benedicto, hermano, ya eres mexicano!” (Benedict, brother, you are already Mexican!). It is the fidelity of the Mexican people which moved Bl. John Paul II at another moment to say: “Mexico, always faithful…”
The Basilica of Maria San Juan de los Lagos
For the Solemnity of the Incarnate Word on March 25th, we had the grace to be able to attend Mass at the beautiful Basilica which houses the image of our Lady under the name Maria de San Juan de los Lagos. The celebration of the Mass was remarkable for the splendid and solemn liturgy practiced by the priests of the Basilica.
The First of Many Miracles. This image of the Virgin is of the Immaculate Conception, with the moon under her feet, dressed in blue and white, similar to the Virgin of Lujan. The veneration of this image began in 1623. In this year, the young daughter of a family of acrobats died from an accidental stab wound she suffered while practicing an act involving swords. They took her body into the nearby chapel. Upon seeing the great sorrow of the girl’s parents, an indigenous woman named Ana Lucia consoled them, saying: “The Lady will give her life.” Going into the sacristy, Ana Lucia retrieved the image of the Virgin and placed it on the body of the dead child. A few seconds afterwards, everyone present saw the little girl start to move and eventually sit up completely healed. This was the first of many miracles that up to this day the Virgin Mother has done for her faithful children.
Totus Tuus. Blessed John Paul II came to the Basilica on May 8th, 1990 during his second visit to Mexico. He celebrated the Holy Mass and in the sermon specifically reached out with a message to all the young people of the country. On that occasion the people made posters that said: “Maria en el corazón del Papa, el Papa en el corazón de Maria,” (Mary in the heart of the Pope, the Pope in the heart of Mary) reflecting the profound love that the Holy Father has for our Mother in Heaven. Only a few years before that trip, standing before Our Lady of Guadalupe, the John Paul II had offered the whole Church to Mary. Perhaps this is another reason Bl. John Paul II loved Mexico so much: he shared with the Mexican people a great filial love of Mary, the Mother of God.
We Entrust Ourselves to the Hands of Mary
We returned to Phoenix on the 27th of March, a little tired, but overjoyed from our trip. We ask the Immaculate Virgin Mary of Guadalupe to continue to bring forth fruits from this apostolic visit, that she may increase our faithfulness to the Holy Father and his teachings. And we ask on behalf of our whole Institute, that by our religious consecration we may always be pilgrims of hope to the world.
In Jesus and Mary,
Missionaries in Phoenix, Arizona USA