(Translation of the title of today’s post: “Am I not here, who am your Mother” these are the words that Mary said to Juan Diego when she appeared to him in 1531.)
We got up this morning around 8:00 and got ready for the day. Then we went downstairs and ate at the breakfast buffet where I had some of the best coffee I have had in a while!
After breakfast we went back up to the room quickly to grab our belongings that we needed for the day. At around 10:00am we went downstairs and had the hotel call us a Taxi. Our driver’s name was Gerardo and he was extremely helpful and gave us some instructions on the best way to view everything at the Shrine and even offered to come back and pick us up whenever we were ready to head back to the hotel. I think we confused him though because he said he would come around 1:00 to pick us up and we asked him to come at 3:00 instead. He was a little perplexed by the idea of us actually spending all five hours at the Shrine, but he clearly doesn’t know Abby and I very well! 😂😳 On the way to the Basilica we came across a group of pilgrims walking down the street being led by a Mariachi Band! I suppose that served as the reminder that we were still in Mexico for today!
So with a plan in place to be picked up in front of the Basilica at 3:00pm Abby and I ventured out to see Our Lady and spend time in prayer. We started at the Templo Expiatorio a Cristo Rey which is the Old Basilica and where the Tilma (The cloak where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego) was held from 1709 to 1974.
I should note here that on Sundays there is literally Mass going every hour on the hour in both the Old and New Basilicas plus the small chapels inside the New Basilica. In total from 6:00am to 8:00pm there are approximately 31 Masses said every Sunday!! (In fact there are 23 DAILY Masses each day!!) and this doesn’t count any private Masses that are said by visiting priests!! If you haven’t noticed yet, my Catholic nerd is showing and it makes me VERY happy!!!
We prayed for a bit in front of a Cross that contained relics of around 140 different saints! Some of which included St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio, St. Augustine, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Claire of Assisi, St. Therese, St. John Bosco and SOOO Many more!
There was Mass going on while we were walking around (I know, shocker right!?) so we just stayed to the sides of the church. As we made our way to the front on the side of the altar there was the monstrance that they use for adoration. It was MASSIVE! I do wish I could have seen the host they consecrate to use for adoration because that would be the BIGGEST Jesus I have ever seen!! I also want to see how they get it up on the altar, because it is definitely not a one person job!
Then we made our way back outside and came across the Baptistry. There was a line of parents with their children that stretched for a good 100 meters waiting to have their children baptized! It was so precious to see all these little ones in their white garments!!
Next we made our way over to the New Basilica where we attended Mass. Somehow we got lucky and got seats in the second row and had a pretty good view of the altar and of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is beautiful how at home I always feel inside of a Catholic Church. It doesn’t matter if I understand the language or not, knowing that there are 100s or in today’s case 1,000s of others who have the same beliefs as me all worshipping God together is amazing to witness! That is what is so beautiful about the Catholic Mass, it doesn’t matter what country you are in, or what language the Mass is in you can still understand it because the structure of the Mass is the same and the readings for the day are all the same across the globe.
Today in the first reading we heard about the Israelites grumbling to Moses about how thirsty they were out in the desert and then Moses hears the voice of God telling him to strike his staff against the rock and water flowed from the rock. It reminds us that God is always with us and will never leave us to perish, so long as we open our hearts to Him, which is what we hear in the Responsorial Psalm: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Psalm 95:8). When we hear the voice of God calling us to do something we must listen and be willing to say YES! The second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans contains one of my all time favorite verses: “But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Once again reminding us of the love that God has for each and every one of us, no matter our past, if we turn to God with a repentant and open heart, He will bless us beyond measure! The Gospel for today is also one of my favorites, we hear the story of Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. There are so many things that could be said about this reading, but the first thing that always comes to mind is how counter-cultural this would have been in Jesus’s time.
First we hear that it is about noon, which would have been the hottest part of the day. Most women would have come to the well much earlier in the day to collect their water while it was cool outside. But this Samaritan woman is there by herself in the middle of the day so we know that she has been shunned by the others from the town. Second, she is a woman, and in those days men did not address women, as it was a very patriarchal society. Third, she is a Samaritan. In this time Samaritans were considered to be the lowest of the low, and good upstanding members of the Jewish faith would never have been seen interacting with a Samaritan, let alone a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman speak to each other as they did this day.
So when Jesus speaks to the woman she is quite confused, but soon she begins to understand that the man speaking to her is not like other men. Jesus offers her the living water, which we know is the gift of Himself for the world. This reading always reminds me that while there may be times that the world doesn’t understand why I believe in Jesus Christ, or why I do the things I do, that is okay. Jesus never said the path to following Him would be easy, in fact He says to pick up your cross and follow Him! We all have our own struggles and things that we deal with, but we are called to be counter-cultural and to stand up for what we believe in even, if society says we shouldn’t talk to the Samaritan woman at the well in the middle of the day!
I found all of these these reading to be very appropriate for the day (the Church is good like that)! A few thoughts surrounding this:
FIRST: Saying YES to God: Mary is the perfect example of what it means to live your entire life as a YES to God. I am reading a book right now called “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” by Fr. James Martin, SJ and one of the passages that struck me most surrounds Mary’s Yes at the Annunciation. It says:
“With God’s help the world is poised for something new, something that even Mary may not be able to understand fully, perhaps until the Resurrection. Remember that Mary was told that her son would be the Son of God, not that he would be tortured, put to death on a cross, and then rise from the dead. Mary says yes to a future that she does not know. She is an example of letting God do God’s work, without trying to figure it out.”
Being with Our Lady today really hit that home and it was even more beautiful as I was able to make my Consecration to Mary. What does that mean? Mary is the closest person to her Son and so I have consecrated myself to her patronage meaning that I am under her protection and at the same time I have given my life to her so that I in turn can grow closer to Christ. Mary will always lead us back to her Son and so by consecrating myself to Mary I also consecrate myself to Jesus Christ. It was so special to be able to do this in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and ask for her intercession in such a special way!
SECOND: The 19th of March is typically the feast of St. Joseph (although because it fell on a Sunday this year we don’t celebrate it on the Church calendar until the 20th). St. Joseph is another perfect example of saying YES to Christ no matter what comes our way. He was betrothed (engaged) to Mary and then finds out she is expecting a child and knows that they have not yet had relations! Can you imagine the fear he must have had when he found this out? Then he has a dream and an angel comes to him and says that Mary’s child is from the Holy Spirit and that Joseph should still marry her…talk about faith! He could have very easily slipped away and not had to deal with the stares and questions, but instead he stays by Mary’s side the whole way and becomes Jesus’s father here on earth!
Okay, that’s enough reflection for one day! Back to the rest of the day: After Mass we we prayed for a bit in the main Basilica and I was able to say my Consecration prayer. I used “33 Days to Morning Glory” by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MC, and I would strongly recommend it whether you have never made a Marian Consecration or if you are just looking to renew yours. Fr. Gaitley looks at four “Marian Giants” as he calls them and pulls from their devotions to make the reflections for each day very easy to read and understand yet very comprehensive and insightful. The four “giants” are St. Louis de Montfort (who also has his own version of Marian Consecration), St. Maximillian Kolbe, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II. So for the last 33 days I have read and reflected on a short passage surrounding one of these Saints. Then today (Day 34) I made the Consecration, promising myself to Our Lady and in return gaining special graces bestowed by her son, Jesus Christ.
After A short time of prayer we made our way around the perimeter of the Basilica and down to the “people mover” that allows you to see Our Lady up closer! It is pretty funny when you think about it, but it is essentially four of those conveyor belts they use in airports that you get on and spend about 15 seconds traveling from one side to the other in prayer before Our Lady. The design of the Basilica should also be noted here. It looks very much like a bee hive, and the image of Our Lady is high up on the wall so that she can be viewed from anywhere in the Church. Finally, the lights are made to look like honeycombs to further illustrate that Mary is the Queen of both Heaven and Earth (or Queen Bee 🐝 if you are feeling a little punny)! Since it is a pretty short ride we went back around a few more times 🙃!
We popped into the gift shop to find a few religious items to remember our trip by. Then we made our way outside to try and make it to the top of Tepeyac Hill to get to the Church of St. Michael, which is the actual site where Juan Diego had the vision of Our Lady and where the image of Our Lady of his Tilma was received. On our way around the outside of the Basilica we came across a priest at a Holy Water don’t who was dousing people and object with Holy Water. So armed with a few of our purchased we made our way over and had our second shower for the day! 😜 It was quite the trek up the mountain, but it was well worth it. You weren’t allowed to take pictures in this church, so I only have one from the outside, but it was very beautiful! We prayed inside for a bit and then made our way back down the mountain.
From there we went back into the New Basilica and stopped into the Chapel of St. Jospeh (fitting since it was his feast day) and prayed for a while. They were celebrating Mass in the chapel at the time so I didn’t get any pictures as it was slightly difficult to really see anything over everyone’s heads!
Then we went across the conveyor belts again so we could get to the other side of the Basilica quicker than walking all the way around…and of course to see Our Lady again! 😁 We stopped into the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and prayed for about a half an hour or so. To go along with the massive Monstrance we saw earlier was a Tabernacle that was the size of a small car! I have never seen a tabernacle that big in my entire life, at one point one the workers who helps with the distribution of communion during the Masses came in to get Jesus for the Mass that was going on and he opened the Tabernacle, if you could have seen our faces when we saw how big the Ciboria were it was probably something like this 😲!! SOOO MUCH JESUS!!!!
The mural behind the Tabernacle depicting the Trinity was also very beautiful, in the top left you can see God the Father’s hand descending from Heaven. In His hands are flames representative of the Holy Spirit being poured down upon the faithful. You can also see Jesus and the cross just below the Father’s hands.
After praying for a while it was time to start making our way back to our pick up location to meet Gerardo. As we walked through the Basilica toward the exit we came across a iron cross that was all bent and deformed. In 1921 an anticlerical terrorist planted a bomb inside of a flower pot and it went off in the Old Basilica. It caused quite a bit of damage to the Basilica itself, but the image of Our Lady was untouched. They keep the cross called “The attempt on Christ” as a reminder of this day and a reminder to all who visit Our Lady to always ask Mary for protection because she will protect those who all upon her intercession!
We then made our way to meet Gerardo and just as we arrived at our meeting point his car pulled up, it was perfect timing!! We hopped in the taxi and made our way back to the hotel. We spent a few hours in the room just relaxing and then went downstairs for an “early” dinner. (Note this was about 6:30, which is normal for Americans, but about an hour and a half too early for Mexico, so we were one of the only people in the restaurant!). We went to a steakhouse located inside the hotel, Abby had a burger that was bigger than her face, and I had steak fajitas, it was all very delicious! We had pesos left to spend so we decided to split a dessert and got “pastel de queso” (aka cheesecake)!
After dinner we went back up the room and got everything packed up and ready for the morning. Our flight tomorrow leaves at 5:30am so we need to be leaving the hotel at around 3:00! 😱😱 Luckily the hotel connects to the airport so we just have to walk across a bridge and we will be in the airport! Knowing that we were already going to get WAY less sleep than we normally do, we went to bed at around 9:00pm.