We rambled along in an outdated bus that spewed forth billowing black clouds of exhaust to the pedestrians jammed along the streets of Mexico City. The summer of 1986 the city was alive with excitement for the World Cup Soccer Tournament. It was truly amazing that the government desired to go ahead and host the Tournament after the worst earthquake in its history just a few months before. Not only was there a strong sense of pride that drew the people together to put their best foot forward, but it was also the government’s attempt to prove to the world that they had the disaster well in hand. Mexico was in the middle of a thrilling series of events and the eyes of the world seemed to shift in her direction.
We had been serving the Lord in a very rural and poor area after the horrific earthquake. We worked with a few local churches as well as a university where we started a group for the new Christians. We preached Christ wherever we went. With so many events happening, we had plenty of things to keep us occupied. On occasion we would just travel about in the world’s largest city sight-seeing and meeting new people wherever we went.
One day, we had some friends accompany us to visit some of the famous buildings. After three bus rides and a lot of walking we ended up at our desired destination. The Basilica de Guadalupe was built near a hill in Tepeyac where it is believed that the Virgin Mary (or Our Lady of Guadalupe) appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on at least four separate occasions. Juan Diego’s first “apparition” as it is so called, happened in 1531 and a shrine was built soon thereafter. There is a long and fascinating history regarding Juan Diego, the Basilica and the pilgrimages that have been made there ever since that first encounter.
For more than 500 years the devoted have gone on pilgrimage to the Basilica. Millions of people come from all over the world each year to see Juan Diego’s tilma (cloak) on which the image of Guadalupe can still be seen. Since I have always been a lover of all things historical and being raised in a Catholic home, I wanted to visit this important place. What took place that day was forever etched into my mind.
Throngs of people were scattered about the entrance of the Basilica. Tourists clicked pictures and chatted excitedly. Families stood about eating “chilied” fruits and snacks. Crudely constructed frames held images of the saints and rosaries sold by vendors near by. Devoted pilgrims moved slowly yet with purpose carrying flowers or prayerfully fingering their long rosary beads. I stood with great respect as I knew full well that many were more devoted in their faith than I could ever hope to be.
Then we saw a young woman attempting to crawl on her knees toward the Basilica…
-This is an excerpt from a recent article I wrote for the Women’s Bible Cafe.
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