I am leading about twenty parishioners to Guadalupe Mexico for the next seven days. As I leave, the following thoughts go with me, some personal, some Ecclesial as well.
1. Elevation. Mexico city and its environs are at or near 5,000 feet. For this human being, the highest point in DC is my former parish (St Ann’s) at 410 feet! Surely, even with recent weight loss, I am in for some breathless climbs. Thus, I am expecting some humility lessons! I think I am strong, but the earth is bigger, and God is infinitely more glorious.
Thank you Lord, teach me humility through elevation and a few steep climbs. I left my asthma inhaler behind when I lost weight. One of the good bishops here in DC told me to bring it anyway, the air is thin. So, I bring it.
2. Evangelization – Our Lady’s appearance at Guadalupe to Juan Diego was a major break-through. Many attempts had been made by the Missionaries of that time toward the indigenous peoples of Mexico. But the results were discouraging. A combination of fear, rooted in the bloody human sacrifice of the Aztec religion, plus the counter-sign of Spanish Conquerors which made the Christian religion seem no less cruel,. All of this combined to make converts to the Catholic faith a rare thing.
Enter our Lady and the supply of the miraculous Tilma, and within ten years nine to ten million Mexicans became Catholic. That’s 3000 converts a day, a Pentecost every day for ten years!
Yes, Our Lady is Evangelizer in Chief, she’s a Momma on the move, the Mother of many! For all the sermons preached, all the apologetical conferences held, in any give time or realm, just let our Lady show up, and deal is sealed!
Mary, Mother of Christians, pray for us!
3. Equanimity – Mary appeared in Mexico just at the time of the Protestant revolt in Europe. And, just as 2-3 million walked out of the Church in Europe in those dark days of the 16th Century, nine million entered in Mexico in a kind of son-rise (sic) of the faith.
Too easily we focus on only one area or aspect of the Catholic Church. But we are worldwide, “catholic.” And even when things shrink in one area, they often grow in others. In our day as the light of faith seems to be going our in Europe and North America, there has been a 7,000% increase in African in the number of Catholics. And indeed, bloody martyrdom is often the seed of the faith there.
The Church is heading south and is looking browner. It is well! The Church has never been merely the European reality she was seen to be in the last centuries. Her original cradle was North Africa. That region of over 500 bishops and dioceses was wiped out by invading Muslim armies in the 7th Century.
Tragic, but barbarian backwoods Europe, vacated by the retreating Roman Empire, then lit up as the Church shifted north as a remarkable Christian civilization took root. Usher in the Cathedrals, Universities, hospitals and the diocesan footprint. The High Middle Ages were on the way.
It is ever thus, a kind of waxing and waning in certain areas, but always the Church, in her spousal glory. The Lord will never forsake her utterly, and she will grow when and where least expected.
4. Explain this! – The miraculous tilma of Juan Diego stands in humble yet profound testimony to the modern and scientific age. Like the Shroud of Turin, it is a scientific anomaly. No one really knows how the image was made, or how the rough burlap-like material has survived to this day.
The more it is studied, the more it stymies. As scientists set to work studying it in the 1950s, discoveries were made by peering into our Lady’s eyes with ocular instruments. They showed nearly perfect ocular properties and showed several people including the Bishop, Juan Diego and an African Woman servant, all reflected in her eyes.
With every attempt to explain the tilma, the mysteries only deepen. The image, though physical, is metaphysical in that science cannot explain it. It is beyond (meta) science.
5. Eruption – Imagine the awful death cults of Old Mexico, the blood bath demand by the Aztec “gods.” And suddenly, life!
God can do that, and we, in the decadent, bloody, and fallen West ought not forget this. God can turn things on a dime. Too easily were presume the steady decline of the West is bound to continue. But not so fast! Our Lady, ushering in our Lord’s grace brought Mexico from near zero to ten million converts in ten years.
She, by God’s grace brought them from death to life, from the blood of human sacrifice to to the Blood of Jesus. And why not now? Why not ask? Why not expect?
6. Evidence – In our pilgrimage we will spend almost two days looking at Aztec ruins. Call me politically incorrect, but for the record God’s holy Church endures. The bloody gibbets and pyramids of the Aztecs are ruins and memories of something long gone. The Catholic priests of Mexico still offer Mass. The beading and horrifying human sacrifices of the Aztec “priests” are long since suppressed. Evil has its day, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.
7. Exclamation – Viva Christo Rey! Mexico’s journey of faith was not sinless or without suffering. In the 1920s a terrible and anti-Catholic “Calles” government sought to violently suppress the Catholic faith in Mexico. Priests and religious were killed, churches closed and burned, many lay-faithful were martyred.
In our pilgrimage we will honor their struggle for religious liberty and see the sites where their blood was shed. But through the terrible years of the Calles government, the cry went up, Viva Christo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!).
Today, things are not perfect, but the faith endures, and pilgrims flock to the Guadalupe shrine of our Lady, (La Morena – The Dark skinned one) in numbers approaching 22 million a year. Christ our King does reign and he vanquishes his foes!
Just a few thoughts going forth to Guadalupe, and to the Church in Mexico. Pray for this pilgrim and 22 others from the parish I will lead.
Blog posts are set for the week, please continue to visit. Some are re-posts, but old enough that you may never have seen them. Others are new. I’ll stay in touch as best as I am able in the combox.
Mean time, Stay Calm and Viva Christo Rey!
13 Replies to “A Pilgrim’s Ponderings – Reflections on the Way to Guadalupe”
Will keep you and the other 22 pilgrims in our prayers. Have a wonderful trip.
Have a safe and meaningful trip, Monsignor!
Have a safe trip, Monsignor Pope! I too will keep you and the others in prayer.
Fr. Msgr. Pope,
Please pray for me and my family when there, and for all of us, my sisters and brothers.
‘Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Guadalupe), may you have a safe journey, may the Lord be on your way and His Angel accompany you.’
Blessings on you and safe journey! May you make many wonderful memories and find inspiration in new environs!
Monsignor, as a little travel gift, I would like to give you my favorite sentence from my rereading of the Catechism, so far:
“It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood.545”–from paragraph 994 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
545 Cf. Jn 5:24-25; 6:40,54.
God go with you and your parishioners.
Msgr, I’ll be praying for you and the others. Many blessing from Our Lord and La Virgen. She is very special to me as my grown son was born on her feast day.
Please stay safe and it helps to drink a lot of bottled water for the altitude. Also, don’t brush your teeth with tap water. (We used to live in Mexico.)
My prayers for a safe and very blessed pilgrimage.
Mmmm… I think Mexico City is more like 7000 ft above sea level! 😀 If you keep to the area(s) around the Basilica, it’s mostly level. However, there is much to see beyond (and above!) the valley, as well as in it, so a bit of climbing may well be in store.
thanks monsignor for all your good works. you have always lifted my catholic faith.may God guide you and all the people that will be going with you. pray for me and my family when there. viva christo rey. our Lady of guadulape, pray for us
Have a safe trip Monsignor.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is my favorite. It is the only apparition that left a picture of herself. Every other one relies on the description of the visionary.
On Our Lady’s gown, near her fingertips, are some tiny figures, one kneeling, one preaching with a book in hand,
Someone outside, others, can be left to others. Sorry. It’s easier to say the picture of Jonah being thrown overboard has the big fish waiting, and a spirit in the water, not to mention the interesting sails on the ship. Than about a real image of Our Lady.
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