I have been here in Guadalajara for 4 weeks and it seems like forever because I have done so much, yet the time is flying by and it seems I only arrived a few days ago.
Last weekend I traveled with 3 other students to Mexico City via an 8 hour bus ride. It is a huge city with approximately 25 million people. The weather was nice and the time was short, but we got a lot done.
Friday afternoon and evening we spent at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is a fairly new structure adjacent to a huge plaza. On that same plaza is the old Basilica that is in the process of being repaired. It is literally sinking into the ground for a couple of reasons. 1. Mexico City is built on a lake so some of the older (like 400 years old), very large bulidings are sinking and shifting. 2. From what I can understand in Spanish, Our Lady of Guadelupe is the second most visited site in the world, second only to the Vatican/Rome. I may have it backwards as my Spanish still needs much work. Anyway, with so many pilgrims the old Basilica just could not handle the traffic and is sinking. We also visited the original church built at the top of the hill where Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego. We attended Mass in the new Basilica with the image in full view, then after Mass took a closer look at the image. It was pretty awesome to be that close to a true miracle. There were many pilgrims in the plaza, in the shops and in the churches/Basilicas.
Saturday morning we visited the Museum of Anthropology. It is reported to be one of the top 3 museums in the world, and I can believe it. What an incredible display of artifacts and history. I was a little brain dead after being there for about 3 1/2 hours.
Saturday afternoon and evening we spent at the Cathedral area. There is the Cathedral (over 400 years old), the huge plazas around it, the ruins of an Aztec temple (they used the stones from it to build the Cathedral and many of the large buildings in the plaza), and a few shops and street vendors in the area. When we walked out of the subway station we could not believe the huge number of people there, just on a regular Saturday. I am not good at crowd numbers, but I woudl have to say there were over 100,000 to 150,000 people there. Amazing! We attended mass at and toured the Cathedral – it is quite a place (it is also sinking). Beautiful paintings, wonderful sculptures, just a great testimony for the love of the Mexican people for God.
We stayed at a seminary while there and the seminarians and priests were very hospitable and helpful. It was a great trip.
On Thursday I visited the Basilica of the Vigin of Zapopan. Another beautiful church with many pilgrims. They had a Mass and a Eucharistic procession in the plaza for Corpus Cristi. I just love churches and seeing people express their faith in very open and honoring ways.
Last night I have to say I witnessed one of the greatest displays of love and honor that I have ever seen. I, with one of my Spanish teachers, attended the city-wide celebration of Corpus Cristi. The Cardinal had instructed all parishes to celebrate in their own churches on June 15th (the actual day of the feast) and to join him for a grand celebration in the plaza at the Templo Expiatorio Eucaristico on June 16th, then for a prosession through the streets to the Cathedral (about 1 1/2 miles away). We arrived about an hour early and the plaza was already filling with people. The church was already 1/2 full or more as they have 24 hour Adoration there and many were praying before Mass. It began to rain (lightly) about 30 minutes before Mass but the people just kept coming. Mass was celebrated in the light rain and it basically stopped raining for communion. The next part is what was really great. As soon as the Cardinal, the bishops and priests processed into the church after communion, to prepare for the procession in the streets, a rain torrent hit. The wind was blowing, the rain was pouring and I could not even see the shops across the plaza for the rain and wind. It blew and rained so hard that water was coming in every door of the church and even through the cracks in the stained glass windows. There was a lot of water on the floor and everywhere, And the place was packed with people already.
A priest brought the Blessed Sacrament in from the outside altar, and as he placed it on the altar inside the church the lights went out. They lit a few candles and the rain kept coming, but all of the people crowded in this church and started singing beautiful songs of worship and praise, shouting cheers like ¨Viva el Cristo¨ and ¨Viva la Virgen¨. It was really something else. For about 1 1/2 hours I just marveled at how they loved and honored the Lord even though it was wet and stormy, there was 1/2 of water on the floor, it was crowded, people were standing everywhere, there was no electricity, and they didn´t know the people around them. I guess the decision was made that there was not to be the procession, and the Cardinal came out and did Benediction with a small battery powered speaker. What an awesome thing to witness. I thank God for these Mexican people and their love for Him and the energy they have for their faith.
Many more great things are happening, but it is time to go. Keep me and the other seminarians in your prayers as we continue on our discernment walk. Also, take time out to honor the Lord this week, either in prayer, or some time in Adoration, or maybe an extra Mass. I am sure God will aprreciate it and I think, if you do it with an open mind and heart, God can reveal Himself to you in some new way.