Pilgrim Sharon E Delochan shares her experience on the recent Pilgrimage to Mexico.
In the wee hours of May 7, 36 pilgrims left Trinidad bound for Mexico City, the highlight of which would be a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
We all felt the excitement and expectations of any pilgrimage, but awareness that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron of the Americas, including Trinidad and Tobago, heightened these feelings. We knew that this journey would have a profound effect, but little did we know the extent to which we would be affected.
Over the next eight days, we traversed great distances, to Puebla and Tlaxcala in central Mexico, and over the heights of the Sierra Madre Mountains to Taxco and Cuernavaca (horn of the cow), which was the home of Hérnan Cortés, the Spanish conquistador.
We were privileged to celebrate the Holy Eucharist daily, led by our spiritual director, Fr Robert Christo, in churches of the regions we visited. Our distinctly Trinidadian voices filled each church with song and prayer in a manner unfamiliar to the Mexican people and other pilgrims. Our guide, Jorge, informed us, on the last day, that he had received compliments on our lively worship.
There was a common thread that ran through Fr Christo’s homilies during the period, causing us to ponder upon how we live our Christian and Catholic lives.
At one of the first Masses, Fr Christo introduced us to the concept of the Loop of Grace and urged us not to live miserly lives, holding on to the blessings that we receive. He stressed, at this and other Masses, that we should extend blessings and grace to our neighbours as much as we receive, as it will all come back to us.
A particularly touching example of this occurred at the Cathedral of Santa Prisca on the penultimate day of the pilgrimage, when two young boys dipped into their bags to contribute to the collection. I later learned that these children had approached the pilgrims before Mass and had been given some coins.
It was these coins that they had put into the collection plate. This was a gesture that touched us greatly to the extent that after Mass more money was given to them.
Peace at Tulpetlac
The visits to the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe and the church in Tulpetlac built on the site of the home of Juan Diego, to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe had appeared, were humbling experiences.
The significance of Our Lady appearing to an indigenous person and taking on the features of his race, was apparent. God is a God of and for all people! It was in the quiet moments at these two locations that I was able to reflect on this and fully appreciate the blessed events.
We were fortunate to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe twice during those eight days, the last being on a crisp, fresh early morning before the arrival of the crowds of pilgrims.
I was somewhat overwhelmed on the first visit to fully appreciate the magnitude of the occasion, but found that the less crowded environment of the second ideal. This time, I was able to focus on the tilma and the wonder that the image of Our Lady remains intact over the 500 years since her appearance to Juan Diego—a true miracle.
During one of his homilies, Fr Christo had advised us to sometimes just sit in a church and ‘be’, seeking no favours, expecting none. Drawn to the older Basilica, which is slowly sinking, rather than the more modern one on the compound, I took Father’s advice—I went in and I simply ‘was’. It was one of the most peaceful moments I had experienced.
I had also had this sense of peace when I found myself alone in the very rustic, simple church in Tulpetlac. While looking down into the room that would have been inhabited by Juan Diego’s uncle, I was approached by a resident of the village who provided some context. She also guided me behind the altar so that I could see the space that would have been Juan Diego’s room. Her warmth made the occasion all the more special.