The first time I got to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, I was just a seminarian.  I was in Mexico to study Spanish for 8 weeks, and a visit to the shrine was the first and most obvious rendezvous for any soon-to-be priest who finds himself in this huge metropolis.  Mexico City is very populated, and there is a lot of commotion on the road, not even the immediate vicinity of the shrine is spared from this.  Vendors were everywhere, varying from sellers of religious items to children’s underwear, fresh fruits and chimichanga.

This was my second visit to the shrine, seven years after my first visit, and not much has changed outside the basilica grounds.  But I was glad not much has changed within the grounds of Guadalupe either.  Once I entered through the gates and walked to the main square in front of the basilica, the world changed.  People were still everywhere, being together, but the devotion and faith was all around, and the sacred silence could be felt, even some people would be talking.  People from all over the world would vigil outside of the shrine to show their love for the Virgin and her Son.  They were there to make promesas, promises to avoid their bad habits, and to offer gifts for prayers answered.  Many people were dressed in the colors of the Guadalupe, carrying banners of honor and reverence.  Going into the basilica, people were bringing roses to the sanctuary, and if there was no mass being celebrated, one can hear murmurs of prayers, mostly Dios Te Salve, Maria or another part of the rosary beads.

It is hard to miss the display of faith in this Catholic oasis in the big city.  And when you are in the midst of all these, it is not possible to remain unmoved.  I found myself in front of the original tilma (cloak) of Juan Diego, where the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was displayed.  I said a prayer for so many people, I had to fall in line again for a second round.

Then I quietly walked the shrine with gratefulness and joy for all the blessings of being there, and a fervent hope that I will go back again.


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