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A Pilgrim’s Ponderings: Thoughts from Tepeyac

January 27, AD 2012 0 Comments


Some of you may know that I recently returned from a mission trip to Mexico. On my way back home, I had the privilege to visit La Villa – the place where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to st. Juan Diego in 1531. The following is the entry I wrote in my Mexico Journal following my visit.

Mama Mary, I am the least of your pilgrims. Visiting Tepeyac was beautiful today, but I didn’t feel anything. Not even the slightest pious sentiment. But then, I guess the important thing is not how I feel about you, but how you feel about me. Thank you for loving us when we didn’t even know your name, and for bringing us your Son when we said we didn’t want Him. Reign, Queen of Mexico! Keep our hearts turned towards you!

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, here’s a quick re-cap:

Juan Diego was an Aztec Indian man, one of the few who converted willingly and wholeheartedly to Catholicism. One day, as Juan was on his way to “doctrina”, a sort of Catechism for Indian converts, Our Lady appeared to him, first surrounding him with beautiful flowers and music before making her presence known. She expressed her desire that a chapel be built on that site so that she could, “therein exhibit and give all [her] love, help, and protection,” and then implored him to go and inform the Bishop of her wish. Diego, smitten by love and humble devotion to his Mother, complied.

As was to be expected, the Bishop flatly rejected the poor Indian and told him to try again another day – maybe then he would give the Apparition the time of day. Juan Diego returned to the hill at Tepeyac where Our Lady had appeared the first time, and sure enough, she was there to meet him. He related the disappointing tale of his exchange with the Bishop, urging his Queen to choose another messenger, one with influence who was more likely to catch the attention and favor of the Bishop. But rather than letting him off with an apathetic, “Thanks for trying,” the Blessed Virgin ordered him to return and ask again for her chapel to be built. She made it clear that it was imperative that Juan himself deliver this message; no one else on earth would do. Humbly, Juan submitted to her mandate.

Upon hearing Juan’s story of the Virgin’s Apparition, the Bishop was still not convinced; he would need a sign in order to believe that it was truly the Mother of God, and not just some sort of remnant of the Aztec’s pagan folk-lore. Juan promised to bring any sign that he asked for, confident in Mary’s ability to provide whatever was necessary to have her chapel on Tepeyac hill. He was promptly dismissed and went at once to inform his Lady of all that had happened. Our Blessed Mother promised to provide Juan with a sign for a Bishop when he returned the next day.

Unfortunately, Juan did not return the next day. His uncle, Juan Bernardino had suddenly become devastatingly ill and Juan was sent at once to find a priest who could give Bernardino his Last Rites. Knowing that if he went the usual way past Tepeyac he would encounter the Virgin, Juan Diego tried to circumvent the hill in order to arrive more quickly in Tlatilolco where he would summon a priest for his dying uncle. But Our Lady had other plans. She met him there on the road at the bottom of the hill asking him in a true Mothers tone, “Where are you going?” After explaining why he was trying to avoid her, and why he would be unable to go to see the Bishop that day, Our Lady responded by quelling all his fears regarding his uncle, promising him that he would not die. Then she told him to climb up to the top of the mountain – there he would find the sign he was to bring to the Bishop.

As he reached the summit, he was surrounded by beautiful roses – and miraculous roses, because they were in full bloom long before any other flowers could survive. According to the Virgin’s command, Diego cut the flowers and gathered as many of them as he could into his tilma.

He brought the roses down the hill to Our Lady, and she sent him on his way to the Bishop. When he arrived, some of the servants of the Bishop, displaying their maturity, tried to steal some of the gorgeous flowers out of Juan Diego’s tilma. They were never successful, however, because every time they reached for one, the roses appeared to be painted or sewn into the fabric. Amazed, they ran to alert the Bishop. He came at once to hear the story of the miraculous roses. After texplaining the whole thing, Juan opened his tilma. The roses came cascading out onto the floor, revealing the beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And the rest, I suppose, is history.

The Old Cathedral and the New Cathedral from the top of Tepeyac Hill

At a time when people were becoming hostile toward Christ and His Church due to cultural barriers and a lack of genuine Christian witness, Our Lady came, bearing her Son, so that we might believe and be saved.

Sounds pretty similar to today, doesn’t it? The Americas today are not doing well by very many standards; the culture of death, materialism, and apathy has numbed our hearts and locked the doors to Christ. The “trads” and “charismatics” are at odds, and we often spend more time discussing whether or not to wear a veil to Mass or hold hands during the Our Father than we do talking about how we can bring Jesus to a hurting world. Catholic marriages fail. Christian teens get pregnant out of wedlock, or shame non-Christians who do. Pro-Lifers slander pro-choicers in the name of Life, and sadly, sometimes in the name of Christ.

Our culture is rapidly phasing faith out of the picture, and our future saints are so busy being “relevant” that we’re losing sight of the fact that the world does not need another “average joe”. What the world is starving for is Jesus Christ. Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity. True Food, True Drink. Jesus.

And in the midst of all this, Mary comes to the littlest ones among us, and urges us to proclaim her presence, and the presence of her Son, to all who will listen – and even to those who won’t.

So let us run to our precious Mama Mary today, and ask her to give us the graces we need to convince the world that She has not given up on us, and let us thank her for bringing us her Son at a time when we need Him the most, but seek Him the least.

Want more Mexico Journal excerpts, and stories of my adventures in the Jungle? Head over to my blog, Catholic Unveiled, today!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Michelle Burnes is a recent high school graduate who is taking a gap year to serve as a foreign missionary withMission Youth Corps  for a semester. Afterwards she will be attending Franciscan University of Steubenville in the Fall of 2012. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, baking, running, swing dancing, backpacking, and spending time with the Lord in adoration. She is a California girl who, by the grace of God, wouldn’t be caught dead in daisy dukes, bikini tops, or any combination thereof. Her patroness is St. Therese of Liseux, and like her, Michelle does not wish to be a saint by halves.[/author_info] [/author]

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