IMG_3879Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares will lead a pilgrimage next October to Mexico City and Guanajuato to mark the closing of the Year of Faith.

Pilgrims will walk in the steps of St. Juan Diego in his encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Benedict declared a Year of Faith to call Catholics to deepen their faith and understanding of the Catholic Church. The Oct. 7-14 pilgrimage is designed to answer that call.

“Pilgrimages ask what gifts do I have and how do I live that out?” said Timothy Mullner, director of program for Faith Journeys, the Catholic company organizing the pilgrimage.

“Pilgrimages are adult faith formation,” he said. “This is not just a tour where you click your camera and end up with great pictures and souvenirs. Each day we will begin with morning prayer and end with evening prayer.”

The pilgrimage will be far more than a mere tour of the country. Each day, Mass will be celebrated and there will be time for prayerful reflection on the holy and historic locations.

“A pilgrimage is a deepening of one’s own faith,” Bishop Nevares said, explaining why it is part of the diocesan celebration of the Year of Faith. “You make this sacrifice and you venture out and deepen in faith. The Lord will be generous with us and grant us many blessings.”

Visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a way of expressing love for the Mother of God, he said. It’s also a way for local Catholics to better understand the patroness of the Diocese of Phoenix and the Americas.

“The pilgrimage will help us understand the New Evangelization in the deepest way possible. We need to be there,” said Fr. Ernesto Reynoso, JCL, who will join Bishop Nevares and the pilgrims. “Once we know her and what was happening at the time she appeared, the message will be more clear.”

Fr. Reynoso said the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe comes into focus when the clash between Native and European cultures is taken into consideration. Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose mestiza attributes reflected the coming together of the two cultures, made it possible for the New World to come to know Jesus Christ.

In Mexico, the division between faith and culture is blurred. For example, “people relate to Our Lady of Guadalupe as a member of their family. It’s about identity,” Fr. Reynoso said. “Others often relate to her and her relation to human dignity. She’s a symbol of the pro-life movement.”

In Mexico, religion begins in the home, Bishop Nevares said. The Mexican people also feel much more comfortable expressing their faith publicly.

“Children grow up with a sense of the closeness of God,” he said. It’s common for Mexicans to stop in to visit the Blessed Sacrament when they’re walking home from work. Prayer before meals and the rosary is also commonplace.

The pilgrims will also visit Guanajuato, a Cristero stronghold in their war against religious persecution. From 1926-1929, the Calles regime enforced anti-clerical laws in Mexico, systematically oppressing religion.

Bishop Nevares’ great-grandfather was a catechist at the time. As a child, he heard stories of how careful they had to be when Mass was celebrated. His mother told him how she was woken at 3 a.m. to welcome the priest, who celebrated Mass in secret. Homes had special, hidden boxes in the wall where the Blessed Sacrament was reposed.

“When we look at the Cristiada and the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, they are both instances when the faith was challenged,” Fr. Reynoso said. “Our Lady of Guadalupe helped us be prepared for what came in 1926. She leads us to Christ the King.”

That Cristero message — the triumph of Christ over any government — is one Catholics appreciate as it continues to reverberate and have value today. And in Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fr. Reynoso said, we find how an image speaks when words fail.

Year of Faith Pilgrimage

What: Catholic tour of Mexico City, Guanajuato and nearby religious and cultural sites, hosted by Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares. Pilgrimage organized by Faith Journeys.

When: Oct. 7-14

Info: 1-877-732-4845

J.D. Long-Garcia is the former editor of The Catholic Sun. He joined the staff in 2004. J.D., a lay Dominican, studied journalism and psychology at Arizona State University, philosophy at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and theology at the Graduate Theological Union. He's taught classes at the Kino Institute, worked as an outreach intern at All Saints Catholic Newman Center, led a deanery confirmation program in Berkeley, Calif., and served as a catechist for children of various ages. He was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

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