The second day of our Year of Faith pilgrimage put into focus the impact of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The day began at Teotihuacan, site of the ancient pyramids of the Sun and Moon. Fr. Fred Adamson, vicar general of the Diocese of Phoenix and one of the chief organizers of the pilgrimage, explained that visiting the pyramids first helps pilgrims understand the impact of the Blessed Mother’s apparition to St. Juan Diego.
When the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Juan Diego, missionaries were struggling to evangelize the native peoples. Their efforts were misdirected and often resorted to violence. What the Blessed Mother demonstrated, through the miraculous image, was what Blessed Pope John Paul II described as the Gospel “fully inculturated.” In his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, the Holy Father wrote:
Throughout the continent, from the time of the first evangelization, the presence of the Mother of God has been strongly felt, thanks to the efforts of the missionaries. In their preaching, “the Gospel was proclaimed by presenting the Virgin Mary as its highest realization. From the beginning — invoked as Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mary, by her motherly and merciful figure, was a great sign of the closeness of the Father and of Jesus Christ, with whom she invites us to enter into communion.”
The appearance of Mary to the native Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization. Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading to the whole Continent. America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting-pot of peoples, has recognized in the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, “in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization.” Consequently, not only in Central and South America, but in North America as well, the Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as Queen of all America.
With the passage of time, pastors and faithful alike have grown increasingly conscious of the role of the Virgin Mary in the evangelization of America. In the prayer composed for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, Holy Mary of Guadalupe is invoked as “Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization.” In view of this, I welcome with joy the proposal of the Synod Fathers that the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Evangelizer of America, be celebrated throughout the continent on December 12. It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples (cf. Jn 2:11), will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church (cf.Acts 1:14), so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life. (§11)
There’s already been some talk of making an unscheduled return to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We spent hours there yesterday, but no one felt it was enough time. It felt like coming home to our mother. Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares concelebrated a private Mass in a special chapel, La Capilla de San José. The Mass was offered for the People of the Diocese of Phoenix. Deacon Ed Mirasol assisted during the Mass. You can find more pictures from the day on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thecatholicsun — though, I’ve already discovered, many pilgrims I’m traveling with understandably have an aversion to Facebook.
We walked the grounds and saw many chapels on Tepeyac Hill, where the Blessed Mother appeared. The image used to reside in many of these chapels. It was moved to its current location, a modern looking church, in the 1970s. Millions upon millions of pilgrims visit the image on the tilma left by the Blessed Mother every year, so they needed a larger space, planned specifically for the constant flow of pilgrims. The pilgrims from the Diocese of Phoenix spent what seemed like an instant before the miraculous image, but it was more like 20-30 minutes. You feel the presence of the Blessed Mother in a special way on these grounds and you simply don’t want to leave. You feel at home.
Mass is celebrated constantly and confessions are heard throughout the day. So many pilgrims come to see the image, the church built a moving walkway below the image to ensure more people would get to see it.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Tom Shellenbuerger, a pilgrim from St. Mary’s Basilica. “The whole experience, seeing all the chapels, it’s amazing. To think the image is 500 years old… It’s breathtaking, seeing the image. It speaks to you without words. It speaks to you directly.”
His wife, Angela, called seeing the image a “privilege” and “priceless.”
“I never thought I would come here,” she said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
May Murad, an Iraqi refugee and a parishioner at Ss. Simon and Jude, called coming to see the tilma a “great gift.”
“I got a lot of peace inside when I saw the shrine,” she said. “I’m glad Our Lady allowed me to come to this place.” She hopes the Blessed Mother will grant her petition and bless her family.
“In America, the mestiza face of the Virgin of Guadalupe was from the start a symbol of the inculturation of the Gospel, of which she has been the lodestar and the guide,” John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia in America. “Through her powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their cultures, transforming them from within.”