Mexico City Part Two: Our Virgin of Guadalupe

On December 9th, 1531 the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego in what is now suburban Mexico City.  During their first meeting, Mary wanted Juan Diego and the Catholic church to build a shrine for her.  When Juan Diego reported this vison and message to the local bishop, he didn’t believe him and turned him away.  The bishop insisted there must be a sign before they would even consider building a church.  Three days later on December 12th, Mary appeared to Juan Diego again and told him to collect roses in his apron and return to the bishop. (Keep in mind, this was December so the existence of roses during the winter was a miracle itself.)  Juan Diego did as the Virgin asked and returned to the bishop.  When he let the roses fall out of his apron, an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared.  Needless to say, the bishop got the hint and a shrine honoring Mary was built.

The original apron still hangs over the altar in the Basilica built in 1976.  

Fast forward 486 years later, two travelers from the United States were hanging out in Mexico City for a weekend of visas, art, and exploration.  Being Catholic, they figured they would take a little trip to the shrine to see the miraculous artifact and fulfil their weekly mass requirement. What they thought would be a quiet mass turned out to be more of a loud carnival like celebration of Catholicism.

Here's a peek at the start of mass.  I was amazed at the number of people attending mass, and the number of participants at mass.

This sign, which means "Aren't I, your mother, here?" hangs above the basilica.
There were so many priests in front of the congregation.
Many parents and godparents lined up for baptisms.

If you are interested in a destination baptism, this is a cool place for you.  BTW, only parents and godparents can witness the baptisms. 
One new Catholic is getting carried home.
The shrine has multiple chapels.

If I had to do it over again, I would attend mass in one of the smaller chapels like the Antigua Basilica.  They are far less crowded. 
The Virgin of Guadalupe is frequently depicted with darker skin to reflect an Aztec and Spanish heritage.
Juan Diego was made a saint in 2002 by Pope John Paul, hence there are many John Paul II statues in the area, including this one at the shrine.
Many Mexican Catholics have a very special place in their hearts for Pope John Paul II.
Outside the Basilica, there were times when I thought I was at a party rather than a shrine.

The Carillon is the official time piece of the shrine.  I think the screen shows a video of the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe three times per day.
Outside the Cathedral, ladies dance in troupes and mariachi bands worship with music.

If you are Catholic, or want to learn more about the miracle of the Virgin of Guadalupe, I highly recommend making a pilgrimage to the shrine but keep some things in mind:

If you decide to go for Sunday Mass at 10:30, it will be EXTREMELY crowded…especially on holy days of obligation and December 12th.  For a mass schedule click here.

If you want to get your child baptized, you can but make sure you have proper documentation.  For more information on the needed paperwork click here.  Keep in mind that only the parents and godparents are allowed to witness the baptisms at the shrine.

Don’t expect to receive communion unless you sit through two masses or by some stroke of luck get a seat in your mass.  I tried to make my way to the Eucharistic minister but was not successful due to massive crowding.  It was a little bit of a shock for me, but it was a great lesson about not taking my faith for granted.   

For more information about the shrine for Our Lady of Guadalupe, click here.  Happy travels!

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¡Viva México!