Blog/CYM Blog A Pilgrimage: Our Lady of Guadalupe by Andrew Brown This past summer, my wife, Mary Beth and I traveled to Mexico for our five-year Wedding Anniversary. Typically, people think of Mexico in the summer time as beaches, margaritas, salsa, and siestas. We dabbled in those but not before voyaging on a pilgrimage to the heart of Mexico City. You might be asking what a Pilgrimage is? Well, every major world religion has pilgrim sites where faithful followers flock to pray, pay honor or offer thanks to God. The Jewish have the Wailing Wall. Islamics have Mecca. Catholics have St. Peter’s Basilica. In fact St. Peter’s Basilica is the number one pilgrim site for Catholics. The second is the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A pilgrimage is not just about the destination but the preparation and the prayer-paration that goes into the journey. Our trip began with a Novena to Saints Anne & Joachim (grandparents of Jesus, Mary’s parents). We began praying it on July 17, our Wedding Anniversary and concluded the Novena at Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Basilica on the feast day of St. Anne and Joachim, July 26th. As many couples do on their wedding day, we asked for our marriage to be lifted up to our Blessed Mother that she may keep us close to her Son, Jesus and that our marriage may model the Holy Family. Throughout history, Mary has appeared in hundreds of locations around the globe. Recently, National Geographic featured an article about Mary being the most powerful woman on earth. Take that Katy Perry. In our opinion, the most fascinating Marian apparition story is when Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531 on the hill of Tepeyac, in Mexico City. (see full story here). Since we both have a special devotion to Our Blessed Mother, we wanted to offer prayers of thanksgiving and ask for continual intercession with all of life’s challenges. The Offering of Flowers Similar to Proms and school dances when teens offer and wear a boutonnière or corsage, the offering of flowers to Our Lady is a big deal. Flowers, particularly roses, are offered to Mary since she asked St. Juan Diego to climb the hill and pick flowers to prove to the Bishop she appeared to him. Not only did he unfold roses from his tilma, but Castilian roses, which are not native to Mexico, revealing her image that remains on display in the Basilica. The Tilma Before we knew it, the image Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan Diego’s tilma was directly above us! The moment was brief, so we returned five times to stand, admire her message, and ask for her intercession. Seeing the pilgrims gaze at our Blessed Mother’s image brought me to tears. Their faces revealed determination and courage to walk by faith and pay tribute to our Lady’s image. Witnessing them cry tears of sorrow and joy ached my heart. Even in the midst of the crowds, chaos, and noise, it was a treasured and sacred time. Patroness of the Americas Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas, not just Mexico. In the Basilica, every national flag of the Americas is on display depicting Mary’s love for all of the Western world. Her physical appearance of a mestiza (European & Native descent) foreshadows the growing exploration and explosion of Catholicism in the New World. Her Miracle is About Her Son There so are many miracles and powerful messages surrounding Guadalupe image it would need an additional blog. But the biggest miracle is how Mary can bring people to her Son, Jesus. On Sunday, Mass is celebrated every hour, and the modern Basilica (built in 1960’s) can hold 10,000 people. It makes a sporting event, Steubenville Conference or NCYC look small. Mary delights in her children’s closeness to Jesus each time Mass is celebrated, or people hear the Word of God and receive the Holy Eucharist. Prayer: Our Pilgrim Mission We definitely “prayed without ceasing” on this pilgrimage. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was in the old Basilica, so we stopped to pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. It was peaceful to sit in the presence of hundreds of pilgrims simply adoring our Lord, speaking to and listening to Christ. We even invited family, friends, and parishioners to send us their prayer intentions that we placed before Our Lady asking her to intercede for their prayer requests. It is a beautiful solidarity knowing that we were lifted up in prayer with those who could not travel with us. As the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12) approaches, we emphasize that you need not travel to Mexico City to turn to our Blessed Mother in prayer. In one of the apparitions to St. Juan Diego, our Blessed Mother proclaimed: “Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.” We believe that these words echo true to each of us today! Jesus gave Mary to us when he says, “Woman, behold your Son”. Then Jesus gave us to His Mother, “Son, behold your Mother”. (John 19:26-27). Jesus gives the world his Mother so that we would feel the same love that she has for Him. Mary is asking us, “Am I not here? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Do you need anything more?” Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with You. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death. Amen. Image via Flickr, CC 2.0 Logo added This blog was written by Mary Beth and Andrew Brown who were married on July 17, 2010.