I arrived at La Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe at a very good time, just as the sun was setting on a Friday evening.
Hardly anyone was there.
I walked around the basilica, after coming onto the grounds off the very busy and noisy street, and I saw, through one of the open doors of the basilica, the miraculous image of La Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, hanging above the altar, with my own eyes, which is something I’ve long wanted to do, and something I’ve asked the Lord to allow me to see before I die.
I didn’t go inside the basilica right away.
Instead, I went off to a far corner of the plaza, a long ways away from the basilica, very near the place, by the hill, where Our Lady had appeared to Juan Diego, who was a poor man, so many hundreds of years ago, at a time when Mexico was swimming in blood, because of a recent Spanish invasion.
I had such a deep peace while I sat there. A peace like I’ve not had in many, many years, and a peace unlike any I can ever remember having.
I sat there, for a couple of hours, watching the sunset, and the scene before my eyes changing in the fading light, taking a few photos, and enjoying the peacefulness of being there, in that sacred place, and enjoyed the peace, which was settling, deeply, in my heart.
I think the peace I felt that evening must be like the peace felt by a small child when he’s held by his mother, which makes everything alright, but it’s been a long while since I’ve been a small child, and I can’t remember this kind of peace, although I’m certain I must have experience this sort of peace in my heart, as a child, but not again, until now.
Afterward, I went to the spot where Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego, and prayed, asking Our Lady to pray to her Son, Jesus, for the peoples of Mexico, that the bloodshed caused by the drug war would end, and I prayed for the people of America, that we would have the courage to kick Satan to the curb and throw him under the bus by getting rid of our Satanic federal government, which is the cause of the drug war, and many other evils as well. I cried as I prayed, and I asked for God’s mercy on us. And I felt such peace there, then, in that place, as though she were there with me, listening to the cries of my heart, and listening to the cries of her people, as she had told Juan Diego she would always do, so many years ago.
It was night by then, and I was alone, with Our Lady, in that place in Mexico where she appeared. The only place in the Americas where she has ever appeared. And I felt her presence there, and I felt the presence of God there, too, in that sacred place.
I then went across the plaza, and into the basilica, where less than 100 people were listening to a priest, who was giving a homily.
I genuflected, which isn’t easy wearing a backpack, sat down, and listened to the homily. When the homily was over I got up, genuflected again, and made my way to the side of the basilica, below the altar, where there is passageway through which one goes to view the miraculous image of La Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, which hangs above the altar in the basilica.
Hardly anyone was there, except for me, a man who worked there, two ladies, and a priest.
I stepped on to one of the short, moving sidewalks and slowly began passing underneath the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, gazing up at her. I got off and then on to a sidewalk moving the other way, and passed I by her again. Then again. And then I got off, stopped, and stood over to one side, next to the priest, who was praying, and I looked at her for a long while.
The one thing that really stood out to me, which I’d never seen before, was the material upon which the image of Our Lady is miraculously imprinted. I could actually see it, the cactus fiber tilma, which should have turned to dust 500 years ago, and which is something that doesn’t show up in photographs and representations, and is, to me, now, all the more reason for one to go to the basilica and see the miraculous image for oneself, as opposed to seeing only photographs and representations, which are not, after all, the real thing.
As in the many photographs and representations of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe I’ve seen before, over the years, the image of La Virgen miraculously imprinted upon Juan Diego’s tilma appears young and very beautiful, with her head slightly turned and slightly bowed to one side, as if gazing, lovingly, at Juan Diego, and as if she is watching over her people, the peoples of Mexico and the Americas, which, thankfully, includes me.
This morning, Saturday, the scene was quite different, and quite the opposite, too, but no less amazing to me.
Far from being virtually alone when I arrived at the basilica this time, early on a Saturday morning, there were hundreds – and soon thousands – of pilgrims streaming off of the streets and into the basilica, filling the plaza, including the quiet place I had prayed, alone, the night before.
There were people everywhere!
People were carrying flowers; a band was playing music; colorful banners were flying in the light breeze; balloons were floating away into the clear blue sky; kids were running around everywhere; families were enjoying the foods they had brought with them; it was a really wonderful experience!
To me, it appeared just as Our Lady had said, so many years ago: She is there, in that place, always, for her people. She is there to pray to her Son for us and to help us with whatever needs we have, and she’s there especially, as is God, for the poor:
“Know for certain, least of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of heaven and earth. It is my earnest wish that a temple be built here to my honor. Here I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful mother, the merciful mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities and misfortunes.”