Journalists leave Mexico with eyes open to faith-filled neighbors

| March 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

A family prepares to get a photo taken on the grounds of the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Pat Norby / The Catholic Spirit

While Pope Benedict XVI delivers his message to the bishops and political leaders of Mexico, the faith of the Mexican people is unlikely to be affected by those conversations.

Amidst what was being reported in the U.S. media during January and February about the violence in our neighboring North American country, a group of Cath­olic journalists and photographers traveled in the heart of Mexico unharmed and unafraid.

Myself and six others visited cathedrals, basilicas, shrines and pyramids in Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca from Jan. 27 to Feb. 3, during a Religious Familiarization Trip sponsored by the Mexico Tourism Office, Destination Management Services and Regina Tours. We were joined by a representative from Catholic Marketing Network and Regina Tours and escorted by a representative from the tourism office, two tour guides and our driver, Polo Jesus.

Faith replayed across country

What we saw throughout the trip were people who were devoted to Mary. During our visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where the tilda of Juan Diego hangs on a wall high above the altar, hundreds of people were kneeling on the floor at the back of the jam-packed church.

Outside, a group of children all clothed in white dresses danced in honor of Our Lady, as fathers played traditional stringed instruments and drums. Families waited in a long line to get their babies baptized in another church just to the right of the new basilica. Others lit candles and knelt to pray at one of the historic churches that tilts sideways and forward on the sprawling grounds of the shrine. Efforts to right the sinking buildings are hampered by funding and the marshy lakebed on which most of Mexico City was built.

In the middle of the spacious square, high above the crowds, a reenactment of Our Lady’s appearance to Juan Diego was taking place in a life-sized diorama with recorded words and music.

Vendors sold food, religious items and other goods in a fair-like atmosphere that was faith-filled and joyous. That was just for a few hours in the first full day of the trip.

That scene was replayed throughout our journey into Puebla, where artists created pottery and pictures and materials that can compete with any merchandise sold in the U.S. from China, Vietnam or Taiwan.

We were fortunate to visit Oaxaca during the celebration of the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which takes place 40 days after Christmas. It celebrates the day that Jesus was brought to the temple, as required by Jewish law.

The churches were filled to capacity, with people standing outside the doors celebrating Mass during the day and into the evening. They may have been pushing some line that makes the pope uncomfortable, but they were there, at the church, respectful and faithful and celebrating Mary and her son, Jesus.

The northern area of the North American continent could take a lesson from its neighbor in the southern area. Their devotion to the mother of Jesus is a sight to behold.

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Category: U.S. & World News