Retreat with Our Lady-1/21-1/24

What a wonderful week it was spending “quiet” time at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Of course nothing and nowhere is ever actually quiet in Mexico City, but the Carmelite sisters gave us good advice last week when they reminded us that the quiet we really need is interior, and that that kind of quiet can be had anywhere. The men spent most of the week at any of the various churches at the Large shrine complex.

The hill of tepeyac itself is covered with beautiful gardens and several staircases that lead up to the chapel of the apparitions. This Church offers a beautiful view out over the city when it isn’t too smoggy to see, and is the site where Juan Diego reported all the plants and stones were changed to be like gemstones, and the air was filled with singing.

There is the indigenous church located right at the foot of the hill. This is the original chapel built in 1531, as well as the larger church built attached to it in the 1600s. It is full of steps because it now tilts pretty crazily, but is a beautiful place to pray, especially since this is the place where St Juan Diego lived and cared for the image for the rest of his life after the apparitions.

Near the indigenous Church is the Chapel of the well, where a spring emerged at the foot of the hill shortly after the apparitions. The spring was used for many years for baptisms, but it dried up in the 1960s when the city began large-scale draining of the valley, the same reason most of the buildings are now leaning. It’s a beautiful place full of baptismal imagery.

Nearby is the chapel of oaths, where men and women come to take the “Guadalupan Oath” swearing off drugs, alcohol, pornography, or some other vice or addiction for a set period of time with the help of Our Lady. It was amazing to see the various resources available from the Shrine attached to this program, including AA-like groups but also extending to counseling, treatment programs, and more.

The Capuchin Parish is the parish church of the area, and is attached to the basilica. It is usually the most quiet place to pray because, frankly, it is no longer very pretty and doesn’t have any special attachment to the apparitions, but I found it a relief to get to spend time there with the Blessed Sacrament away from at least some of the noise and bustle.

The Old Basilica was built in the 1700s, and is huge and very beautiful. Walking into this building always made me dizzy, because everything in it is tilting, and all in different directions. It’s because of this tilting and insufficient space that the new basilica was built in the 1960s. The new Basilica is a vast building, and with all its door thrown open the original image of Our Lady can be seen from any point in the square. Mass goes on there every hour from 6am to 8pm, and there is a constant flow of people coming to visit “La Virgencita” at her shrine. While we were in Mexico at least 3 dioceses made their annual pilgrimages to the shrine, bringing hundreds or thousands of people, many of whom walked the whole way. The diocese of Michoacan also brought with them the relics of Saint Jose del Rio Sanchez, who is from Michoacan. It was a wonderful witness to the Communion of the Saints to see the people of Michoacan bearing with them the relics of the saint of Michoacan on their journey.

We were very privileged to get to spend so much time at the shrine. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we return to the US!

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

-Jake Epstein

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