On Wednesday some of the men returned to the lunch program in San Matteo to spend time with the kids and their mothers. They had quite a trip across the city to get there, but had the joy of serving both the children and their mothers just by being a joyful presence and an example of faith.
Others of us spent the day touring downtown. We rode the metro to the central square (Zocalo), then attended Mass at the Cathedral. We walked around the old town near the square, then took a train out the Castillo de Chapultepec. This building has been a fort, a palace, and now a museum. It was built overlooking the land approaches to Mexico City in the 1800s and was the scene of the last battle of the Mexican American War (the so-called “halls of Montezuma” in the Marine Corps’s song). Later, it was a palace for the emperors of Mexico, and then a military academy. Now it’s a great museum of the long history of Mexico.
The highlight of the day for me, and one of the highlights of the trip, was getting to pray with the relics of Blessed Miguel Pro. He was a Jesuit priest who ministered covertly in Mexico City while Catholicism was effectively outlawed in Mexico in the 1920s. He was falsely accused of an assassination attempt on the president and killed without trial.
Still others of us spent the day exploring and praying on the grounds of the Shrine.
On Thursday we had a holy hour and Mass with the Carmelite nuns who live on the top of Tepeyac hill, near the site of the first several apparitions to Juan Diego. We visited with them through the grill afterwards and they shared many stories about the shrine.
On Friday we attended solemn morning prayer with the Canons of the Shrine (the group of priests responsible for caring for the Shrine) and the Basilica Choir. One of the Canons gave us a wonderful presentation on the historical context, the events surrounding the apparitions of Our Lady to Juan Diego, and the history of the shrine. Msgr Palencia also took us to get an up-close view of the image from the sanctuary, then took us on as tour through the grounds and the Shrine museum. It was quite a privilege to have such a knowledgeable host.
It was very interesting to hear from Msgr Palencia about the relationship between the government and the Church. The government owns the grounds of the Shrine (and almost all other Church property in the country, since it seized it all in the early 1900s), so it controls what can happen there and must grant permission for most things. At the same time, the Church must pay property taxes to the government for use of the land and also income tax on all donations. We heard several times from Msgr Palencia “yes, well we’re waiting for the permission from the government to fix that.”
This weekend, we’ll be working with a different group with homeless people around the Shrine and visiting a Women’s home on Sunday. Please keep us in your prayers!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!