Thursday, November 14, 2013

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men...

[I tried to post this on Monday but trying to post in Spanish was a bit daunting.]

Well, the 'best laid plans of mice and men....'  Yesterday we decided we had enough of Mexico´s pre-colombian history so we went off to see some of the colonial history.  What I had forgotten was that museums are generally closed on Mondays here.  One place we had not gone was to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  That is always open!

I had been there back in the early 70´s.  The new basilica was open then but it reminded me of a Mexican bus station.  The "new" basilica was built sometime in the 1960s because the baroque chapel was too small and was sinking into the ever-present underground lake upon which most of Mexico City is grounded.  But yesterday the "new" basilica had been well-appointed over the past 40 years and one papal visit later.

Understanding the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe is a necessary componant if one is to understand Mexico or her people. It doesn´t matter if you have devotion to La Guadalupe or not.  It has to do with the soul of a people who were enslaved by the fairer Spanish people.  The Blessed One showed herself to an Indian in the visage of an Indian and reminded him that he was good and beloved by God.

J and I wandered all over the whole complex and saw very few (maybe one?) European faces.  While standing in the back of the basilica (Mass was being celebrated) we saw a woman cleaning with a dust mop. The basilica is always open, therefore cleaning goes on all of the time too.  I asked her quietly how we could get closer to the image of the Virgin because it was above the altar.  She told me:  one can go under the back of the altar on a moving sidewalk).  We stayed for a few moments longer as the consecration of the mass was happening and two priests are loath to move around in church at that time.

The woman returned with her mop and said to me:  "I have a gift for you." I was surprised.  she
pulled our of her pocket two small photos of La Guadalupe.  "They were blessed by John Paul II" she said.  He was there in 2005.  I don't know if they were or not; it was the face of the woman that caught my interest.  Her look was radiant and open.  In Spanish she would be called "sencillo", we don´t have a word for it in English.  But it is a face that I have seen before--it was the face of someone who was sharing the joy of faith.

Later I realized that this may have been one of the Guadalupanas, nuns whose main vocation is to
serve the Virgin of Guadalupe and remind the world of why she appeared to the people of the Western Hemisphere.  Most of the nuns here do not wear habits, but they can be readily identified by their short hair and no earrings.  But the small gift isn't what impressed me--it was that open, welcoming face.  I have seen that look on others over the years.  I identify it with those who have been touched or have reached out to the Divine.  They are invariably those who know they are stretched between the profane and the sacred.  I admire it no matter what faith the person holds and am humbled by it.

And while I do not have a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, I now carry a small picture of her in
my pocket because of a small woman with whom I shared faith for a short moment.  It is moments like these that keep me faithful, that remind me of the faith God has blessed me with and how far-reaching faith can be.

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