While my wife and I were cleaning out our attic and basement a few weeks ago, we discovered a long lost treasure - photographs from a trip that my eldest daughter and I had taken to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City more than twenty-five years ago.
At the time of that visit, the original Church built at the request of the Blessed Mother, was deemed unsafe to enter. A new modern structure – much larger had been erected nearby.
I remember pausing in awe and wonder watching pilgrims walking on their knees across the plaza leading to the Cathedral, some of whom I was later told had been walking in that manner for miles. I regret now not having photographically captured the inspiring witness of those devoted souls.
When we entered the Church, our eyes were immediately drawn to the readily recognizable image of our Lady displayed immediately above and behind the sanctuary. Our heavenly Mother is surrounded by golden brick.
The next thing I recall was the noise and busyness around me.
Shortly after our arrival, Mass began. Few of the hundreds of visitors milling around the interior of the Church appeared to be aware or appreciative of the magnificent event taking place in the sanctuary. This must have been a great disappointment to our Blessed Mother whose image looked down upon the Holy Sacrifice.
I had seen many pictures and renderings of the image our Lady of Guadalupe in my lifetime. None of them do justice to the actual image I was blessed to view! Although more than five centuries old, it looked like it had just been painted. The colors were vibrant and jumped off the aged tilma of Blessed Juan Diego – two inexplicable but miraculous facts.
How privileged my daughter and I were to be in the presence of this sacred and much venerated icon. It was magnificent to behold! I wanted to stay, gaze and ponder this image but the moving walkway which slowly transported us to and past our Blessed Mother’s likeness prohibited protracted stays.
When I reached the end of the walkway, I had a feeling of incompleteness, a desire for more and an internal non-verbal assurance that another profound blessing awaited us.
We left the Cathedral, walked across the plaza and up steep steps to visit the actual apparition site.
As we made our way there, we encountered a magnificent outdoor sculpture depicting the apparition – breathtakingly beautiful and life-like.
The little chapel built at the actual apparition site was not far from there. The minute I entered, I knew I was on holy ground and in the presence of both my loving Lord and His most Blessed Mother.
So real and ostensible was that sensation that I fell to my knees at the altar rail with tears of thanksgiving and appreciation flowing from my eyes – thanking God that He had extended this great undeserved privilege to my daughter and me to be where His Mother once stood and where over the centuries so many have been healed and cured.
I offered an unending stream of prayerful petitions, the most urgent of which was for my youngest sister who had recently, and without warning, experienced heart failure – a drastic reduction in the ability of her heart muscles to contract with sufficient force.
Without hesitation, I asked our Blessed Mother and her most precious Son to heal my nearly forty-year old sibling. I felt at peace.
It was so very difficult to leave this comforting and healing place. But we had to rejoin our group.
When I returned home, my sister informed me that forty percent of her heart function had been restored. The doctors had no real explanation for such a remarkable turn-around in her physical condition which we later confirmed occurred at the time I had sought our Lady’s intercession and assistance! My sister has experienced no further deterioration in her heart function over the intervening years!
Oh, that we might better appreciate the blessings we have received and grow closer to our Blessed Mother!
Our Lady of Guadalupe intercede for us and for those we know and love. Lead each of us to the bosom of your Son’s Sacred Heart!