Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe

My mum and I, along with a group of pilgrims, travelled all the way to Mexico to visit the place where Mary appeared to an Aztec indian named Juan Diego almost 500 years ago. She asked him to pick some roses and put it in his tilma (their cloak in those times) to present to the bishop. He found a variety of roses blooming, which are not native to Mexico, and which could not have been growing in the freezing winter. When he opened up his tilma in front of the bishop, the flowers fell to the ground and an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe miraculously appeared on his previously plain tilma.

The original tilma

Till today, almost 500 years later, the image is clearly imprinted on the tilma even though the fabric which was made from agave fibre should have disintegrated after 20 years. Researchers have concluded that the pigment used is from no known source, not animal, vegetable nor mineral. A bomb went off in 1921 where glass was shattered and a metal cross bent, but the image remained untouched. When researchers enlarged the image by 2500X, they found the image of 14 people depicted in the pupils of Our Lady’s eyes.

Mosaic replica in Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in L.A.
At that time, the Aztec indians practiced a religion where they offered human sacrifices to their gods. After Our Lady’s apparition, 9 million people were converted to Christianity in that year. The tilma is kept in this Basilica which makes this the most visited Catholic pilgrimage destination in the world with more than 6 million people visiting it on the weekend of the anniversary of Our Lady’s apparition every December.
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Sitting atop the hill where Our Lady appeared is an experience forever etched in my mind. The serenity and beauty from up there enveloped me with a sense of peace, that whatever happens in life, both the good and the bad, can be embraced. For the past few months, I’ve been having this nagging feeling that as a mother, it’s hard to know how to parent your children well. The things you say to them, the things you don’t say, the messages behind your words and actions all have a profound effect on your children, and their children in future. I left Guadalupe with a sense of tranquility which I hope will carry me forth into our daily living. And to know that I have our blessed Mother by my side to turn to for wisdom and guidance in my motherhood journey gives me comfort.

Tepeyac Hill where Our Lady appeared in 1531
“Know for certain.. that I am the mother of the true God. I will offer all of my love, my compassion, and my help to the people. Of all of those who love me, of those who cry to me.. here, I will hear their weepings and their sorrows, and I will remedy and alleviate their sufferings, necessities and misfortunes.” – Our Lady of Guadalupe

We also visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Ocotlan where Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego Bernardino in 1541. There was an epidemic in the region and she promised him healing waters from a miraculous spring. Till today, the spring is still producing water. We went down to the well to collect the holy water.

Steep walk down to the Well
Well of Miraculous water at Ocotlan

Another miraculous place we visited was the Convent of the Holy Cross which is a UNESCO world heritage site. There was a battle between the Spanish conquerors and the local Indians and the agreement was that if they were defeated by the Spanish, they would embrace Catholicism. The Spanish were on the verge of defeat when the sky went dark and a fiery Cross appeared with the apparition of Saint James. The Indians accepted defeat and the city of Santiago was established.

Convent of the Holy Cross

In the courtyard of this Convent stands the Tree of Crosses. Around 300 years ago, Fr. Antonio Margil stuck his walking cane in the ground. The cane started to sprout and grow into a tree. This tree bore no fruit nor flower, but instead it grew thorns in the shape of crosses! Botanists had tried to grow this tree elsewhere but to no avail. It was amazing to see this tree firsthand.

The Tree of Crosses

I found the Mexican people to be extremely warm and family oriented. On the weekends, we saw entire extended families out on a leisurely boat ride where they would pack their own picnic and enjoy the idyllic afternoon.

Lunch on board

Before we left for our pilgrimage, we were shown a video of Our Lady of Guadalupe and there were many miracles documented where terminally ill children were cured. The video looked like it was made many years ago, and I asked our Mexican guide if miracles are still happening to this day. He replied with great vehemence, “Yes of course! We hear of them all the time.” I told him that was so wonderful. In a country like ours, miracles don’t happen anymore. He replied with even more enthusiasm, “They do! You must open your hearts and minds!” Ah, wise words from a Mexican great-grandpa.

Jalpan de Serra

Our guide offered to take us for a swim in this beautiful river where the locals go, but none of us went. Sadly, living in a city state, we have forgotten how to appreciate the simple wonders of nature. I’m sure it would have been an unforgettable experience if we had taken the plunge.

Mision Conca

It was such a luxury to wake up in the morning to the cool air and this breathtaking view. The 2-week break away from our hurried life did wonders for my soul.

For my other post on more things we did in Mexico, click here.

For the 2nd part of our trip where I was touched by the beauty of nature, click here.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~