In the last couple of years, my family and I have adopted the tradition of visiting the Basilica of Guadalupe as soon as we leave the airport when we travel to Mexico. Once in the Basilica, we usually look for a pew, kneel, and make the sign of the cross on the forehead, lips, and heart (a common practice in Mexico). Then, we pray and give thanks to God and to the Virgin Mary for giving us the opportunity to visit family.
The last time I visited, I was contemplating the beauty of the Virgin during this time of prayer. It was such an intimate moment: there were no words needed, and no noise could distract me; I only heard the murmuring of others saying the Our Father and Hail Mary. When I finished praying, I sat for a couple of minutes and saw people of all ages coming in. Some of them grabbed my attention: a little girl carrying some flowers was helping her mother, who was carrying a baby and praying the Rosary with a worried look; a man with his pants legs pulled up above his knees was moving slowly on his knees with an anguished expression on his face while praying; a young couple with children, who seemed happy praying as well.
In the midst of this sacred environment, feelings of joy and grief were interwoven in my head, and instantaneously I found myself praying for those in need whom I have seen or met. There we were, all together, a community of believers with faith, prayer, and devotion to our Mother Mary in heaven as the common denominator. After praying for some time, we used the conveyor belt located behind the altar that provides closer access for visitors to see our Lady’s image; my husband carried my youngest son on his back so that he could see better, and we all contemplated the image while passing.
Sometimes, I still feel the same sensation that I experienced that day, when in silence I reflect while looking at the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that I have hanging on the wall of my bedroom. I personally see her as a mother who intercedes for her children before her son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and as a faithful disciple who suffers and rejoices in her children’s journeys, while seeking to protect each person under her celestial mantle —— a woman of faith and prayer in whom I entrust myself. My devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe has been part of my life, my family, and those with whom I share the same culture; in her I affirm and celebrate my Catholic identity.
Eva Gonzalez is Hispanic Ministry Special Projects Coordinator for the Office of Multicultural Ministry