by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
The Virgin of Guadalupe is the first visitation by the Virgin Mary occurring in the Tepeyac Hills of Mexico City, December 12, 1531. On the morning of December 9, 1531, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin had turned his life to God after the death of his wife. It was his custom to attend Mass and catechism at the Church in Tlatelolco. At daybreak, on Saturday, December 9, 1531, Juan Diego began his journey to Church. As he walked over the hill named Tepeyac, on which once stood a temple to the Aztec mother god Tonantzin, he heard birds singing beautifully. For the Aztec, music and songbirds were considered divine gifts! He suddenly saw an apparition of a young girl with tan complexion bathed in golden beams of sunlight calling him by name in Náhuatl, his native language, “Juan Diego!”.
“Know and understand well, you the most humble of my sons, that I am the ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for Whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help and protection, because I am your merciful mother… Go to the bishop of Mexico and say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here a temple be built to me.”
Diego told his story to the Spanish Archbishop of Mexico City, Bishop Juan Zumarraga, who instructed him to return to Tepeyac Hill, and ask the “lady” for a miraculous sign to prove her identity. The first sign was the Virgin healing Juan’s uncle, who had fallen gravely ill. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill. Although December was very late in the growing season for flowers to bloom, Juan Diego found Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, on the normally barren hilltop. The Virgin arranged these in his peasant cloak or tilma. When Juan Diego opened his cloak before Bishop Zumárraga on December 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and on the fabric was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the second sign.
We started our journey in the early morning at 6 am of December 12, 2013. We walked from our apartment two blocks and down into the subway. The first serendipitous moment occurred right there in the subway. Just two blocks away, on 14 street (in New York City) is a huge church dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe! The subway was filled with devotees coming from the church. They all had beautiful roses that they were carrying. I thought everyone was going to the church, but talking to several parishioners revealed that they were given these flowers by others, as the tradition on that day was to give, give, give to others, unconditionally, as we were soon going to see, once arriving to Mexico City!
We had a very nice flight down to Mexico and arrived in the airport by noon. We strolled through the airport and changed money. **Tip: When going to Mexico City, change your money in the airport. It was the best price we got as an exchange rate, as there are so many money changers there, they are highly competitive and will offer you the best rate. We never found a better exchange rate within the city. If you walk outside the airport and make a left, you walk all the way down to the end of the airport building and here is where you can find the subway (metro)! It is the most economical and easiest way to get around Mexico City and never get caught up in the tremendous traffic jams that clog the city. **Tip: Take the subway (metro) Line 5 north, in the direction POLITECNICO. Transfer at Instituto del Petroleo to Line 6 in the direction Martín Carrera Exit at the station La Villa-Basílica (third stop). From the La Villa-Basílica metro station,
Head west on Cuauhtemoc toward Calzada de Guadalupe. This very busy street you can see when exiting the metro. Turn right (north) onto Calzada de Guadalupe. There is a pedestrian walkway in the center of the street. You will reach the basilica square in two blocks. 1 metro ticket costs $5 pesos (December 2013). You can download a partial map of the Mexico City Metro here.
On our journey, we discovered an amazing hotel that I would highly recommend. About a 20 minute walk down the pedestrian walkway. **Tip: I suggest you stay at the Hotel Villa de Madrid It is clean, safe and very well kept. **Tip: You can eat a nice meal in the hotel or go directly across the street and eat at a wonderful, clean, restaurant, that is full of light, with great service and very reasonable, call Toks Restaurant.
This Marian site, was the most spiritual I have ever been to. Going on the feast day, is highly recommended. The Mexican people are absolutely THE most devoted people to the Virgin Mary and to Catholicism I have ever seen. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life! On our stroll down the pedestrian walkway we saw the most beautiful acts of selflessness. Families would give away roses, oranges, prayer cards and meals! People walking down the way, many who had traveled many many miles from far away villages and towns to honor the Virgin, were greeted by friendly, smiling faces offering them sweet treats, rice, beans and tacos, beverages and rosaries! It was so heart warming to see groups of families, most of them so poor and poverty stricken themselves, giving away what was probably a month’s worth of food and gifts to perfect strangers. Anyone who passed by would constantly be handed a small gift or offered a cold drink. The other heart-warming experience was seeing individuals, families and even large church groups from other towns bringing there own personal statues of the Virgin of Guadalupe to be blessed in the basilica. **Tip: You can find many of these images I have taken on my Facebook page under albums!
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe was filled with thousands of devotees! The Basilica is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage destination in the world. Over the Friday and Saturday of December 11 to 12, 2013, a record number of 6.4 million pilgrims visited the Shrine of Guadalupe to commemorate the anniversary of the apparition. Large groups of Native Aztec Indians where in the center of the huge square celebrating in ceremonial dress, dancing, drumming and praising the Virgin! Due to the appearance of the apparition, from 1531 – 1538, 8 million Aztecs converted to Catholicism! This is the largest conversion in history!
We made our way into the new Basilica for mass. There, framed in a gold and silver frame over the altar hangs the original tilma with the miraculous impression of the Virgin herself. Awestruck beyond belief, I could not take my eyes off this magnificent image! I was grateful to be able to receive communion despite the thousands of people in the basilica. At the end of mass, the priests and bishops blessed the gifts and images of the Virgin the people had brought. At the end of mass, the congregation sang Las Mananitas, which made me cry profusely with joy! Tears streaming down my face, I sang my heart out!
At the end of mass, we were able to go toward the back of the huge basilica to where there are several moving escalators that take you passed the image of the Virgin in the frame. It gives you a much closer look at this miraculous impression! Breathtaking. If you go through the back of the basilica, through the very expensive gift shop, it take you to the beautiful candle lighting sanctuary. This is where you can light your candles, pray and make dedications to the Virgin. **Tip: Gifts, mementos and souvenirs can be found everywhere within a 5 mile radius of the basilica. I suggest you buy them in the streets right before the grounds of the church and square, for one-third the price.
The grounds behind the new basilica are amazing! After the candle lighting sanctuary, walk up towards the museum directly behind the candle sanctuary. Here, you will find the incredible waterfalls and gardens dedicated to Juan Diego. Filled with roses and butterflies everywhere (two unmistakable images associated with the Virgin Mary), walk up the colorful stairway to the top of Tepeyac Hill. There are delightful fountains and gardens along the way. At the top of the hill is the original church built in honor of the Virgin. Guarded by the four Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel, the church is engulfed by the sounds of singing birds and singing everywhere! The view from the balconies stretch out over Mexico City entitling you with a sense of awe and wonder!
It is truly one of the most spiritual sanctuaries on earth! I have gathered together a wonderful group of gifts associated with the Virgin of Guadalupe, as well as, symbolic representations from this site including Rose Case and Chaplet Rosary, Guadalupe Candles, Holy Water from the Basilica, Sacred Anointing Oils, Angelic Realm Jewelry, Butterfly Chimes, Angel Soul Star Body Fragrances, sacred incense, the Crystal Rose Water and Music for Healing.
4. Scientific facts about the Image of the Virgin of Guadalupe (A must-see!!!)