|One of many pictures of the day|
What an incredible day. Today we visited the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it was definitely the highlight of the trip so far. We left Puebla at around 9:30 in the morning. We rented a bus that seated twenty passengers and we filled it with seminarians and Fr. Luis' family. We drove to Mexico City and the traffic in the city was as bad as they promised. We were scheduled to celebrate (for Fr. Luis) and serve (for the seminarians) the 1:00 pm mass on the main altar. Mass is constantly being celebrated on the main altar right in front of the tilma (the tilma is St. Juan Diego's cloak on which the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe miraculously appeared), so 1:00 was our time. Unless you know someone, you usually celebrate in one of the private chapels that has a distant view of the tilma. Fr. Luis knows people so we got to be on the main altar. The MCs of the basilica manage everything wonderfully so that we prayerfully and expertly celebrated mass with thousands of pilgrims and visitors.
Before and after mass we got to wander around the basilicas and the grounds. The tilma is in a new basilica built in the 60s to replace the old basilica that was sinking into the soft ground (much of Mexico City is built on a former lake). The new basilica is expertly designed to give thousands of people a view of the tilma. Mass can constantly be celebrated on the main altar with the tilma on the wall behind it. But immediately in front of he tilma, between the tilma and the altar, is a 25 foot wide hole to the basement level where those who are not attending the mass can see the tilma much closer. There are actually moving sidewalks so you view the tilma from those, because the area would be constantly swamped with people if they were allowed to stay without moving. After our Mass, we were actually allowed back out onto the altar to view the tilma from the edge of the hole for as long as we wanted. That was incredibly moving.
I visited the old basilica, where they have arrested the sinking but the floor is disconcertingly tilted inside. The floor was mostly smooth so you couldn't see the lean, but when you walked through it the floor just didn't work quite right. I visited the chapel on the hilltop where the apparitions actually took place, and I visited the chapel around St. Juan Diego's house. I expected the square in front of the basilicas to be filled with vendors, but the current cardinal of Mexico City kicked them all out. This made the whole experience very peaceful and prayerful. Even though there were thousands of people there, it didn't feel crowded at all. This is the most visited pilgrimage site in Catholicism. I returned to Puebla at the end of the day exhausted but incredibly happy.