Saludos from Panama City! OK, I know the title says Mexico, but that’s because I started writing yesterday and ran out of time. So here we are … I stayed for a few days in Mexico City with (and was well taken care of) by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They are a congregation of religious sisters in Mexico who are dedicated to caring for troubled youth and adolescents. At the house where I was, there are about 30 girls, about 13 to 14 years old. They live in community like a religious community with a schedule and prayer and work. It has been a great privilege for me to be able to stay with the sisters and get to know them and the girls, I am very grateful for the opportunity!
The sisters and some of the girls and I visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I was able to bring all the prayer intentions, including my own, there. Here´s a picture of the outside, and then a view of the inside, as well as a view of the tilma itself. It was tough for me to get a good shot of the tilma because to stand on a moving conveyor belt, but so it is. There are a few pictures of our little group, too. I guess the girls hardly get a chance to get out, so I was glad that my visit set them “free” for a little bit!
It was moving to me to be in the presence of the tilma, because it´s a poor man´s garment with a miraculous image on it that reveals so much. It’s a powerful sense in the presence of a live miracle. But so it was also being with the sisters and these girls, who are living miracles themselves!…
Another place that was very moving was the original church that housed the tilma, and the location of Juan Diego´s house adjacent. The church is being excavated and there´s only a marker now for the house. I only have a video, which is taking too long to upload, but no good pictures. But this little church was much different from the new basilica, it was quiet and simple and small, without many visitors. If I had my choice, I´d probably spend most of my time there. When I thought of the new basilica in comparison, I thought of the Lord´s words about the kingdom of God: “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Mt 13:31-32)
The basilica also housed a new exhibit on the Shroud of Turin. It had a full size image of the shroud:
It also had a collection of 3-D views of different aspect views of the Shroud. In looking at one of these, I got a strong reminder of how much the Lord always suffered from others to reach those who would receive Him and His blessings, and how greater He and His love are than suffering and death.
Speaking of which, we also visited the Cathedral in Mexico, which is located on top of old Aztec temple ruins. In front of the basilica, you can look through protective glass into excavations and see old ruins. In the picture here, you can see skulls from human sacrifices. Just like the Shroud shows, Jesus and His love, in the sacrifice of the Mass every day, is greater than all the suffering and death produced by broken man.
My last day yesterday was the elections for the Mexican president, so we stayed in. I guess it gets a little wild in Mexico City for the elections, especially this time with all that´s been happening. More than visiting all the other locations, being with the sisters and the girls in their life was most special for me. I can´t describe the hospitality I received from the sisters, they always made me feel like one of the family. Yesterday also was a visitation day, a day when the girls’ families can come and visit with them. Some were also leaving permanently, some temporarily, and some staying. It was very emotional for the girls, and they performed a program for all the families and guests who came.
Some of the girls come from backgrounds of serious drugs and violence, even prostitution and drug trafficking. The congregation’s mission is directed toward girls like them, a sort of all-around rehab centered on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Experiencing their life and friendship, seeing how they respond out in public, all I could think of was how blessed they are. I couldn´t stop thinking about that, about how much Jesus Himself loves them with a certain choice over others, and how much of a privilege it is to be with them. Very often I was moved to tears, though I tried to keep it hidden from them. I think I had the waterworks because, first, the girls brought me think of my own personal background and rebelliousness, and my own experience of Jesus and His mercy. Now, I was living right in that reality with this little community, but on the other side…
This morning, one of the sisters and 5 of the girls got up at 4:30 to take me to the airport. I was expecting maybe one of the sisters, but I was a little suprised by the entourage. But I was even more surprised when they gave me a little “despedida”, singing songs and taking out signs they had made the day before. Again, I held back the waterworks, and even if you can’t speak Spanish, the picture speaks for itself of Latino affection and love. And the feelings were mutual on my part! I will always have them in my heart.
Well, I’ve been writing from the airport in Panama City and I’m heading off now to the plane to Quito. Yesterday’s second reading from the Mass really struck me as summing up the whole trip:
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less. (2 Cor 8:9,13-15)
I´ll try to post again soon …
2 thoughts on “From Mexico With A Greater Love”
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Jerome, that is so awesome, it’s great to see you with the sisters and the girls, it s indeed a blessed place. I am dying to go back there! my Jesus and Our Lady guide your steps on the next leg of your journey. Reine Jesus…. por siempre en los corazones! Bill