Earlier this month, a group of Los Angeles Catholics traveled south of the border to visit Mexico City, united in the hope of laying their prayers and concerns at the feet of the Lady of Guadalupe.
“We are coming to be with our mother,” Archbishop José Gomez said as he celebrated Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe with almost 150 pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on July 7.
Archbishop Gomez reflected on how the pilgrims’ spiritual journey to their heavenly mother closely mirrored that of Adán from El Salvador, who tried three times to cross the U.S.-Mexico border to be with his mother living in Los Angeles. On the third attempt, he was granted entry.
“I want to be with my mother” was an oft-repeated appeal from Adán during his testimony. The Archbishop said this challenging and beautiful story reminds us that we all “really want to be with our mother.”
“We didn’t have the problems that Adán had, but still it is the same feeling. We are so happy to be here,” he added.
One mother on the trip said she came because she knew that Our Lady, as a mother, would understand her concerns about her son.
“I’m a mother, she’s a mother,” Rachel Vincent, 80, said while describing the “torture you go through when your son is unhappy.”
For many years, she prayed for her adult son, who made “very poor choices, living a wild and crazy life.” A brief stint in rehab didn’t make a difference, and as he was no longer a minor, Vincent felt that she had little influence over him.
“I went there because of him, so the majority of my prayers were for him,” Vincent told Angelus News after the pilgrimage. Seven months before the trip, her son had been arrested, which Vincent took as an intervention from Heaven in answer her prayers.
On July 7, two days before the end of the pilgrimage, she learned that he had been released early from his one-year sentence. “Everything was on a timed schedule that perfectly meshed with this pilgrimage,” she said. “It’s another tap on the shoulder. This is the way it’s supposed to be.”
She felt a close affinity to Our Lady of Guadalupe since after her son’s arrest and went to his apartment to “make it a place of renewal”, bringing in painters and cleaning to make it more conducive to a better lifestyle. However, she was concerned to find a dusty statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “God only knows what she’s seen,” she said. At first she wanted to move the statue, but had trouble finding it a new home — something she later took as a sign that Our Lady had special plans for her son.
After meeting her son, following his release from prison, Vincent said, “He looks better to me than I have seen him in years.” In prison, her son participated in Bible study and spoke with a priest. “He doesn’t want to see anyone from his past,” she said. “He is living the beginning of his true story. It’s like a weight has come off of me.”
Another pilgrim, George Guillen, said he came to the shrine to honor his mother, Melquiadez Guillen, who passed away on March 20.
“Although my mother had a third-grade education, she was a very beautiful storyteller,” Guillen said. “As a small child, she would always tell me the story of the Virgin Mary and her apparition to Juan Diego. It was her favorite story, emphasizing in a poetic manner the miracle of the roses and how the image of the Virgin Mary became imprinted on his tilma.”
The miraculous cloak (or tilma) of St. Juan Diego that boasts the image of Our Lady is on display at the Basilica in Mexico City, drawing in more Catholic pilgrims than any other site in the world.
The Basilica was built after our Lady appeared to St. Juan, an Aztec and native of Mexico, asking him to build a house where she would manifest God to the people. Our Lady appeared to St. Juan five times over the course of four days from Dec. 9 to Dec. 12 in 1531.
She told St. Juan, "I will give Him to the people in all my personal love, in my compassion, in my help, in my protection: because I am truly your merciful Mother, yours and all the people who live united in this land and of all other people of different ancestries, my lovers, who love me, those who seek me, those who trust in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their complaints and heal all their sorrows, hardships and sufferings."
In 1941, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was gifted a relic of the tilma by the Archbishop of Mexico City, Luis Maria Martinez. As patroness of the Americas, the Lady of Guadalupe acts a special link between the two continents. This nearly 500-year-old symbol of peace is housed at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.