by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
This week, I’m in Mexico, spending time each day at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, trying to enter her story and presence and begging for the grace of peace and wisdom. My friend Jim Reale proposed this retreat. He has just finished two years of daily two-hour meditation every morning in front of her famous image. He wanted to conclude this part of his spiritual journey with a pilgrimage to her and invited me along.
We took as our text one of the best books ever on the mythic story, Guadalupe: Mother of the New Creation by Virgilio Elizondo (Orbis Books, 1997). The first part features a current translation of an ancient story, the Nican Mopohua, written for the Nahuatl people, followed by 100 pages of Elizondo’s insightful commentary on the document.
Everyone knows the story. Juan Diego, one of the poorest of the poorest indigenous people, is walking on Mount Tepeyac, a desert hill on the outskirts of Mexico City, in 1531. It’s the age of Hernán Cortés and the Spanish Catholic conquerors who committed genocide against the indigenous people. A new convert, 57-year-old Juan Diego is on his way to morning Mass 15 miles away when he hears a large gathering of birds singing loudly on Tepeyac. He climbs higher to investigate this extraordinary sound when he encounters an indigenous woman, beautifully dressed, shining like the sun, infinitely compassionate — Our Lady of Guadalupe…