Posts Tagged With: basilica

Mother Mary and The Pyramids

Sunday – July 8, 2012 – 10:24pm – Casa de Misiones – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

Well, it’s “only” been three weeks since my last journal, so I guess I’m gettin’ a little better with being more frequent. 🙂 As you can see from my trademark time/date/place stamp, I’m back at the mission house. And boy did my time in language school go by fast. There are way too many small things that happened and that were good, and I can’t get to all of them. Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed language school. Enduring the difficulty of being in a place where almost nobody speaks your language, and having to learn a new one is not easy. There were times during language school when I was humbled by how much I was struggling, in spite of being self-proclaimed “good at languages”. But on my journey home from language school and here at the mission house I’m already starting to notice the difference. I’ve still got alot practicing to do, but at least now I’m somewhat functional in the language.

Even more than the places I saw and things I did, it was the people I met during my time in language school that really made the experience as wonderful as it was. Jeannie, the founder/director of ENCUENTROS language school, was the main reason I think I decided on that school. As an American ex-pat she was very easy to communicate with, prompt in her responses, and easy to work with too. All of my teachers/guides were super nice and helpful, and made learning a new language a pleasant experience. My host family, Mario and Marusa, displayed amazing amount of hospitality and patience. So many other friends that I made during my time there, especially my fellow students, made it something I’ll never forget.

Mike, Me, & his wife Ashley

Me and some of the students and maestras

The second most memorable event of the past three weeks was my visit to the pyramids at Teotihuacan. I tried to go visit them this past Wednesday, but ended up losing my wallet and didn’t have enough money to get in. I was sad not only for losing my wallet, but also because I had some so close yet so far. I could see the pyramid, I just wasn’t able to climb it. Only had enough money to get back home, and so I left with a sad, dejected feeling and thinking a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had just passed me by. Well, once I got back home and got all my cards blocked and got some money wired to me, I started scheming. I told myself that Saturday on my way back, I was going to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Cathedral downtown. But then I got word from another student that Saturday there was gonna be a big protest of the results from the presidential elections from the previous week. Where? At the Zocalo (plaza) in downtown Mexico City right next to where the Cathedral is. Even if it was a peaceful protest, I didn’t wanna get anywhere NEAR that place. Then the next thought that came to my mind was “I’m not gonna let a lost wallet and failed attempt be the end of the story. I’m gonna go see those pyramids!

After I had calculated that I’d have enough time to do that and still be able to visit the Basilica before my bus left on Saturday night, it was settled. Just the sheer satisfaction of arriving at Teotihuacan Saturday morning, knowing that I had enough money to get in and see the pyramids was worth it. I really felt like I had conquered a setback and not let it get the best of me. And lemme tell you, my satisfaction and enjoyment level was much higher than it would have been on Wednesday. Another blessing of seeing the pyramids Saturday was that I made what Brad Pitt’s character in Fight Club would call a “single-serving friend”. You know, those really interesting people you meet on a flight or a bus ride. Have a great conversation and then you never see them again. This particular single-serving friend was Adam. Slightly taller, and lanky like me. Long hair and scruffy beard. That alone gave away his identity as a gringo, But as soon as I saw him reading a guidebook in English, I zeroed in. I needed to speak some English so I could unwind a little. Enjoyed our conversation and ended up hangin out and exploring the pyramids and the ruins together. Came quite in handy too when needing to take pics.

Just taking in the beauty of the place was amazing. Seeing those two massive pyramids. Exploring the many other ruins surrounding them. The beautiful weather. Loads of people. Dirt cheap and really cools souvenirs (en Espanol, “recuerdos”). It was good stuff. I count myself as truly blessed for having experienced it. Here’s a few pics for ya.

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La Piramide del Sol (The Pyramid of the Sun). It’s the 2nd largest pyramid in the world, only the pyramids in Egypt are bigger.

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La Piramide de la Luna (The Pyramid of the Moon)

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me and Adam, standing on the Piramide de la Luna, with Piramide del Sol in the background

The other amazing part of my day was spent at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. To me, this was equally if not more important than the pyramids. I’ve two amazing experiences at Lourdes and so I knew this was kinda like the Mexican version. The complex on which the basilica is situated is not quite as big as the overall size of the complex at Lourdes. It’s much more compact, considering that it sits in the middle of a city of 20 million people instead of in the quaint french countryside. It seemed like there were less vendors there than at Lourdes, but for some reason there was more noise, action, tourists, and just hustle & bustle generally speaking. Didn’t have quite the same feel as Lourdes. And maybe it’s not supposed to. It’s its own different place. Nevertheless, I still felt quite blessed to be there and knew it was a unique opportunity. Walked around the complex scoping things out. Saw the inside of the old Basilica and it was gorgeous. Typical old-school classic church design.The only problem is that because Mexico City was built on a lake, old buildings such as the original Basilica are in danger of sinking. In this pic it’s quite pronounced, as you can see, on the front left side.

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The new basilica is amazing too. It’s GINORMOUS! I think the seating capacity is in the tens of thousands. And even though it’s done in what I call the “post Vatican II” style of architecture, I still really like it. (usually tend to favor the more traditional old-school style churches). Flags of many different countries are hanging from flagpoles to the left of the altar. Massive organ to the right side of the altar. San Juan Diego’s cloak is smack dab in the middle, right behind the altar. It’s framed in a beautiful gold setting and is purty big. The story is that when the Virgin Mary appeared to him, her image was emblazoned onto his cloak as you see it today in the Basilica. Purty cool, huh? Got to go to Mass too, and it just so happened that it was a wedding Mass. Seems like weddings are pretty popular there. Got to see Juan Diego’s tilma up close from an observation below/behind the main altar. At the end of Mass I had some articles blessed for family members that I’m gonna give them to. Got to spend some time praying a rosary in the adoration chapel. All in all, it was a super blessed mini-pilgrimage and a great way to wind down my time at language school and a great way to pump me up for going back to the mission house. Here’s a few more pics for you to enjoy. Have a blessed and wonderful week! God Bless!

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Lourdes – part 2

Tuesday – August 16, 2011 – 10:50am – In the bus en route from Lourdes to Barcelona

Since I skipped yesterday, I knew I had to journal today so I didn’t forget anything. It’s really hard to concentrate though because these countryside farms and roling hills are so beautiful and quite the distraction. So let’s see, where did we leave off……. Sunday night. Sunday night at 9:00 was the rosary procession for the sick. We got there about 20-30 minutes ahead of time and it’s good we did because the place was already packed! I almost felt like we were at Woodstock or some kind of big rock concert. Seeing the thousands of people there all to say the rosary, was amazing. Just looking out on the crowd and seeing thousands of candles was quite a sight to see as well. My favorite part though was the procession of the sick and handicapped. It was such a beautiful thing, to see the “least” among us be put front and center and treated like royalty. It was amazing too how a simple smile could light up their face. I like the universality of the rosary too. It must have been prayed in at least 5 or 6 different languages. Even better though was the Ave Maria sung between each decade. Though we didn’t know all of the languages prayed in, we ALL knew the Ave Maria, and to hear everyone join in was amazing. Gave me goosebumps.

After it ended, as we were fighting the massive crowds to get back to our hotel, me and one of the other guys ran into some girls from Colorado. Invited them back to our hotel to join some people from our group to visit and hang out on the roof of our hotel. As we waited outside of our hotel for them to show up, some girls from Argentina came to talk to us and they joined us too! So it was a nice little rooftop party. 🙂 Nothing too rowdy or crazy though.

As far as yesterday goes, there’s two things I’d like to focus on. The first is the international Mass @ the underground basilica. Since it was The Feast of The Assumption, Mass was planned for outside on the hillside. How cool is that, to be in Lourdes on a Marian feast day? However, due to the threat of rain, Mass was moved inside to the underground basilica. I’m actually glad it worked out that way because I get distracted more easily at outside Masses. Oh, and add to that the fact that the underground basilica is MASSIVE and quite an awesome sight to behold. Seating capacity is about 15,000 or 20,000 I think. To see that place FULL of people. To see the sick and handicapped front and center again. To see flags from all over the world. To hear the Mass celebrated in several different languages. It was another one of those “aha” moments that helped to remind me how universal the Church really is. After Mass, we took a group picture in front of the basilica. As we were getting ready for the pic, a man from New Caledonia (La Nouvelle Caledonie) wanted to take a picture of me holding our group’s American flag and have his daughters be in the picture too. Had the chance to speak some French with him too (New Caledonia used to be a French colony).

Later in the day we did the stations of the cross on the hillside. Now, these are not your normal stations. You hike up a hillside while you do the stations. And each station is composed of life-size bronze statues. The combination of the uphill walk plus the life-size scale of each station makes for a truly powerful experience. I was also feeling a little under the weather. My stomach was bothering me. My legs were also sore and were hurting me a bit, mainly from all the walking, and climbing uphill and standing around we’ve been doing. But all of that discomfort added an extra dimension to the experience. To literally feel physical discomfort while I did the stations helped me to be a little more in tune with what Jesus went through for us, and all of his pain and suffering. Being in a place like Lourdes, it also helped me to reflect on what it must be like for all of the handicapped and sick people that come here on pilgrimage every year. I realized that if they can bear with their pain and suffering  to come here on pilgrimage then so can I.

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Assisi/Rome – part 2

Thursday – August 11, 2011 – 9:45pm – Domus Pacis/Torre Rossa Park Hotel – San Giovanni Building – Room #270 – Rome, Italy

It’s only the beginning of our pilgrimage but the end is coming soon! I say this because with 8 locations in 14 days and fitting travel time in, we won’t have time draggin’ by! 🙂 Last night I decided to go back to the Temple of Minerva/St. Mary’s Church and check out the video tour that had been recommended by one of my fellow pilgrims. When I got there after supper (9:45pm-ish) there was already another group in there doing adoration. Nice coincidence for me to be able to do both! 🙂 After I finished there, I stayed out on the plaza listening to the live band. Apparently since last night was the vigil for the Feast of St. Clare, there was a cover band playing in the town square. Strange, yes. But oddly enchanting and admirable considering the reason they were there. As I started to walk back to our hotel, I met up with some other pilgrims from our group. They were headed up to Rocca Maggiore, an ancient fortress/castle on the highest hill in Assisi. Glad that I hooked up with them because I was curious enough to want to see it but would never have gone on my own. An added bonus was that on the way back down, I came across a very friendly calico cat that let me pet it. Reminded me of Patches, one of the ferals at my old apartment that “adopted” me.

This morning I could have kicked myself in the pants! It’s the feast day of St. Clare today and I wanted to go to Mass before we left Assisi. After all, when am I ever again going to have the chance to celebrate the feast of St. Clare at the Basilica of St. Clare? Probably never. Well, I missed Mass. Partially because of me still trying to get over jet-lag, and because of my own laziness. My consolation was that I knew I had plenty more amazing opportunities on this trip. Our first stop on the way out was the Porziuncola, the church that St. Francis built when he first heard God say to rebuild the Church. It’s a very small but beautiful fresco-covered church. And now there is a much larger church that was built to encapsulate this church as well as provide additional space for pilgrims and worshippers. I definitely felt God’s presence there. Only bad part was that we only got about 30-45 minutes since our bus was on a tight schedule.

The first thing we did once we arrived in Rome was to go to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. It’s one of the many catacombs built in the early centuries of the Church as a burial place for martyrs and a place where they could secretly celebrate the Mass during times of persecution. When we were done there, our tour guide Roberta continued giving us a brief tour of the sites that were on our way to St. Paul’s Outside The Walls (aka – The Basilica of St. Paul). It’s the place where St. Paul (the one whom God literally knocked off his ass on the way to Damascus) is buried. He was martyred by being beheaded. The church is nicknamed “St. Paul’s Outside The Walls” because it is outside the original ancient city walls of Rome. I think it also had something to do with his martyrdom or his citizenship status. Saw his grave. We also got to celebrate Mass on the main altar of the church. Took lots of good pics, and then we left. It was simply amazing to see all of these great places and feel God’s presence so powerfully.

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World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Assisi/Rome

Wednesday – August 10, 2011 – 11:55am – Hotel Il Castello – Assisi, Italy

That’s right, I’m in Italy! I’m so happy right now, words almost cannot describe.  Flew into Rome yesterday afternoon. After collecting our baggage and boarding the bus, we settled in for a three hour ride to Assisi. Even though it was almost midnight when we arrived, the town still looked beautiful. People were ambling about (Europeans stay up late at night), churches were beautifully lit. Even though I was tired from all the travelling, I was still very happy to be here finally. Because of the lack of sleep I got while travelling, I had no problem at all falling asleep last night and getting my body on Italy time, which is 7 hours ahead of Lafayette. Slept in this morning until 8:15 and went to the hotel next door to have breakfast with the rest of the pilgrims.

Came back to my room, watched a little TV and sipped on my coffee. Took a shower and freshened up, then I set about exploring Assisi on foot. No real logic to where I went. It just felt so good outside. The sun was shining, a nice breeze was blowing, and the scenery was beautiful. Fields and orchards almost everywhere, spread among the mountains. Narrow streets that pass between stone-built edifices. Little religious souvenir shops at every corner. Saw one of the churches too. It wasn’t the St. Francis church or St. Clare church, but it was still very beautiful. I really enjoyed being in a church, in front of the Tabernacle, in Jesus’ presence. Felt very peaceful and calm. My prayer while I’m here, and during the whole pilgrimage, is to rekindle the fire of the Spirit inside of me. To rediscover God’s peace. I think Assisi is a great place to start doing that. It’s so charming and beautiful here. It’s also very holy. Knowing that I’m literally walking in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare elevates the experience of pilgrimage to a whole new level.

5:45pm

So I just got back from an extensive walking tour of Assisi. Our tour guide Marco who is from Umbria, took us around and showed us the highlights. We saw the Basilica of St. Francis as well as the Basilica of St. Clare and The Roman Temple of Minerva. Both basilicas were absolutely beautiful. To be in these churches that are dedicated to 2 great saints and to walk in their footsteps was awesome. The Temple of Minerva was interesting because of it’s history. It was built in the year A.D. whatever, as a celebration for the residents of Assisi who had just become official citizens of the Roman empire. It has since been renovated and rededicated as a church, but I can’t remember the saint to whom it’s dedicated.

Half the pleasure of the tour (besides seeing the churches) was simply walking around town. It has a beautiful old world charm. Life here is slow and simple. There’s almost a romantic rhythm to the way of life here in Assisi. I commented to one of my fellow pilgrims that I wanna move here. 🙂 Everywhere you go in Assisi there’s an amazing view, whether it’s the narrow cobblestone streets and old style architecture, or the scenic countryside and mountain vistas. At the end of the tour right next to the Temple of Minerva, I went to a gelateria. Got two scoops of gelatto, Straciatella (no idea what that is) and Tiramisu. Tasted great, and I knew I had to get it because there’s just something fitting about having gelatto in Italy. Even better was the fact that the server and her mother both spoke French. I think one of them is from France. I also had the pleasure of speaking French with a charming 20-something Italiana at a random souvenir shop on my way back to the hotel. Her name is Roberta, she’s 27, and she works there part time while also doing a pharmacy internship. Thought about going back there to give her my email address but I realized that probably ALL Italian women are charming, and I don’t want to give my email to all of them. 🙂 Oh well, if it’s meant to be, I’m sure God will have our paths cross again. Now I must do some horizontal meditation so I can regain some energy for supper and the other activities we have tonight. Ciao!

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