Personal Memories: “Mexico, Land of Mary’s Wonders”

Mexico, Land of Mary’s Wonders

By Msgr. Vincent Foy, Class of 1939

This is a sequel to the fine article “The Virgin of Guadalupe” which appeared in the August 2010 “Cinqdoos” newsletter. It was suggested by my tablemate at Houses of Providence, Fr. Derm Cullen.

In 1958, St. Anthony Guild Press of Paterson, New Jersey, published a book entitled, “Mexico, Land of Mary’s Wonders.”  It described, with photographs, twenty-eight Mexican Shrines to Our Lady, from Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception at Aguascalientes, to Our Lady of Covadongo, in Mexico City. I obtained a copy of this book in 1961.

Inspired by the countless miracles, cures, and favours obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin in Mexico, I visited a number of these shrines. I took photographs of them, studied their history, and for a number of years, gave illustrated lectures on the shrines.

Among my most vivid memories of these shrines are those of Our Lady of Zapopan, near the city of Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco. On December 8, 1540, a Franciscan missionary gave to the settlement at Zapopan a small image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, now called Our Lady of Zapopan. For ten years, he had carried this image with him on his missionary journeys and attributed to Our Lady’s intercession his success in converting and establishing peace among the neighbouring Indians.

Our Lady of Zapopan is little more than thirteen inches in height. She has many changes of vestments for various occasions, all richly silvered and enhanced by pearls and precious stones. On her head rests a jewel-encrusted golden crown and there is a golden half-moon beneath her feet. She is venerated under many titles, including Patroness of Guadalajara, General of the Armies, and Queen of Jalisco. Each of these three has its proper history.

It would take a book to list the many graces and favours obtained through the intercession of Our Lady of Zapopan. Here is one example. The end of the seventeenth century saw Guadalajara scourged by a terrible epidemic. The Bishop ordered the statue of Our Lady of Zapopan to be carried in procession from its temple into the cathedral of Guadalajara. There are sworn medical testimonies that, following this procession, the plague ceased at once.

Following the cessation of the plague, each year, certainly up to the time I was there, Our Lady of Zapopan leaves her sanctuary on June 13 and visits the churches in every barrio of Guadalajara. I was much edified to witness the enthusiasm of the people. It seemed that the whole parish marched in procession through the streets. At the end was the parish priest, carrying the statue of Our Lady.

On October 5, Our Lady is borne back to the basilica of Zapopan in the arms of the Archbishop. The procession includes a line of cars that stretches form the cathedral of Guadalajara to the Zapopan basilica. Overhead airplanes strew flowers along the line of the march. The air is filled with hymns, almost drowning out the military bands. Far into the night are fireworks, lights and music.

No wonder the Faith is strong in Guadalajara. When I was there, the chancellor, trained in Texas during the persecution, assigned me to a daily Mass at his parish. There were six daily Masses at his large church and twelve on Sundays. The seminary was full and each year sent priests to other parts of Mexico and to South America.

Of course, the greatest shrine to Our Lady in Mexico is to Our Lady of Guadalupe. When I visited there in the early sixties, I had a letter of introduction to the rector of the shrine from Archbishop Pocock of Toronto. He and the rector had been classmates in the Catholic University of America at Washington. I arrived at the basilica at about 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday. I noticed dozens of the faithful going towards the church on their knees. The rector received me graciously and assigned me to the 8 a.m. Mass. The basilica was full, with standing room only. My back was towards the people and in front of me was the miraculous image of Our Lady. I was amazed at how brilliant the colours were on the tilma. I found it difficult to keep my eyes off that marvelous image.

When Pope Benedict XIV was first shown a reproduction of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1752, he fell to his knees, weeping.

Pope Leo XIII said:  “Never before has it been given to us on this earth to see so lovely an image; and its loving-kindness moves us to reflect: ‘How beautiful must Mary herself be, in Heaven.’”

Our Lady of Guadalajara and Our Lady of Zapopan, pray for us.

August 14, 2010

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