Pro-life Pilgrimage: Part 1 - Faith!
Some of my friends asked for a travelogue, so I’ll get something written while I have credit on the computer - no free wifi here at the hotel.
As I flew across the Pacific Ocean. a thought was preoccupying me - how many really good people are being held back from living out a dream or failing to act on an inspiration out of fear? Because, by rights, I shouldn’t be here. I’m a welfare-dependent single mother; I’m busy at the best of times and strapped for cash most of the time, too. But somehow I made it here. I’m not heading a prolife organisation or heavily involved with a particular group, but somehow, I’m about to meet Fr. Frank Pavone from Priests for Life, and will stay (and pray) with Monsignor Reilly. These events will be high points in my life, but I wouldn’t have been able to experience tham unless I acted on an inspiration and took the prayerful plunge into the deep. I took the first step, then God opened the way and continued to open the way before me to arrange this trip. From finances, to ababysitter, to most of my accomodation being supplied, God has taken care of everything I needed and a little bit more. I couldn’t always see how it would work out, but so far, everything has worked out. But, I had to make the prayerful decision and trust Him to make it happen.
So, my question to you today is: Is there something you have always, or even recently, felt you should be doing, but you’re not? Do you have a brilliant idea, one that would help people, perhaps related to prolife work, or any other useful thing - are you being held back by fear of the unknown, or lack of funds, or anxiety about taking a risk?
If so, then please let me assure you that a plan which originates in God is destined to succeed, but only if you take the first step. We must act, or God can’t act through us. And we must be prepared for things to look very bleak at times: this is when God tests our faith and refines us.
It’s become my custom in recent years to choose a new Scripture verse each year on January 1st, which is always the day I consecrate my family to Jesus through Mary, the Mother of God. Tomorrow, I will be able to do that in Gaudalupe. A year ago, that appeared impossible. Here is my verse for 2015:
“For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”
Day 1 - December 31 - LA
I guess I’ve seen ‘Home Alone” too many times, because I was expecting my trip to be fraught with a lot more chaos. I’m not used to overseas travelling, with its security checks, customs officers, transfers, different language and currencies. But for all my anxiety, it went very smoothly and I was able to negotiate security and customs without too much stress. The flight was very comfortable, and I touched down in LA at precisely 12 midnight Melbourne time - the start of New Year’s day in Australia, but still New Year’s Eve in the US.
My hotel looked like something out of a movie - the haunt of aspiring actors and musicians waiting to hit the big-time, as well as jaded has-beens who missed the boat but know no other life than this one. Being a backpackers hotel, there was a big emphasis on alcohol: my instructions were, “To get to your room, walk through the bar, past the pool, past the OTHER bar, past the gift-shop (selling bikinis and bottles of exotic alcohol), then up the stairs. Happy hour is 5 pm.”
I used the communal computer to access the net, confirm tomorrow’s flight, check emails and Facebook and post a quick blogpost.
My babysitter, Nancy, kept me up to date with how the kids were faring and had posted a few pictures of them. I had a quiet New Year’s Eve in my room, and enjoyed a half-bottle of Californian red wine.
Day 2 - On to Mexico.
I got up early on New Year’s day; it had been very quiet until midnight, but after that, revellers came back from the free concert that had been on close by, and continued their fairly sedate partying around the hotel’s pool. Some were still up and singing when I left for the airport at 5am. The streets were almost deserted at that time, and fortunately, the airport was also fairly quiet. While I waited for my flight, I discovered that adding hazelnut syrup to the notoriously bad American coffee is a definite improvement.
During my flight, I continued to read “Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness” by Warren H. Carroll. This book tells of the momentous clash of cultures that occurred in the sixteenth century when the Spaniards, under Cortes, sailed to Mexico and attempted to evangelise the Aztecs under King Montezuma. The Aztecs were a mighty civilisation, advanced in many ways, but human sacrifice, cannibalism and sodomy were entrenched in the culture.
Here is what Carroll wrote about the pagan Aztec religion:
Quetzalcoatl was one of the old gods; Topiltzin was his high priest and so took his name. But the chief god of the Toltecs was Tezcatlipoca, Smoking Mirror, lord of darkness, who demanded human sacrifice. Topiltzin taught that the true God wanted no such thing; that He was of light, not darkness; that He wanted men to live, to serve Him, and to be chaste, not to be slain in His name.
Somehow this culture, at once sophisticated and barbaric, retained a dim memory of the One, True God; a little spark of truth was at the heart of this bloodthirsty nation.
A few lines really struck a chord, as I read of an ancient prophecy which told that any sacrilegious army entering Cholula, that is, the holy city of Quetzalcoatl, would be drowned by a flood issuing from the temple:
“It was even believed that any crack which opened in the masonry of the temple pyramid [at Cholula] created the danger of unleashing the deluge, with the result that every crack was sealed as soon as it was discovered by a special cement made with lime and the blood of sacrificed children from two to three years old.”
I wondered what the pages of history will record about our treatment of the unborn:
‘The cells of unborn children were prized by the wizards for their special properties and were used in preparations for warding off disease, ’ i.e. vaccinations created by our modern-day wizards - pharmacopeia is Greek for magician.
Or, ‘The organs, especially the liver, brains, blood and limbs - even the eyes - of unborn children were widely sought after to provide matter upon which scientists could carry out their bizarre experiments. It was not unusual for the still-beating heart to be removed and then taken with all haste to a laboratory for dissection.’
We must never be too quick to judge an ancient civilisation like that of the Aztecs for their child-sacrifice. They were pagan; we are ostensibly Christian. Their daily human sacrifice was deemed necessary to ensure protection from the Hummingbird Wizard - their satanic god of death. Although grossly evil and perverted, there was a glimmer of faith involved in this heinous practice, and the bloodshed was so routine to the inhabitants that it didn’t warrant a second glance. The justification of abortion, on the other hand, involves not even that remote association with faith. Although its proponents defend it with religious fervour, for the most part, it is not linked to spirituality at all, but rather to a denial of the spiritual, to a denial of the imago Dei present in each human person. The truth is, however, that satan still gains power from this form of human sacrifice, as he did in the days of the Aztec Empire. The cool efficiency of the abortionist and the sterile, even pleasant surroundings, don’t change the source of this great evil or despiritualise its nature. Abortion and human sacrifice are of one and the same nature - demonic.
It was really something to fly over Mexico and see it from a vantage point that Cortes could never have imagined. Mexico city is a massive, sprawling collection of row upon row of homes, apartments and shacks, interspersed with groups of large sheds, which I assume are factories in free-trade zones. It is very flat, and as we descended, the poverty was evident everywhere. There are little sparks of affluence here and there, but the overwhelming problem is the infrastructure which hasn’t been well-planned for a city of this size, and which isn’t at all well-maintained. The pervading smell indicates a big sanitation problem.
My hotel was really delightful, but there were two small problems - not unsurmountable; none of the staff spoke fluent English (their pidgin English was on a par with my pidgin Spanish) and there was no wifi in my room! I had really been looking forward to ensconcing myself in my quiet room and catching up on a lot of writing and reading a backlog of emails. But this wasn’t meant to be, and I have had to pay the 10 pesos for 30 minutes in which to do the bare minimum online.
I found my room, quickly changed, and literally (almost) ran downstairs to get to the Basilica. It was a 2km walk from my hotel; an easy flat walk and a direct route. This was a very special time for me.
As I walked the first time, I wasn’t sure how far I still had to go, and saw people gathering up ahead, near a building with a new fence. I wondered if this could possibly be the basilica; there were certainly a lot of people around. But as I got a little closer, it was apparent this was not Our Lady’s shrine. It was ……Walmart.
Needless to say, I continued until the Basilica grounds became obvious - the original Basilica building was the first to come into view, surrounded by thousands of pilgrims, then I neared the the newer building, where the miraculous tilma now hangs. This new Basilica is very modern in design, but also quite beautiful.
Mass in Guadalupe: Masses appear to be said concurrently throughout each day, and always in Spanish. The hymns are beautifully sung and there are several male acolytes to help the priest. There are no kneelers, and the congregation stands during the Eucharistic prayer until the Consecration, when they kneel. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, receives Communion on the tongue - even from the Eucharistic Ministers.
This first Mass was offered for the many needs of my family.
Day 3 - Second day in Mexico
I’ve been contemplating what it means for Mary’s mantle to be over this place. The area around the Basilica is quite poor, but the crumbling, dirty buildings are interspersed with modern ones. A couple of pharmacies, a large supermarket (selling everything from fruit to motorbikes) and several kitchen outfitters rub shoulders with ancient apartments and tiny shops with flats above them. I was told that in the downtown area, the staff all speak English, and that area is more prosperous; around here is what must pass for middle-class in Mexico. I tried to imagine what the future will bring to this area - will the dilapidated buildings gradually be replaced with well-constructed, modern ones, or will those that are now shiny and new succumb to the grime and indifference all around them?
Today I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet for the friends who came to my mind, and for all of them in general. I offered all the pro-life ventures that Australians are involved in to the Patroness of the Unborn Child, for Her protection and guidance.
Although abortion has been legal in Mexico for several years, there were many young couples here with babies - a good sign of the Culture of Life, but sadly no large families were evident. This was the only day I noticed non-Mexican pilgrims at the Basilica, and only a handful of them. I was later to learn that there is an abortion facility right on the road to the Basilica. It is well-maintained building with high gates topped with barbed wire, and armed guards on duty to usher the girls inside.
The abortion facility being located so close to the basilica of the Patroness of the Unborn Child underscores the clash of cultures that still exists in Mexico. In this very poor nation, it is easy to swallow the lies of of the abortion proponents, who claim that prosperity is achievable only when babies can be eliminated quickly and easily. The enthusiasm with which the Mexicans bought very large religious statues and votive candles by the dozen made me wonder if these were sometimes used as bargaining chips with God, instead of in their proper use, as external signs of a fervent internal devotion.
Day 4 - Third Day in Mexico
Today the poverty really got to me. There was a woman sitting, begging, with her barely-healed stump of a foot unbandaged, perhaps to show her beggar’s credentials. The legless man that had been stationed near the Basilica was nowhere to be seen. There are little stalls everywhere; some are just a table or refrigerator on the sidewalk. The people will sell anything at all - some candy and gum alongside religious souvenirs, drinks, mangoes cleverly carved into the shape of flowers or filleted and coated with coloured sugar, statues of OLO Guadalupe next to Minions and Snoopy, or replicas of Juan Diego’s tilma.
I went late to the Basilica this afternoon, since it would be my last visit, and found the chapel of Juan Diego. People were milling through there, apparently unaware that the Blessed Sacrament was present in the tabernacle. They queued along the sanctuary, so I joined them, wondering what the attraction was. An explanatory sign was written in Spanish, but the gist of it was that this site (alongside the sanctuary and protected by bars) had been excavated and was, as tradition tells us, the actual place that Our lady appeared to Juan Diego over 500 years ago. (Apparently the tilma was given to Juan Diego at the top of Mount Tepeyac - a different location close by.) A star, similar to the one in Jerusalem that marks the spot of the Saviour’s birth, indicated the place where Mary stood.
There were less people today at the Basilica today, although it was still very full. This Mass was offered for priests and religious, especially for our valiant pro-life priests.
After Mass, I thought about how similar our modern world is to that of the Aztecs; King Montezuma would apparently have been quite glad to embrace Christianity, as long as he didn’t have to give up sodomy or human sacrifice. Similarly, many these days would, I suspect, become Christian, if it weren’t for the strict moral code by which we are bound. The desire for sodomy and abortion are overwhelmingly strong; no longer required to appease a totalitarian god, but instead exalted to the status of human rights.