Yesterday we rode the moving walkway below the famous relic of the Virgin of Guadalupe at her basilica in Mexico City and looked up at it from this angle. I was almost afraid to go -- would this shrine to the mother of Jesus (and of Mexico), a mother who revealed herself to a poor indigenous peasant, be exploitative or simply tacky? At least on this day, we were thrilled to find it neither, but rather very moving indeed.
"Am I not here with you, your mother?" The new basilica where "her shawl" resides is grand in the way of modern Roman Catholic architecture, for me reminiscent of the 70s vintage cathedral in San Francisco.
The old basilica sits next door, leaning badly after surviving a few too many earthquakes. Inside, it is under repair, full of scaffolding.
Up a short steep hill there is another chapel and the sites where the Virgin is reported to have appeared to Juan Diego.
There is also yet another small church, an architectural gem, dating from the 18th century, the "Templo del Pocito" (the small well). It's details are worth looking at more closely:
Were the Spanish builders of that era perhaps influenced by Moorish designs?
When we entered the basilica, mass had just begun. The hall was full of pilgrims, many families with babies, and some Mexican tourists. It was certainly not packed.
Judging by his miter (pointy hat) and staff, it was clear the celebrant was a bishop.
When the bishop rose to preach, we were astonished by his homily. Our friends in Mexico didn't accompany us on this visit to the basilica; they are among the millions of progressives here who have given up on the church as a guardian of property and unjust privilege. The Vatican has done a good job in Mexico of killing off any whiff of Liberation Theology, the radical Roman Catholic "preferential option for poor" outlined by some Latin American bishops. Yet what follows is a pretty accurate paraphrase of this bishop's preaching:
When we told our friends about the content of the sermon, they were amazed. It seems we had stumbled into a service presided over by Mexico's sole "red bishop" -- Raul Vera Lopez from the backwater rural state of Coahuila.
Vera is quite a guy. He was made a bishop and sent to Chiapas with the expectation that he'd be a conservative successor to Mexico's last "red bishop" -- Samuel Ruiz Garcia of San Crisobal. Instead, he too came to believe that his role was to defend his flock, the poor and marginalized, so he was shunted to the hinterland. There, he continues to outrage conservative Mexicans and the Vatican. He has spoken up for women raped by soldiers and for legalization of same sex couples. It certainly was a great privilege to hear this courageous priest preach.