Monthly Archives: January 2009


More images

Some of you may have been wondering where’s the tilma? As I was going through all the pictures I realized I hadn’t included a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A picture doesn’t do Our Lady justice. The colors are so bright for being so old and her eyes look at you with such compassion.

See the statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the backpacks of these Mexican youth. The are beginning the walk up Tepeyac hill.

¿No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre..?

We started out on Tuesday, January 13 for a nine day pilgrimage as a diverse group: a priest, a deacon, five religious sisters, married couples, parents, grandparents, singles, widows and young adults. We were all on a spiritual journey for “religious motives to a holy site where the grace of God is manifested in a special way” (USCCB). We celebrated Mass at the most sacred sites associated with the story of St. Juan Diego including the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Shrine of the Fifth Apparition. We carried your prayers and petitions with us and offered them up to God when we prayed our novena to St. Juan Diego and during Mass.

We all came on the pilgrimage for different reasons. For some it was to celebrate 50 years of religious life for others it was a curiosity and desire to see the sacred image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and other sites important in the history of our patron saint and for others it was a desire for a deep spiritual experience. Whatever the original reason , this pilgrimage was also an experience in the building up of the Body of Christ. This group of diverse pilgrims came together as a real community who cared for one another (especially those who got a little sick) and shared their gifts with one another. For example, Ken Willett stepped up and led us in singing at Mass including our favorite song Alabaré (Praise God) along with other songs to Mary. Raquel Apodaca was a great blessing to us with her ability to help translate and speak Spanish. And many of the pilgrims volunteered to lead us in grace before meals and helped lector at Mass. I am so thankful for all their gifts.

As a group we will go forth and continue the evangelization that is the story of Juan Diego. One pilgrim shared with me how she plans to evangelize by taking the coffee she bought at the monastery (harvested and made by the Benedictine monks) into work to share with her coworkers. This will provide her the opportunity to talk about her pilgrimage and open the door to sharing her faith with her coworkers. What a wonderful and simple way to evangelize.
“Am I not here who is your mother” (written in Spanish above) these were the words Mary spoke to Juan Diego. These words are found all over the sacred sites we visited and are meant to give us comfort.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for us.
St. Juan Diego, Humble Servant of God, Pray for us.


Back to Portland

Today we were able to visit the church at the Plaza of Three Cultures for a second time as it was closed when we visited last Thursday. The second culture present here is this church dedicated to St. James, the patron saint of Spain. The Franciscan monastery attached to the church is where the Archbishop Zummaraga lived and where Juan Diego brought him the flowers and the tilma which today is enshrined in the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Inside this colonial Cathedral of Santiago which dates back to 1524 (although it was rebuilt in 1609), there is the baptismal fountain of Juan Diego. Here we prayed the last day of our novena to St. Juan Diego along with a prayer of thanksgiving. I am so thankful for all the pilgrims who have shared so much with us on this journey.

After the visit to this church we spent our last pesos at an artisan craft market then caught our flight home. We arrived safely back in Portland and I pray that we will take this experience with us into our daily lives.

The outside of the church, with Aztec ruins in the foreground and modern day building in the background. (above)Here the pilgrims are waiting to go inside the church (above) and to see the baptismal font of St. Juan Diego (below).


Parroquia of the Indios

Today we celebrated our last Mass in Mexico at the Parroquia of the Indios. This is the oldest church at the Basilica. The hermitage where Juan Diego lived out the rest of his life after the apparition is located off the altar in this church. What a fitting place for the pilgrimage of St. Juan Diego Parish to celebrate Mass. Fr. Kerns reminded us in his homily that “God loved us first”. As pilgrims, we have spent these last 8 days seeking a deeper relationship with God but we also need to know that God loved us before we even began to seek God. We sang one more round of “Alabare” then headed to Tepozotlan. Tepozotlan is located 41 km from Mexico. Tepozotlan is famous because of its National Museum of El Virreinato, which is installed in a building of the XVII century. The Churrigueresque-style Church houses valuable treasures of Colonial art including golden ornaments of the main altar. Tomorrow we head home to Portland.

O good St. Juan Diego, help us to have the willpower to do our part, the part God asks of us in the continuing work of creation, so that we too can expect a happy conclusion to each mission the Lord or his mother may give us in this world.

In the church before Mass (above) and Fr. Kerns blessing our religious articles after Mass. (below)

The church where we celebrated Mass (above)
The inside of the former church to St. Francis Xavier in Tepozotlan (above) and the outside (below). It is now a museum.

Back to Mexico City

The food here at the monastery has been spectacular. Fresh juice (I’m pretty sure the orange juice has come from their own orange trees), tortillas, beans, chilaquiles, fresh salsa, and the list goes on and on. After another wonderful breakfast we received a tour of the monastery with Fr. Konrad. We saw the coffee beans, avocados, lime and orange trees just to name a few of the things they grow. They also breed and sell some interesting birds. There are bee hives that produce honey and wax to make candles. Roger was very excited to get a little tour of where they make all their candles. We celebrated Mass at the little chapel that is near the guesthouse. Deacon Dennis Desmarais assisted and reminded us in his homily that sometimes we all have a hard time making sense out of everything. We are all probably struggling to make sense out of some of the things we have seen or heard on this pilgrimage. It is all so new and yet not new. One thing Dennis also pointed out is how each one of us shows a little bit of God to the others. Fr. Kerns then took a few moments for everyone to voice their thanks to God. We are all very thankful for this monastery and the hospitality and peaceful surroundings that have allowed us some time to process all that we have experienced in the last few days.

After lunch, we toured the basilica in Cuernavaca then headed back to Mexico City. It is about an hour and a half drive between Cuernavaca and Mexico City.

St. Juan Diego, Pray for Us.
Mary, our Ever Virgin Mother, Pray for Us.

Coffee2 Checking out the coffee beans (above and below)

Coffee1 Fr. Konrad leading the pilgrims on a tour (below)FrKonradtourDeacon Dennis Desmarias and Fr. Kerns after Mass on Monday at the guesthouse chapel. Fr. Kerns has been carrying the prayers and petitions with us to every Mass, chapel and shrine.

Our Lady of the Angels Benedictine Monastery

We had Mass Saturday morning at St. Hipolito Church in Mexico City. After the Mass, the Mexicans begin coming up to the altar railing. We weren’t really sure what was going on but then we saw Fr. Kerns being directed to come down to the people to give a blessing. It is a custom at this church for the priest to give the people a blessing and to bless religious articles after Mass. It has been wonderful to see and experience some of the local customs here in Mexico. Fr. Kerns blessing the people after Mass at St. Hipolito Church on Saturday. (above) The guesthouse at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery (below).

After Mass, we headed to Cuernavaca and arrived at the Monastery around 4:30 in the afternoon. We were warmly greeted by Fr. Konrad Schaefer, Prior of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. This monastery is a daughter monastery of Mt. Angel Abbey south of Portland. Fr. Konrad came to this monastery 14 years ago and has been running it ever since. They say the Benedictines are known for their hospitality and I think all of the pilgrims would agree. During an orientation meeting with Fr. Konrad, he spoke to our journey very well when he said “We have seen a lot and now we need some time to process all that we have seen.” So for the next two days we have been given the gift of prayer, silence, reflection and community.

Saturday evening we joined the monks for Vespers and Compline, which was by candlelight. Even though the liturgies were in Spanish the accompaniment by guitar (the usual instrument is an organ) and watching the incense rise through the candlelight was a very prayerful experience.

Our Sunday morning retreat session with Fr. Konrad was a guided Lectio Divina on the Sunday’s readings. We then went to Mass with over 300 people and enjoyed hearing Fr. Konrad address us by telling us in English “you may be seeking God on this pilgrimage but do you know that God is seeking you?” We all need that reminder now and again.

We had some quiet time Sunday afternoon to enjoy the warm, sunny weather and to spend time processing all that we have seen, all that we have heard, all that we have smelled and touched and tasted. Yes, this is truly a culture of all the senses. I will never forget walking into the Basilica and smelling all the flowers. Was that what Juan Diego smelled, when he first saw the flowers on Tepeyac?

After another retreat session with Fr. Konrad where we discussed some of the things we had seen and had some time to ask questions, we had a wonderful fiesta with the monks. Of course, a mariachi band made an appearance along with a little tequila. We had a policy that if someone is late they have to buy tequila for everyone…guess who was buying the first bottle?

Group picture at the monastery (above).
Hmmmm What is Fr. Kerns trying to tell us? (below)
We enjoyed some dancing (above) and Fr. Kerns singing “Let it be” including the monks and Raquel (below)


And the end of our Fiesta Sunday evening, Fr. Kerns thanked Fr. Konrad and all the monks for such wonderful hospitality and gave them all a prayer card with the icon of St. Juan Diego. This particular icon was written by Brother Claude Lane who is also a Benedictine Monk from Mt Angel Abbey.

Off to Cuernavaca 2

Today we leave Mexico City to head for Cuernavaca and will bestaying at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. We will be spending time in retreat and will keep all of you in our prayers.

St. Juan Diego, God’s simple servant, pray for us.
Mary, Our Mother full of grace, pray for us.


Shrine of the 5th Apparition

Today we took an hour and a half long bus ride north of Mexico City to visit the pyramids of the Aztec’s at Teotihuacan. On the way we stopped at Tulpetlac, where the Blessed Virgin appeared for the fifth time when she cured Juan Diego’s uncle, Juan Bernadino, of small pox. This church is in a humble neighborhood and was pretty in a simple way with a beautiful painting of our Lady hovering over Juan Bernadino as she cured him. Fr John celebrated Mass wearing a special chasuble that had the image of our Lady of Guadalupe on it. The gospel reading (Mark 2:1-12) was the account of Jesus curing the paralyzed man and during the prayers of the faithful, Fr Kerns asked all of us to state the names of people we knew that were in need of healing.

The pyramids were impressive, some of us hiked to the top, and after we visited a cooperative that recreates Aztec art pieces. We learned about the Agave cactus that gave us the fibers for Juan Diego’s tilma. The same cactus also gives us paper, aloe vera, and tequila!

Yesterday was Raquel’s birthday, and as usual the Mexican’s do a great job celebrating! We had a couple of great cakes and learned a new inexpensive way to imitate fireworks.

The weather is doing its job to make us feel at home. It was in the 40s and rained some yesterday but it affects the Mexican’s a lot more than it affects us. We miss you all, but aren’t ready to come home yet.

Peace,

Deacon Dennis


Happy Birthday Raquel!


Getting To Know Juan Diego 2

Today, our third day in Mexico City, we visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We arrived shortly before 9:00 AM and began the tour in the new Basilica with the Shrine of Our Lady – a meaningful beginning to the day.

We then attended Mass, which according to our tour guide, Raul, occurs every hour on the hour, from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. As Fr. John joined the priests on the altar, which was massive in size, we sat amidst an expansive crowd of people. The Mass was wonderful and the music included voices of children, which made it all the more beautiful. We even recognized (and sang) the Spanish song we practiced previously, Alabaré (Praise God.) Not to mention the organ…

Raul mentioned that during last years December 12th celebration at the Basilica, Day of the Virgin, 7 million people came to the shrine. Devotees of Our Lady are referred to as Guadalupanas.

The old Basilica isn’t completely accessible given the surrounding construction, but we were able to see a bit of the interior, which was once home to the image of Our Lady (now in the new Basilica.) It was magnificent with a massive chandelier, gold leaf paintings on the ceiling, etc. The statues and paintings displayed around the grounds and in the chapels are beautiful and moving. Truly, it’s impossible not to be moved here.

Our experience at the Basilica included praying a Novena, which we started the first day of our pilgrimage, to St. Juan Diego in the Chapel of Indians as well as climbing to the top of the Tepeyac Hill, praying the rosary with Fr. John along the way.

The afternoon concluded with a trip to the Plaza of the Three Cultures in Tlateloco. Unfortunately, and much to Raul’s surprise, the door to the Franciscan church was locked. We hope try again another day. Despite this hiccup in our plan, he shared with us a multitude of details about the cultures. The first, referred to as the pre-Hispanic history (3500 years worth of history,) the second, which is the colonial culture from 1521 to 1821 and the third, today’s modern living, which consists of housing projects that surround the plaza.

To conclude my entry, I thought I’d include a caption from today’s Novena as it pertains to St. Juan Diego’s commitment and obedience to Our Lady’s request of him.

Hasta Luego! (contributed by Dana Tierney, pilgrim)

“He never complained about doing what the most holy Virgin asked him to do, he just did it. What about us? Do we follow the road that Jesus shows us? Or do we excuse ourselves because of worldly preoccupations or because we worry about what people will say? Saint Juan Diego, help us to imitate your obedience to the most holy Mother of God as she says to us, ‘Do whatever Jesus tells you.’”

Fr. Kerns concelebrating Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (above) and below in the Eucharistic procession.

Pilgrims standing at the bottom of Tepeyac hill. This is the hill that Juan Diego climbed to find the roses.(above) A group of pilgrims praying the rosary on the way to the top of the hill and lastly, Dennis and Fr. Kerns at the top of the hill.


Mexico City 2

Today we headed out to the Zocolo also known as Constitutional Square. The highlights of the city tour this morning included the Metropolitan Cathedral, Templo Mayor (Aztec ruins discovered in 1978) and then Mass at la Capilla de las Animas. We were able to celebrate Mass in a private chapel complete with a roaring round of “Alabare”. During his homily, Fr. Kerns reminded us that God sent each one of on this pilgrimage for a reason; we might not know the reason but we should use this opportunity to listen to God. The art work found in the cathedral was stunning. The font shown below was made of onyx and was beautiful to hear and see. When struck with your hand it had a natural ring. Fr. Kerns after Mass this morning with all the prayer and petitions from our community.
Here we are heading into la Capilla de las Animas.

The Metropolitain Cathedral (above) where we saw the onyx font (below).

After our time downtown, we headed out to Chultepec Park to visit the Anthropology Museum. Here we learned about the Aztec related cultures that existed at the time of the conquest (early 1500s). The picture below show the Aztec calendar. This was the culture of Juan Diego. Now that we have learned about the Aztec culture, tomorrow we will be going to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Guadalupe to connect with the story of 1531, when Mary appeared to Juan Diego.
Saint Juan Diego, help us to recognize the things of God and to live them out in our lives, that we might have wellness of body and mind.