17 Jan 2012
Spending time at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be one of the most special moments of the pilgrimage for the students, five of whom are from the University of Notre Dame Australia.
Accompanied by the university's Convenor of the Chaplaincy at the Sydney Campus, Jessica Langrell, the group flew into Los Angeles two days ago. The first stop was a close call for the group - arriving at the city's beautiful Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral just before closing hour.
"American friends of ours literally kept the Cathedral doors open with their feet to prevent the usual lock up from happening," said a delighted Jessica in the blog she is keeping of the life-changing trip.
After inspecting the renowned tapestries depicting the communion of saints, the Cathedral's soft light cast by the extensive use of alabaster and its famed post-modernist architecture, the group gathered in a side chapel for Mass.
The Mass finished with the 18 young people singing Ave Maria, then the group headed back to the airport when they spent the night at a nearby hotel before boarding their flight to Mexico City.
In the morning, Bishop Comensoli led the pilgrims on a visit to the ancient Avenue of the Dead, the remains of the pre Columbian city of Teotihuacan with its pyramid structures. Built in 100 BC and ultimately housing as many as 200,000 people it was one of the largest cities worldwide at that time.
But the highlight of the visit to Mexico is undoubtedly the pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill, in Mexico City and the site of the Marian visitation there nearly 500 years ago. The beloved shrine which is visited by hundreds of thousands of the faithful each year holds the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas,
She said she was the ever-Virgin Mary, the Mother of the true God and she asked him to build a church on the exact spot where they were standing and to run and tell the Bishop.
When he told his local Bishop of the vision the Bishop said only he would consider the request.
Juan returned to the hill and Mary repeated her request. Once more Juan sought out the Bishop however he wanted a sign.
Juan's uncle was mortally ill and it was two days before he again returned to the hill country. Mary appeared and said his uncle was recovered but he was to go to the top of the hill cut some flowers and bring them to her.
When Juan met with the Bishop and opened the tilma allowing the flowers to fall to the ground, the Bishop also fell to his knees. On the tilma was an imprint of the Holy Virgin precisely as Juan had described her.
In 1977 this tilma was examined using infrared photography and digital enhancement techniques. Unlike any painting the tilma shows no sketching or any sign of outline drawn to permit an artist to produce a painting. The method used to create the image is still unknown. The image is inexplicable in its longevity and method of production. It has survived fire, flood and even a bombing. And can be seen today in the basilica built to accommodate ten thousand people.
From Mexico, Bishop Comensoli and his group of young Australian pilgrims will head for New York City where they will meet up with the Sisters of Life and the Franciscan Friars of Renewal. Four Sisters from the US-based charism recently visited Australia and ran an afternoon retreat in mid December for more than 100 women at the Broadway Campus of the University of Notre Dame.
Founded in 1991 by New York-based Cardinal John O'Connor "to protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life," the Sisters from the community were in Sydney for World Youth Day in 2008 and were also present at WYD11 in Madrid last August.
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal are also well known to Australians. Using music to spread the word, they are accomplished musicians and introduced Australia to the Catholic Underground. Now a worldwide movement, the Catholic Underground offers young people a chance to get together and enjoy an evening of rock, reggae, rap and soul along as well as an opportunity to spend quiet time in prayer, adoration and the new evangelism.
The Friars began their community in New York where they work with young people and the poor of the city.
The students will complete their pilgrimage in Washington DC when they join the annual pro-life event March for Life which marks the day the US Supreme Court legalised abortion in 1974.
To read about their travels, thoughts and prayers log on to Jessica Langrell's lively day-to-day pilgrimage blog at http://guadalupepilgrimage.wordpress.com/