07 February 2016

Mexico 2016 Day 3 – Saturday 06 February

We were able to sleep in about a half-hour later, getting to breakfast about 07:00 then to the bus for an 08:00 departure. We went directly to the Church of Sagrada Familia, just having time along the way for Morning Prayer. This Church of the Holy Family contains the shrine and relics of Padre Miguel Augustin Pro, a priest-martyr of the Mexican government’s brutal persecution of the Church in the 1920s which gave birth to the Cristeros rebellion (more later) [LINK]. In secret, Padre Pro went around celebrating the Sacraments when they were forbidden by the government, but was eventually captured and executed on trumped-up charges without even the benefit of a trial. His execution was filmed pour discouragement les autres (Okay, I know it’s French, but that paraphrase of Napoleon’s famous statement is what came to mind) and gives us the iconic shot of him standing cruciform, a crucifix in one hand and a Rosary in the other, before the firing squad. He was beatified in 1988 – and so is properly “Blessed Miguel Pro” although common parlance tends to retain the simpler “Padre Pro” – and I am certain he will be canonized one day. Incidentally, the effect of the government’s attempted use of his public, recorded execution was exactly the opposite of what they desired.

Fr. Juan Diego said Mass in yet another strikingly beautiful church. We all venerated the relics of Padre Pro, then stepped out next door into the adjacent museum containing many of his personal items, relics of his life, priesthood, period in hiding, and eventual martyrdom.

(At some point in the day we passed and Roberto pointed out the tomb of Padre Pro, but I don't remember exactly when or where it was; we did not stop.)

Leaving there, we made a short trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Covadonga, memorializing one of the few Christian victories against the Moors in the early 8th century when they swept across Christian Spain after 711 and reduced the latter to only a small corner in the northwest, the majority being reduced to Muslim rule for hundreds of years. As the story goes, one Pelayo rallied the defeated Spanish Christians to make a stand in 722 at a place of many caves called Covadonga. Pelayo prayed to the Virgin Mary for victory, and subsequently credited the Christians’ survival to her intercession and she became a patron of the hundreds-of-years-long war to drive the Muslims back out of Spain, the Reconquista, concluded only shortly before the Conquest of Mexico began; many of the conquistadores naturally had a great devotion to Our Lady of Covadonga.

From there, we had a fair distance within the city to drive, which Taylor filled with a talk on the connections of the Mexican Our Lady of Guadalupe with St. Luke the Evangelist and the Spanish Lady of Guadalupe. (I actually blended that with my exposition for yesterday). We ended up at the main square of Mexico City, properly the Plaza de la Constitucion but commonly called the Zocalo [LINK], where we first took lunch on in a restaurant on a side street. Anne and I ended up at a table with Joy Marshall and baby Margaret, as well as our Mexican guides Roberto and Paolo, our first chance to really visit with any of them. The lunch was as good as usual, and included ice cream. After lunch, we walked the short (half a block?) distance to the southwestern corner of the Zocalo, which is surrounded by high end hotels, offices, the National Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral (on the north). There was a great deal of preparation going on for the Pope’s visit next week – and one lone protester there opposing the Pope’s visit. He was a bit pathetic, basically being ignored. 

Although it was on our itinerary, we saw the National Palace only from the outside, from the other side of the Zocalo, as we walked directly to the Metropolitan Cathedral. I did get a few moments of Roberto describing the Zocalo on video, however. 

As I understand it, the Zocalo proper, or at least this area, is on the very site of the old Aztec city of Tenochtitlan; the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven is where the major pyramid-temple to the blood-thirsty war-god Huitzilopochtli was located [LINK]. Through thick glass plates embedded in the sidewalk before it, you can see what I understood to be some remaining brickwork from that era.

The Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the most magnificent churches I’ve ever seen, a mixture of architectural styles and design ethics from Renaissance to Baroque to Neoclassical, reflecting a 200-years-plus period of construction from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It is absolutely breathtaking. Entry presents you with a smaller church literally within the larger church, with multiple side-chapels all around; that smaller chapel in the foreground (and pictured at left) is backed by a huge organ; in the distance at the end of the nave can be seen the high altar.

Right in the center, there is a massive pendulum with marks on the floor signifying where the succession of many earthquakes the church has endured has left the new center of gravity – amazing! We spent a great deal of time wandering around inside it, seeing before the high altar the tomb of Bishop Zumarraga who received the sign from Our Lady of Guadalupe, and even outside where there is a statue of Pope St. John Paul the Great made entirely of melted-down keys – that includes an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe within it.

Leaving there (with a bit of an uproar as one member of the group was missing – she turned up pretty quickly though; I’m not sure what the issue was), we walked (with a bit of a “necessary” stop along the way) to the Plaza and Church of Santo Domingo (St. Dominic) [LINK] – similarly impressive if on a smaller scale, notable because the very first Rosary Confraternity in the world was organized there and the Rosary has been said there every day since the 16th century at 18:00 in the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary. We walked back to the Cathedral where we had to wait quite a while for the bus to meet us. Traffic was pretty bad.

On the way back to the hotel, along with Evening Prayer and the Rosary, Roberto pointed out the Angel Monument to Mexican Independence a few blocks from where we passed, where we could see a number of young women in colourful dresses. It is a common place to come take pictures for young ladies’ quinceaneras [LINK]. Having a while between when we arrived at the hotel and supper at 19:00, Anne and I went walking. We tried to get to the Angel Monument, but it’s surrounded by the big roundabout with multiple lanes of traffic flowing around it – and no immediately apparent place to cross – so we ended up walking back around some other streets in the area, popping in a few stores such as a liquor store where we bought a couple of gifts, a pharmacy where we bought a couple of toiletry items we needed, and so forth. Incidentally, at some point on the pilgrimage the subject of “our” street’s name came up – Calle Hamburgo. This area is an old diplomatic district, and there are a number of such names commemorating various places in Europe.

After supper – I don’t remember who we sat with – and taking a while to transfer the day’s pictures to the laptop and external hard drive, Anne and I went all the way up to the top of the hotel, the “Penthouse” level, where there is an open-air pool, exercise rooms, conference rooms, allegedly a bar, and so forth. It was deserted although we had heard of members of our group congregating there in the evening for drinks; it was quite cool this evening. There was quite an impressive view out across the city, but we very soon went back down to the bar, where we found no one from our group either. We enjoyed drinks on our own – a margarita for me (unfortunately not blue), a mojito for Anne. I did realize halfway through that, although we’d been avoiding water even in the hotel, there was ice in both our drinks. We believe it was from filtered water anyway, and didn’t suffer any ill-effects. Really, it probably wasn’t the first time we’d had it – I don’t remember the blue margarita from Thursday night not having ice, come to think of it. In any case, we then returned to our room to get prepared for a very early morning on Sunday, to begin a very long day that we were warned would not have us back to the hotel before 20:00.[1]

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More Pictures from the Day

[1] Given that Sunday 07 February would be the date of Superbowl 50, I expected to hear howls of protest. I did not.

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