Guadalupe Stories – Dan Jason
Send us YOUR story at Guadalupemissions@hopeofthepoor.org
Having served a number of times with Hope of the Poor on missions in Mexico City, I was super excited to hop on a plane and head down south of the border for my next visit. Every encounter with the poor on the streets of Mexico City, visiting and spending time with the kids, as well as going to the city dump is special. These experiences were all what drove me back to this far off place, some 2,500 miles from my hometown in upstate New York for a fourth time. There is something about mission that really touches my heart. Jesus is truly present in the poor and his love seems to explode in a profound way, hitting us at the core when we take steps out of our comfort zone.
When I was in Mexico City I learned we would be adding a special piece to the mission with Hope of the Poor. Having grown up Catholic my entire life, I always had heard of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Before going to Mexico City for the first time I read the story of Juan Diego and the famous tilma. I was pretty amazed and tried to dissect even the reader’s digest version. I felt well versed on the events that happened back in 1531 or so I had thought. Being able to visit the Basilica that inaugural trip each one thereafter was amazing. Having the opportunity to not only see the tilma and image of Our Lady with one’s own eyes, but to pray before her was another aspect that made this mission experience very moving for me. What I was about to encounter on this particular trip however, would radically change the game and my relationship with the Blessed Mother would never be the same.
Shortly after landing, coming off of a day long plane ride, Scott Watts picked my group and I up from the airport. He met us with a huge smile and such great enthusiasm. I could tell we were in the hands of a dynamic leader who we would enjoy serving the poor with over the next five days. What I didn’t know was that Scott practically has a PHD in the history and theology of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I had always wondered why the Blessed Mother was so radically important for the Mexican and Hispanic people. I had heard the story a number of times and it was impressive, miraculous, and beautiful. However, there was so much that I did not know or understand. After our powerful days of ministry, we came back to the convent where we were staying and Scott would dedicate numerous hours each evening to teaching our missions group about Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was an experience of a lifetime. The knowledge that I gained and how my heart was moved so greatly from this mini retreat was tremendous. It is hard to articulate in words how amazed I was and still am to learn of all the deep and hidden meaning in Our Lady on that tilma. Every single color, marking, and symbol has such in depth meaning and divine connection to the time of Juan Diego, the Aztecs, and the Bishop of Mexico City. Not to mention, there are such rich and powerful messages in the intricate details that connect Church history throughout the centuries. Countless times I was in awe and was left shaking my head because only God can do such miraculous things.
Scott’s ability to break it all down in a poetic manner, mixing in depth knowledge and Christology, as well as some humor, made each retreat session spectacular. I am grateful to have a copy of the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe proudly hanging in the main entry way of my home. There is not a day that goes by that I do not look at her often, pray with her, and ask the Blessed Mother for her intercession. What I have come to know is that the miracle that took place on Tepeyac Hill nearly 500 years ago, is still alive today. She, our Mother, is present and wants to walk with us during our lives. As the insignia reads on the Basilica in Mexico City as well as below the image of Our Lady inside, “No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?” or in English, “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” Mary is our Mother and we are greatly blessed to have her as the patroness of the Church.
If you have the opportunity to go on a Guadalupe pilgrimage, a mission with Hope of the Poor, or a retreat with Scott Watts, you are in for a special time. I highly recommend this experience and believe that you too will be moved in a profound
way. I am very thankful to Scott Watts and his friend Maria, a native of Mexico City, who spent time during the retreat portion of our mission. Maria’s family kept the original tilma and Our Lady safe during turbulent times of the Mexican Revolution. We had the chance to speak with Maria, hear her story, and learn of her connection which only added to this remarkable retreat. When you return home, like I was, you too will be changed. You will learn to know Our Lady deeply and she will touch your heart. Your Mother is awaiting you. May God bless you and know that you remain in the mantle of her love.