Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tom & Susan Melillo's - Day Two - Our Lady of Guadalupe, Extremuda, SPAIN

Tom & Susan are on Pilgrimage to many Holy Sites in Europe. Here is one of their first email reports that they sent me:

  As promised buenos tardes;
What a day!  We are beat.  Left Florida at 5PM, had dinner at 6:30PM, asleep by 7:30PM rudely awaken at 11:30PM because the pilot decided to fly thru a storm, had breakfast at 1AM, if you want to call stale (and I mean stale)bread and cold coffee breakfast.  In MADRID at 1:30AM, on the road by 3 AM and into Guadalupe thru the mountains and rain by 6:30AM.   We were to tired and to elated to even eat. (I'll get to that in a minute).
We are back in our living room typing this at 11:14AM. We will be in bed by 12:30PM at the latest.  This is your time it's 5:14PM OUR TIME!  Did I wear you out.
Now the good news.  We ended up with a Mercedes ... nice little upgrade (for free).  I don't even have to turn the windshield wipers on ... they come on by themselves when it rains.  "Princess" (our GPS ... in case some of you haven't been on past trips with us) is doing well and I am too tired so I have Susan typing this so it goes a lot quicker.
We went into the Basilica after stopping in to get our hotel room (with a great balcony and view ... the balcony is almost as big as our room (see photos).  We do have a "living room" down the hall which is working out great.  I don't think we will care tonight while we sleep.
We went down into Guadalupe and walked toward the Basilica.  Our main goal for this 'stop' was to be able to see the Miraculous Statue of Our Lady that is believed to have been carved by St. Luke (see story below).  It is a very old Church.  As we approached the Main Altar, we were looking for Our Lady's Statue ... SHE WASN'T THERE!  I shot a photo of the Altar (see photo) and we walked around a little more, wondering where we could find "Her Statue".  In the meantime, there were a few people in pews Praying in front of the Main Altar.

A little disheartened, we sat down in a pew to say a Prayer before we left.  I kept saying to Susan ... "we have to find out where the Statue is".  We both looked up at the Altar and THERE SHE WAS ... I jumped and said to Sue ... "but she wasn't there".  If you don't believe me, look at the photo progression ... She was not there ... and then She WAS!  Now I understood why those in the pews were Praying.  We were right there the whole time ... it's not like someone climbed up St. Luke to put Her there ... as far as we are concerned, we both like to think that Our Lady was "welcoming us" to our pilgrimage ... She has a great sense of humor and always tries to knock us to our knees ... and She succeeds.


We then knelt back down and Prayed ... thanking Our Lady and Praying for the Special Intentions we had earmarked for Our Lady of Guadalupe (Joseph, Betty, Donald Sr., Donald Jr., Jennifer, Patrick, Wojtek, Edgar, Carlo ... you know who you are!).  We  also presented a "Blanket Prayer" for all of you who will be traveling with us via email on this pilgrimage.  And, as we committed ourselves to do, we Prayed for (and will Pray for at every stop), Our Nation and Our Church.
After our wonderful little "welcome" from Our Lady, we walked outside of the Basilica and stood in awe, reflecting on what had just happened and not really wanting to leave.  I kept wanting to go back inside to be sure "She" was still up there on the Altar.  All of a sudden, the Sun came bursting out of the sky for the first time since we arrived in Madrid.  You could feel the warmth and we knew what had just happened and the little "gift" given to us from Our Lady was "for real". As quickly as the Sun had appeared ... it disappeared again behind the clouds and has not been seen since ... even until the writing of this note to you.   That's all I can really say ... it rendered us speechless but thankful.
I would like to leave you with the "story" I have just shared with you ... I can't say anything more about our "first day" on our "personal pilgrimage".  It's now time to crash and burn and, hopefully, wake up tomorrow fully refreshed and on our new clock ... Europe-time! 
It is now 11: 35 A.M. Your Time ... It is now 5:35 P.M. Our New Time ... and this is the end of your lesson on "time travel".
Buenos Nochos with Love & Prayers ... and May The Peace Of Our Blessed Mother Shine Upon All Of You!
Tom (and Susan, too!)


BELOW ... THE STORY OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, EXTREMUDA, SPAIN.  It's not a long story ... if nothing else, please read the last 2 or 3 paragraphs ...


Many readers are, without a doubt, familiar with the story of Juan Diego, a young native boy from Tepeyac, Mexico to whom the Blessed Mother appeared, asking for a shrine to be built in her name. The local Bishop, a Spaniard, was highly sceptical and turned Juan Diego away. However, our lady appeared to the young boy two more times. The third time instructing him to to go gather Castilian roses in the middle of winter- no small detail given that the local bishop Juan de Zumárraga was from Castilia. In any case, Juan Diego obeyed, he gathered the roses and presented them to the bishop. When the the boy lets the roses fall from his cloak the bishop sees that an image of Our Lady has been imprinted on the cloak The bishop is convinced that the apparition was authentic and builds a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe - that's how she the Blessed Mother identified herself.

Devotion to Our Lady under this name begins to spread rapidly in the Americas and remains to the present the most popular Marian title in Latin America.

But wait... Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe arguably did not begin at Tepeyac, but in what is now the Extremadura region of western Spain. With that, let us return to Spain. There is no need for an expensive travel fare to get to Extremadura, only the movement of the Holy Spirit and a working internet connection.


Hispania, late sixth century AD. Now that we’ve recovered from jet lag after the return to Spain (or is it writer’s block?), here is a quick question: What do St. Luke, St. Gregory the Great, and St. Leander have in common? Other than that all three are saints (that would be too easy), they all have a relationship to the Spanish origins of the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. An image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was reputed as early as the beginning of the medieval period to have been carved by Luke the Evangelist. While St. Luke was most attentive to the role of the Virgin Mary, especially his crafting of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is more grounded in legend than in fact.

Nonetheless, Luke is the patron saint of artists and of iconographers. He is depicted as having written icons of the Virgin. If Luke did carve the Madonna of Guadalupe, its whereabouts for the next six centuries are unknown. The story picks up in the late 500s, when Gregory I (Gregory the Great) was Pope and the Visigoths, who ruled what is now Spain (then what had been the Roman province of Hispania), had just converted to the Catholic faith from Arianism, a belief system that denied the full divinity of Christ. The bishop of Seville at the time was St. Leander, who convinced the Visigothic kings Hermengild and then his brother Reccared to become Catholic. To reward St. Leander for his conversion of the Visigoths, Pope Gregory I gave him the Marian statue said to have been made by St. Luke.


Government of the Iberian Peninsula by the Visigoths would not last long after they had renounced Arianism. In 714, less than 150 years after Pope Gregory had given Bishop Leander the statue of Our Lady, Seville fell to the Moors. The Marian image was taken by priests, who were fleeing the Moorish armies, to the region along the Guadalupejo (now Guadalupe) River in Extremadura.

The priests who fled north with the statue buried it in the hills near the Guadalupe River to prevent the Moors from discovering it. Our Lady’s statue was so well hidden that in fact the Moors never did find it; then again, neither did the Christians.

Then, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, a shepherd named Gil Cordero began to report apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in his field near the present-day city of Cáceres. Our Lady ordered Gil Cordero to enlist the help of local priests to dig at the place where she had appeared to him. The priests soon unearthed the Marian statue and had a small chapel built to mark where they had found it.


At the time this chapel was built, Alfonso XI was King of Castile and León. He became one of the first well-known regular pilgrims to Guadalupe. Alfonso XI`s devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe might have been strengthened further by his belief that his prayers for the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the Battle of Rio Salado of October 1340 had been heeded. The Battle of Río Salado was a joint effort between Alfonso XI and Afonso IV (“Afonso the Brave”) of Portugal to repel two Moorish dynasties, the Nasrids and the Marinids, who were attempting to reinforce the Nazrids position by invading the Iberian Peninsula from Morocco.

To make a long story short, the Nazrids, the Marinids were forced into a hasty retreat and the Marinid Dynasty never again attempted to invade Iberia.

The decisive success of the Spanish-Portuguese alliance at Río Salado inspired Alfonso XI to expand the chapel of Guadalupe into a church and monastery complex, but his project would have to wait, as Alfonso XI died during the Black Death. In 1389 was work begun, by order of Juan I of Castile, on the Royal Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe that Alfonso XI had envisioned. Juan I entrusted the shrine to the Hieronymites, or Order of St. Jerome. It maintained its royal patronage until 1835, when Church properties were seized and religious orders dispersed in Spain during the First Carlist War.

Much of the favour that the Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe enjoyed with Spanish royalty was due to its esteem by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella I and Ferdinand II. In 1464 King Henry IV of Castile brought a 13-year-old Isabella to Guadalupe to arrange her marriage to Alfonso V of Portugal. Isabel turned King Alfonso down (she married Ferdinand three years later), but would remember fondly the beauty of the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Isabel I’s original last will and testament is kept in this monastery.

Another notable Renaissance pilgrim to Guadalupe was Christopher Columbus. In 1486, during a Holy Week pilgrimage to this shrine, Columbus met with representatives from the court of the Catholic Monarchs to negotiate royal sponsorship of his voyages to India. Alas, Columbus reached America, not India, but in 1492 he returned anyway to Guadalupe to give thanks to God who, through the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe, had granted him a safe voyage.

In the early twentieth century, a major restoration project of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe was undertaken by the Franciscans, who had been entrusted with the care of the sanctuary. The shrine of Guadalupe is a stunning complex of five main structures: the Mudejar cloister, the Gothic cloister, the Plateresque portal, the church building itself, which dates back to 1730 and was designed by one of Christopher Columbus’ descendants, and a painting and sculpture museum that houses works by many of Spain’s finest artists.

In 1955, Pope Pius XII declared the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe a minor papal basilica. Prior to that, in 1907, the Virgin of Guadalupe was canonically crowned and declared the Patroness of Extremadura; her patronage was extended in 1928 to the entire Spanish-speaking world. One of three “Black Madonna” statues in Spain, devotion to the Mother of God under this title is particularly strong in Mexico and throughout Latin America, and in the Philippines.

When he visited Guadalupe in November, 1982, Pope John Paul II recognized the universal reach of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In reference to Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 1:41-45), Blessed Pope John Paul II reflected in his homily: “Blessed are you! This greeting unites millions of hearts; in these lands, in Spain, on other continents, in communion with Mary, in Guadalupe and in so many parts of the world. As such, Mary is not only the Mother of all peoples... She is also the model of faith and of the virtues that we are called to imitate during our earthly pilgrimage.”

We pray, then, that we might place ourselves under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is mother of all, from Spain to the whole world, and is Mother of God. May we in our earthly pilgrimage entrust ourselves to the patroness of Guadalupe, who continually directs us toward her Son, our brother pilgrim, our God. Amen.