An account of a pilgrimage to Mexico with All Saints Travel by Father John Buckley:
On our pilgrimage to Mexico we were accompanied by two Mexican guides and a careful driver. The main guide, Dora, turned out to be delectable, charming and fun loving and she easily communicated with the pilgrims.
We began our first day on pilgrimage by visiting the town of Tulpetlac where Juan Diego was born. Juan Diego was the Aztec convert to whom Our Lady appeared in December 1531. She told him who she was, that she was indeed the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. She asked that a temple be built in her honour; the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe had begun and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is now the most visited shrine in the world.
Next, we went to the archaeological site of Teotihuacan. This is an ancient world city held sacred by the Aztecs. It is a complex of temples, palaces and pyramids. There is the pyramid of the Moon and the pyramid of the Sun. All were impressive constructions.
The second day started with Mass at Coyoacon after which we visited the floating gardens of Xochimilco, in the south of the city. We had dinner on board a flower-decked punt and we were serenaded with music. It gave us a wonderful glimpse of Aztec life in its capital location.
On the following day we reached the pinnacle of our pilgrimage when we were driven to the Basilica of Guadalupe itself. We celebrated Mass here after the Stations of the Cross and then we explored the new Basilica. Afterwards, we continued our exploration and we were taken to the main square, one of the biggest squares in the world.
We visited the Cathedral Metropolitana, the biggest church in Latin America, and the National Palace which holds murals depicting the history of Mexico. We visited the Plaza of Santo Domingo built by the Dominicans in 1576 and the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary, the first Rosary shrine in Mexico. We visited churches all around, there are so many beautiful churches here – one for every day of the year, all adorned with gold and various figures and flowers.
We then stopped at the Museum of Anthropology to explore some of the remains of Aztec culture.
On the following morning we headed to the city Puebla which is located a two-hour drive away from Mexico City. We visited the church at Tonantzintla filled with the figures of Saints, fruits, birds and more, a great example of indigenous artisanship applied to Christian themes. We visited the Great Pyramid of Cholula, now overgrown and topped by a church. Puebla is full of churches and colonial mansions, all well adorned. We then celebrated Mass at Santa Clara in the evening.
We were now on the home straight of our pilgrimage. We were taken to Tlaxcala to visit the Shrine of St Michael the Archangel where he appeared to Diego Lazaro in 1631. We visited the Grotto with its healing waters and then after that we visited the Church of St Francisco.
Overall, the experience of being on a pilgrimage to Mexico was well worthwhile. Culturally, Mexico is very Catholic indeed. In Mexican faith, family and community remain important as cementing forces. Finding this off-radar cosmopolitan city and what it has to offer was indeed a beautiful gift betoken to us as Pilgrims.
During my ministry as a priest, I have accompanied several pilgrimages with a variety of tour operators. I have to date accompanied three pilgrimages with All Saints Travel. Every pilgrimage with them has been blessed with great success. There was always impeccable organisation and timing, a balance of prayer, excursions to various sites, shopping, social cordiality and free time.
What characterises All Saints is their caring input at all times, mediated through their excellent choice of guides, their consideration for safety and the constant presence of their company representative. They do present the perfect pilgrimage package at an affordable rate.
The net result of the pilgrimage experience with All Saints Travel is invariably a happy group of pilgrims who jell well together and return home fulfilled and enthusiastic. With all sincerity I can sum up All Saints Travel in the words sung by a favourite artist of mine, Tina Turner. She sings ‘Simply the best’. That’s All Saints Travel.
Father John Buckley