Pilgrims and visitors flocked into the square in front of the new basilica. I saw people, who from their olive complexion seemed to be natives or crossbreeds, carrying litters full of flowers. Some of them laid the litters on the floor and staged devotional songs and dances. I have to say that few times in my life have I seen such beautiful scenery. After having danced and sung, the pilgrims went into the basilica with their litters covered with flowers. I followed them and entered the basilica from one of the gates. It was a round church with an altar opposite the many rows of pews, and the holy image of the Virgin Mary was over it.

I sat on one of the pews and watched the shrine from a distance. Meanwhile, other groups continued to arrive in the basilica and headed for the back of the altar. I followed them and arrived at a moving walkway below the shrine. I admired the holy image for a few seconds while the walkaway moved.

Then I went out of the new basilica. I spent all day at the Villa de Guadalupe and visited the churches and buildings scattered in the area.

The old basilica housed Juan Diego’s cloak until 1974. A museum stands not far from the small old chapel erected on the same spot where the apparition happened. There were many exhibits in the museum. I lingered in a room full of many paintings that portrayed the Virgin of Guadalupe. The painters had tried to make a copy of the original image, but none of them had been able to reproduce it perfectly. Then I stood in front of a photograph, which was an exact copy of the original and had been approved by the ecclesiastic organs. While I was admiring the copy, I heard a voice behind me.

Who knows what the number eight symbolizes?” said a man who was leading a group and who had the air of being a professor.

Nobody in his group answered his question. “The number eight symbolizes the infinite,” I answered.

Exactly!” said the professor. “Now look at Mary’s pink robe. There are eight four-leaf clovers on it.”

Yes, I thought, the Virgin Mary is infinite, beyond space and time. She always has been and always will be. That means that she was on the Hill of Tepeyac long before the Spanish came to Mexico, even though she was worshipped under a different name.

(Excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History)

Ettore Grillo, author of:

A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind


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