Friday, December 22, 2017

(200) WHAT MAKES CHRISTMAS SO SPECIAL? Why Is It the Most Important Birth in Both Salvation History and World History?


A painting by Corregio of the Nativity with the shepherds.  Corregio so beautifully shows
the warmth 
and love of Mary as the Mother of God and our mother as well, given to us
by Christ Himself on the 
Cross (John 19:27), the supreme sacrifice that saved us from our
sins and opened the gates of Heaven 
for us.


Since the star first appeared on Christmas day, the Magi studied and prepared for the
long arduous journey and are on their way from Arabia to pay homage to the 
Christ child while the poor shepherds, invited by a host of angels, were the first 
to arrive and adore Him a few hours after the Redeemer’s birth.  Above is the 
Journey of the Magi by Tissot.  During the Middle Ages up to the Renaissance 
the Christian culture in Europe produced a proliferation of art that depicted 
images inspired by the Bible.  Stained glass windows in churches and 
paintings were also used as teaching aids in catechizing and inspiring illiterate 
people with the true, the good, and the beautiful.  Today most European 
countries are very secular.  These two paintings demonstrate that the Son of God 
came for both Jew and gentile, rich and poor, educated and illiterate.

       The birth of Christ was an obscure event that no one 
knew at the time except for a few poor shepherds and a group of wise men from the East.  Yet this event was so momentous that it changed history…….even dividing the measurement of historical and current time into B.C. (years before Christ) and A.D. (years after Christ’s birth).  Actually scholars believe that the actual birth occurred in 3-4 B.C.  It was a central event in the history of mankind.  Magnificent churches and exquisite works of art pay tribute to Him.  Why did the Nativity have such great significance and importance in both world history and salvation history?   We have to go back to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 & 3 as a starting point for understanding why. 

The Garden of Eden. God intended that each person occupy Paradise for a period of time as a test and preparation for Heaven; then at death there would be a seamless transition to Heaven.  God clearly forbade Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  According to St. Pope John Paul II, the Lord used that tree as a test of obedience and to show He is God and they are creatures.  God warned Adam and Eve that disobedience would mean death.  However, the serpent said to Eve “No, you shall not die; for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  They did eat of the apple and God expelled them from Paradise.

Adam and Eve had a close and special relationship with God and direct communication with Him.  Thus giving in to the serpent’s temptation was a betrayal.  What made their sin even more grave was that they did not believe God, but believed the devil (Do we do the same?); they did not trust God; they wanted to be like God, (i.e., little gods).  They were not satisfied to be created according to His image and likeness.  They doubted God’s word that they would die by eating the fruit, looking upon Him as a liar.   They said no to God; they rejected Him; they turned away from their Creator and what is right.  That defines serious sin.  It was blatant disobedience, a direct affront against God.  

An image of Adam and Eve being evicted…….described in the epic poem, “Paradise Lost” in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton (1608–1674).

As a result, the gates of Heaven were closed.  By inheritance and association as descendants of Adam and Eve, every person (except Mary and her Son) is conceived with a stigma as a member of the human family.  This we call Original Sin which causes a separation from God and a tendency to sin (concupiscence)…….Adam and Eve’s legacy to us.  

       However, in His mercy God left humanity with hope.  He promised to send a Redeemer…….“I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman (Mary), between your offspring and hers; He (Christ) will strike at your head while you strike at his heel” (Gen 3:15). Only the Son of God could make reparation for the great sin of Adam and Eve and the sins of their descendants in order to open the gates of Heaven for humanity if we repent and follow Him. 
       The 4000 Year Wait. During that time fallen man in a fallen world groped in the dark.  “In the sweat of thy brow, you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19). and child bearing would be painful.  Earth was a dark place.  Only the Jews believed in the one true God; the rest practiced some form of idol worship.  There was human sacrifice to these false gods, who often were demons.  Even the Romans placed little value upon human life.  If a Roman woman did not want her infant baby, she would simply trash him or her.  Later Christians buried many of them with dignity as they do today with abandoned aborted babies.   
The Promise of the Old Testament. Even God’s chosen people, the Jews often fell into corruption, sin, and some idol worship.  God raised up prophets, who often prophesized the coming of the Redeemer, particularly Isaiah, Zechariah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Malachi, David, and Nathan.  He was to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem in the line of David (from Abraham to St. Joseph in Matthew 1:1-17).  Mankind waited 4000 years for God to fulfill His promise.  During Advent we try to relive those 4000 years of salvation history.  Each Sunday symbolizes 1000 years as we wait with joyful anticipation for Christmas, preparing our hearts for the Savior’s coming by extra prayer, spiritual reading, and sacrifice as well as an Advent Confession.  Do more reading of the Bible……..the most read book of all time
        The Fulfillment of the Promise in the New Testament. The sin of Adam and Eve was so grave that only the Son of God, the King of the Universe could make adequate satisfaction and reparation for that most grievous sin and all sins past, present, and future by sacrificing Himself and thus open the gates of Heaven for us.  This bloody sacrifice on the cross as well as the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass that makes Calvary present are sources of much grace that saves us from our sins.  The Redemption made the sacraments possible as fountains of grace and freedom from the bondage of sin if we accept and follow Christ.  “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).  That was His greatest gift, the ultimate gift out of infinite love, for which we should be eternally grateful.  

                                  The Annunciation by Leonardo Da Vinci 

In the fullness of time, God sent the Archangel Gabriel to make a startling announcement to a simple 14 year old virgin.  God asked Mary to be the vehicle in bringing Christ to us in her womb.  In Luke 1:38 Mary gave her fiat or YES (“Be it done to me according to thy word”) and at that moment Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin.  “The word was made flesh and He dwelt among us!” (John 1:14).

                                          An icon of the Visitation of Mary to St. Elizabeth

       For the next 9 months He dwelled in the womb of Mary, the same as we dwelled in the wombs of our mothers, giving women special dignity.  That makes the womb of every woman a sacred place, intended to be a secure dwelling of a beautiful human being…….not to be violated and defiled by abortion.  When Mary visited her cousin, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy at the coming of the Savior (Luke 1:44), showing that in utero the unborn has a certain sensitivity to what’s going on outside, a beautiful testimony for life in the womb.  See the Appendix for the beautiful canticle that Mary shared with Elizabeth, the “Magnificat”.  It links the Old and the New Testaments together.
The second person of the Holy Trinity became the God-man, visible as one of us.  That makes it easier for us to identify with Him and imitate Christ as advocated by St. Thomas à Kempis in his book, “The Imitation of Christ”.  Christ’s taking on our human nature gives us tremendous dignity from the womb to the tomb to eternity. 
The Son of God, the almighty King of the Universe, stooped down with infinite humility to become one of us, first as a helpless baby dependent upon Mary and Joseph, experiencing the common hardships of daily life.  God sent a chorus of angels to make the joyful announcement to the poor shepherds.  They were the first to come and adore Him, demonstrating that Christ humbly identifies Himself with the Jews, the poor, and the illiterate.
At the same time God was leading a caravan of Magi by means of a celestial phenomenon as prophesized in Numbers 24:17, either the convergence of three planets, a super nova, a comet, or an angel.    In any event it was a visible manifestation of the divine majesty……..showing that Christ also came to redeem the gentiles, the affluent, and the educated.  May the Muslims of the Middle East follow the Magi to Christ and the Church.  May the Eucharist transform us as visiting the Christ child transformed them.  In addition the Church He founded was to have a tremendous affect upon civilization (See Thomas E. Woods’ “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization”).    
Jesus grew in “wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52)” and finally at the age of 30 was ready to begin His great mission, the reason for the incarnation, to teach us how to live and save us from our sins.  His ultimate sacrifice with immense suffering on the cross made reparation for all the sins of the world and thus opened the gates of Heaven and gave eternal life to those that follow His teaching. That’s why the birth of Christ (Christmas) is so important and significant.  
Finally, the 4000 year long wait for the Redeemer is over.  The Old Testament is full of prophecies of the Redeemer and the New Testament is the fulfillment.  Emmanuel (God with us) has come!  Rejoice!  Alleluia!  Messianic Jews rejoice; Orthodox Jews are still waiting. And don’t forget; He is also with us in the Eucharist.

May you receive many blessings, joy, and inner peace that only God can bring.  May Christmas bring you healing and reconciliation in your relationships.  May it be full of hope and gladness.  Merry Christmas, NOT Happy Holidays.  Let’s not forget the reason for the season.  PUT CHRIST BACK INTO CHRISTMAS…….in your home, on the job, in the community, and in all of your relationships.

“Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand.
Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness.
Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to eternal life.”


             The Magnificat

The Prayer Of Mary

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.
(Lk 1:46-55)

Magnificat anima mea Dominum;
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae; ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus, Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam brachio suo;
Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.
Sucepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae, Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semeni ejus in saecula.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

(199) A Homecoming to the Great Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City


The original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe which is behind the main altar and visible from any point in the new circular Basilica.  The image miraculously appeared on the tilma of St. Juan Diego on December 12, 1531 and is still vibrant close to 500 years later.  The tilma made from the Maguey Cactus should have deteriorated in 15 years.   The black tassel indicates that Mary is pregnant with the Christ child.  The image is full of symbols that amounted to a message that the Indians easily understood.  Aside from an image of Mary in the Catacombs, this is probably the only authentic portrait of Mary in existence…….as she actually looked on Earth.

      In April 1965 52 years ago the Archdiocese of Baltimore, my sponsor, placed me for a month in the home of a Mexican family to improve my Spanish in preparation for lay missionary work as a Papal Volunteer in Peru.  That was after a two month stay at Madonna House, a lay institute in Combermere, Ontario for spiritual formation.  It just so happened that the home where I stayed in Mexico City was only a 15 minute walk away from the great Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   

       I was enthralled by the Shrine and its history and went there every day after my Spanish Class at the Instituto Cultural Mejicano-Norte Americano in downtown Mexico City.  Mary must have sent me there; my birth mother and I consecrated ourselves to her when I was about 13 years old and my wife Jaga and I renewed it a couple of times recently. 
The Shrine in 1965.  An American, Helen Behrens, ran an English Information Office and among other things sold a booklet guide and history of some 70 pages which she wrote.  There was at least one or two American priests who heard confessions in English and gave spiritual direction.  Easter was a festive occasion with Indian dances.  The biggest day of the year for the Shrine is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, a national holy day, also observed by Mexican Americans here.
The old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe constructed in 1709.  Notice that the Basilica and adjacent building are actually sinking into the moist sandy soil, once a lake bed.  Behind the Basilica is Tepeyac Hill, where Mary actually appeared to St. Juan Diego December 9 - 12, 1531.  The original church still stands there as seen in the background.  Looking closely, people can be seen walking on their knees to the main altar.  The gates have since been replaced.    
       The old 18th Century Basilica overlooks a large plaza.  The right side had been slowly sinking into the soft soil, once part of a lake.  Many pilgrims would enter the main gate and then walk 150 yards on their knees to the main altar with the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe behind it. Each apparition of Mary has a special purpose.  For example, at Lourdes, France in 1858 Mary appeared to St. Bernadette 26 times to have a Shrine built where she would console and heal her children physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.  Mary appeared at Fatima, Portugal in 1917 to warn the people of the world that they must repent or the dire consequences of sin would follow.  She also promoted the Rosary and asked the people to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.  See my blogs #95, 96, 125, and 177.

Walking on his knees from the entrance of the plaza to the main altar as penance.

      Mary’s mission in Mexico City (December 9 – 12, 1531) was to establish the Faith among the Indians and to ask that a church be built where she would be a loving mother to millions of her children, nurturing their faith and bringing wayward souls to her Son in the turbulent centuries that followed.  At the time December 9 was the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
                               Juan Diego presenting the roses to the Bishop

As a sign of the authenticity of her heavenly message, Mary asked St. Juan Diego (canonized by St. John Paul II in 2002) to carry Castilian Roses (native to Spain that do not grow in Mexico, certainly not in cold December) that she personally placed in his tilma to give them to Bishop Zumarraga with her request for a church.  Miraculously, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on his tilma as shown above.  It is full of symbols that the Indians easily understood, amounting to a message.   The tilma should have deteriorated in about 15 years, but is still vibrant as ever close to 500 years later.  I covered the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe in greater detail and explained the meaning of the message and symbols of the image in my blogs #104, 105, and 106.  The links are in Appendix II. 
Previously Bishop Zumarraga was very worried about the inhumane treatment of the Indians by the Conquistadores and feared a bloody uprising.  Conversion of the Indians had been progressing very slowly.  He had to secretly send a message of protest to the King of Spain so that the local authorities would not intercept it.  Naturally the Bishop prayed fervently over the situation and asked the Lord to send him Castillian roses as a sign that his prayers were being heard.  Mary took care of that.    

Mary, the ultimate missionary, brought nine million Indians to the Faith by 1540, making up for the losses due to the Protestant Reformation.  That was probably the largest mass conversion in world history.  Previously, the Spanish missionaries were able to convert only a few.   Mary was a source of strength during colonial times; the fight for independence from Spain, sparked by Fr. Manuel Hidalgo in 1810 – 1821; the loss of Texas, California, and the southwest in a war with the United States in 1848; numerous revolutions; political instability, economic crises; a very bloody persecution of the Church in the 1920s which ignited the Cristero War, etc.  
One mystic asked Mary: “Where were you through all of this?”  Mary is said to have answered:  “I was there all the time.”  She got them through it all as the Lord willed.  Go to my blogs #42, 120, 132, & 181 as well as for a timeline of Mexican history and a movie.
       Through 30 days at her shrine in Mexico Mary gave me my start in Peru on May 1, 1965 and prayed me through the next 14 years plus.…….teaching Chemistry, the Methodology of Science Teaching Business, and Economic Development at the Marianist Universidad Católica de Santa María in Arequipa; giving  short courses to in-service science teachers; giving talks; writing articles/editorials on the Faith, science, community problems, the economy, etc. for the local newspapers and radios; working with the handicapped; and promoting vocations.  The experience included being pick pocketed three times, having my watch stolen right off my wrist, accusations of being a CIA agent, giving a talk to a hostile anti-American audience, Marxist student strikes, riots, martial law, climbing a 19,000 foot volcano, a week in jail, and more.
The new Basilica built in 1976.  It has a circular floorplan so that the image of the Virgin can be seen from any point in the building.  The New Basilica has nine chapels on the upper floor. Its crypts beneath the main floor house 15,000 niches and 10 chapels.  Its seven front doors are an allusion to the seven gates of Celestial Jerusalem referred to by Christ.

Fast forward to January 2017 when we visited our son and daughter in Dallas, Texas.  Jaga got the bright idea of making a three day pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  It was a homecoming!    The changes over 52 years were startling……..a magnificent new basilica, baptistery, expansion of the plaza to include a stage, an underground parking garage, an Evangelization Center Pavilion, a public market pavilion with restaurants instead of makeshift stalls, a new museum, beautiful landscaping and gardens, better security, etc. 
But to my dismay, they went backwards in one very important aspect.  Except for English speakers at the information centers, there is very little for Canadians, Americans, and other international pilgrims, most of whom speak English……no English Information Center and no full time English speaking priests.  This would be a great apostolate for a retired American priest.  See Appendix I for three projects that I proposed to the Knights of Columbus, but would also be good for other organizations as well.

      Being more comfortable confessing in English, I was directed to a wonderful 93 year old Mexican priest by the name of Padre Dr. Jesús Soto, who heard my confession in his Casa Sacerdotal (Priests’ House) with the help of an English-Spanish missal and a magnifying glass.  During that time of intense persecution, he said that the Cristeros hid the image in a private home.
                        A panoramic view of the immense plaza with an Aztec calendar on the right.      
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe attracts about 20 million pilgrims each year, more than any other Christian shrine, more than double the second largest, Lourdes (8 million) and Fatima (5 million). The Hindu shrines in India attract many more. Among the notables that have visited the Shrine are:  the last three popes, President John Kennedy, and President Charles DeGaule of France.

                          Picnic time and rest in the Plaza.
Whole towns make annual pilgrimages, each with a group of several hundred pilgrims.  On a Saturday a town's participation might number well over a thousand pilgrims.  One group that included students invited me for breakfast and we had a good time.  They were waiting for others who chose to walk the 20 miles.  On Saturday, our last day, thousands came up the Avenida Guadalupe to the main entrance and we had a hard time walking in the opposite direction against the current back to our hotel……ideal for pick pocketeers.

               Going up the Avenida Guadalupe to the main entrance of the Shrine.

It’s cold walking to the Shrine in the early January morning, but by noon it’s pleasantly warm.  The street cleaners were out in force with their brooms since 4 or 5 am, working hard on the park like island separating the six lanes of the Avenida de Guadalupe.  Heartwarming was my encounter with a wrinkled old woman.  After I thanked her for keeping her area so beautiful and clean, she replied: “I do this for la Virgen de Guadalupe”.  Her menial work is an act of love.  She’s going to make it to Heaven before all of us.   May we do likewise with our jobs and housework…….. “Ad majorem Dei gloriam” or “All for the greater glory of God”, the Jesuit motto.
There’s daily Mass on the hour from 6 am to 8 pm, each attended by at least one or two hundred pilgrims while confessions are going on.  The miraculous image is above the main altar.  One can obtain a closer look by going to the crypt and standing on a moving belt under the image.  In the back of the Basilica is a showcase with a cross bent by a terrorist bomb in 1921 that could not even scratch the image just above it.  In the crypt there is a large gift shop and information center.  Just outside is another information booth where a priest blesses the medals, rosaries, etc.A major event in the Basilica.  The circular design without supports allows for an unobstructed view from practically any location inside as well as outside when the attendance exceeds capacity and pilgrims must stand in the plaza. 
Leaving the Basilica and turning left, we pass the Baptistery where thousands of babies from all over Mexico are baptized.  Just above it is the beautiful Recinto de Cristo Rey with the Beatitudes and plants lining the path to a statue of Christ the King and memorial to the thousands of martyrs of the Cristero War.  Their rallying cry was: “Viva Cristo Rey” or Hail Christ the King.  The Recinto Memorial gave the message that the Cristeros and the martyrs did not die in vain.  Even though they were betrayed in 1929, they did achieve eventual victory.  Today Mexico is still a secular state, but there is relative religious freedom that they laid down their lives for.  And Mary had a significant part in that victory.  The statue of Christ the King seemed to say: “THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL” (Matthew 16:18). 

       Proceeding further, we climbed to the chapel on the top of Tepeyac Hill where Mary actually appeared to St. Juan Diego.  The Aztecs named  the hill, Tepeyac, which means mother goddess which they adored.  The old basilica and chapels are full of beautiful Spanish colonial art. 

                  A view of Tepeyac Hill and its chapel where Mary appeared.  On the right is the museum.
Lodging. We stayed in the modern Hotel Ferri at Sara 4605, about ten blocks away and only $35 per night via the internet or phone 5759-4833.  We made friends with Diego Londono, a pilgrim from Colombia, who took us to a delightful group of contemplative nuns (Orden de la Inmaculada Concepción) who house pilgrims at $10 per night plus meals a couple of blocks from the Shrine (for reservations e-mail or phone 55-77-07-31) at Francisco Morenos 122.  There we met Fr. Dan Leary, who brought an American family with their child to seek healing for her brain tumor. 
Transportation. The nuns put us in contact with a taxi driver named Jorge Taboada Cortes, whom they use all the time.  What a great guy!  He charges $12 to the Airport and would take a group of six for an all day tour of Mexico City for $80.  Of course there’s also buses and a well developed and extensive subway system. 
This fascinating shrine is right under our noses; let’s take advantage of it.  After seeing the fervor of thousands of pilgrims each day, especially on Saturday, one can conclude that today the faith is alive and well in Mexico due in great part to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, although considerable evangelization is necessary.  See for more detail in regard to visiting the Shrine.
Proposed Projects for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Knights of Columbus has had a special attachment to Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is not only the patroness of Mexico, but all of the Americas.   In 2012 the Knights of Columbus financed 50 pilgrim images that visited a church near every council in the USA.  I was very much part of it in our parish, participating with a procession in regalia, Mass, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and adoration in the presence of her image.  The underwriting of the movie “For Greater Glory” inspired in me an intense interest in San José Sanchez del Rios and the Cristero War.  I wrote several articles whose links are attached.  In addition, we have a number of councils in Mexico and six of their knights were martyred in the accompanying persecutions and are now canonized saints.   
Our Lady of Guadalupe is our patroness too and Americans hardly know anything about her.  If they do, they are afraid to make a pilgrimage, stay in a hotel in Mexico City, struggle with the language barrier, and walk the streets at night.  For a modestly priced comfortable and secure hotel, we had to walk a half hour in the morning and again in the evening……..good exercise of course.
Thus I propose three projects:
1) Sponsor and/or run an English Information Center.  It could be a small or large room in the crypt of the Basilica adjacent to the Basilica Store or adjacent to another religious store to the right of the old basilica.  It would guide pilgrims and sell books on the shrine, the Cristero War, and Mexico in English.  It could also make available Knights of Columbus materials for recruiting and guide pilgrims to the Knights of Columbus Memorial in item #2 and the retreat house/hotel in item #3.  The Basilica could sell religious articles there as well.
2) Finance a memorial to the Knights of Columbus martyrs in the new Plazoleta or Recinto de Cristo Rey to the right of the new basilica and baptistery.  The recinto or garden was awe inspiring to me.  The beatitudes line the path which leads to a large statue of Christ the King with the inscription “Viva Cristo Rey”.  It gave the message that the Cristeros and the martyrs did not die in vain.  Even though they were betrayed in 1929, they did achieve eventual victory.  Today Mexico is still a secular state, but there is religious freedom that they laid down their lives for.  After seeing the fervor of thousands of pilgrims each day, especially on Saturday, one can conclude that today the faith is alive and well and Mexico.  Of course much remains to be done in evangelization.  
3) Build and manage a retreat house/hotel within a block of the shrine.  It could be 3 to 5 stories (land is scarce there) with at least 100 rooms.  Councils or a district of councils could send their men there for a pilgrimage/retreat.  Knights would have preference, but if there is space, pilgrims from all over the world would be welcome.  It would have English speaking clerks and at least one resident priest (that would be great for a retired American priest who speaks some Spanish as a Maryknoller).  The resident priest would serve as a spiritual director or retreat master and help the pilgrims to obtain maximum spiritual benefit, as an individual, family, or group of any size.  If well promoted in the Columbia Magazine or state newspaper, pilgrimages could take off.  In time the retreat house/hotel would pay for itself.
Items #1 and #2 could be quickly done and would not be expensive.  Item #3 is a major project that would require considerable planning, negotiating, and financing.  For items #1 and #2 perhaps you could first talk with the Director of the Basilica, Monseñor Enrique Glennie Graue.  The Information Center next to the religious store could put you in contact with him.  Regarding the retreat house/hotel, perhaps your delegation could look into the feasibility and perhaps start preliminary talks with the authorities when you are in Mexico City.
Articles on the Knights of Columbus, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexican Persecutions, and the Cristero War – Accesible at

My blogs #145 & #153 at give a good idea of what Council 3335 does.  Blog #39 has a “Knight’s Prayer”, #106 describes the Pilgrim Virgin of Guadalupe the KofC sponsored, #126 is about Christopher Columbus, #143 on the Rosary in the Park, #146 honors the 60th Wedding Anniversary of our former grand knight to promote long lasting marriages, #153 on our monthly newsletter, #154 protests Council 3548 honoring a pro-abortion governor,  #166 Knights promote the true meaning of Christmas, #170 on the Kof C Free Throw Contest for the developmentally handicapped, #172 on the death of our very faithful brother knight, #173 on Council 3335 Awards,  #181 on the role of the KofC in resisting the Mexican persecutions..  

The “Knight’s Prayer” might be good for the Columbia Magazine.  That is 
(39) A Knight’s Prayer to Christ, His King and the Knights of Columbus

Articles relating to Latin America, particularly Mexico include Blogs #22 on San Martín de Porres, #42 on Blessed R.P. Miguel Pro during the Mexican persecutions,  #104 – 106 on Our Lady of Guadalupe, #120 on the Cristero War, #132 on Blessed José Sanchez del Rio, #181 on the Mexican Martyrs.

                     Articles relating to Latin America, particularly Mexico include Blogs #22 on San Martín de Porres, #42 on Blessed R.P. Miguel Pro during the Mexican persecutions,  #104 – 106 on Our Lady of Guadalupe, #120 on the Cristero War, #132 on Blessed José Sanchez del Rio, #181 on the Mexican Martyrs.  The Fatima articles are also included.

  #120 The Cristero War: The Historical Context of "For Greater Glory", the Star Studded Movie

    #132 Blessed José Sanchez del Rio: Boy Martyr & Real Soldier of Christ..........His Participation in the Cristero War & the Intense Persecution of the Church by the Government of Mexico

     #181 VIVA CRISTO REY: THOUSANDS DIED FOR THE FREEDOM TO PROCLAIM IT......The Role of the Knights of Columbus for Religious Liberty Against Persecution of the Church in Mexico

           #104 Our Lady of Guadalupe (I): Binding the Americas Together 

      #105 Our Lady of Guadalupe (II): Mary's Message to us in the Image

#106 Review of the visit of the Pilgrim Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Marian Prayer Prograof the Knights of Columbus at St. Louis Church Gallipolis December 11-16, 2012

      #22 Learning From St. Martin de Porres

      #42 Blessed Padre Miguel Pro S.J.: 20th Century Mexican Martyr for Christ the King 

#65 The Papal Volunteers for Latin America (PAVLA) After 50 Years V - Long Range Effects & What Are They Doing Now?  See also Blogs #61, 62, 63, and 64.

      #95 International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima Visit; Its History & Message 

      #96 International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima Visit (II): Its History & Consecration of the World to        the  Immaculate Heart

      #125 World History and the Power of the Rosary & Mary's Intercession..........The War on Terror is just       another chapter in a 1300 year war between Radical Islam and Christian Western Civilization

      #177 The Consecration to the Immaculate Heart and the Course of World History