Our trip from the hotel to the chemical plant was via country roads and I had the chance to talk to some peregrinos and speak to others about them. I asked basic questions that my rusty Spanish would support – mainly “why?” and “how?”. The answers have kept me thinking ever since.
When I asked “why make the pilgrimage ?”, there were a number of different answers. Some traveled in supplication for help, others in thanksgiving for aid received. Most, however, really were not looking for specific favors. They were “finding my faith”, “strengthening my faith”, but the answer the struck me the most was “living my faith”.
The trip to Mexico City is quite difficult. I asked why they chose to walk or bicycle and live in the open. I asked why they did not simply drive to the city. In response I received a forbearing look and the explanation that the pilgrimage is supposed to be difficult. The value is in the difficulty.
When I asked how the pilgrims will get back to their homes after the celebration, I was told they will return the same way they came – by a difficult journey home. The journey home is the most important part of the pilgrimage as “It is what we bring back that is the most important”. (Many return to their parishes with fire from the celebration service).
There was a lot to think about: “living my faith”, “difficulty brings value”, and “what we bring back is the most important”.
Just as I thought my lesson was complete, one more “little coincidence” tapped me on the shoulder. After completing work at the plant, the clients invited us for lunch at the plant canteen. After completing a delicious if carb loaded lunch, we walked back to the meeting room passing the area where preparations for the plant’s Guadalupe celebration were under way. We walked past a permanent shrine dedicated to “Our Lady” and the clients asked if we could stop for a prayer.
Standing in the middle of a chemical plant in Mexico, praying in Spanish at the shrine of la Virgen de Guadalupe — living my faith.