Oh, look. A church.

I still can’t get past the hugeness of Mexico City. You can go to the top of a hill in the center of town and see glittery lights stretching in every direction as far as you can see. Or you can just close your eyes and smell it. Exhaust, spices, incense, and typical huge-city smell speaks as much as a panoramic view stretching for miles.

The team took a “pilgrimage” to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Watched pilgrims and devotees praying through their rosaries, climbing dozens of stairsteps on their knees, sprinkling themselves with water flowing beneath the feet of a fading statue of the Virgin.

Somehow this basilica was different than any of the dozens I visited in Europe. In Rome, Assissi, Pisa, Venice, Lucca, France, and London, the vast majority of the people in each place of worship wasn’t there to worship, but to take photos, buy entrance to the cupola for a view of the city, and maybe pray a haphazard prayer for some sick loved one.

But the people in Mexico City are for real. There are few tourists, but tons of worshipers. They wait in real confession lines and murmur their prayers in the chapels and sacred spaces. Hoping to have their sins pardoned, their time in purgatory reduced, extra blessings to counteract their own sins. What a mission field.

At one point when we were visiting, I had to turn away from the mobs of the faithful, feeling sick to my stomach at the hopelessness of these millions of people. Shutting out the only real hope of salvation–faith and trust in Jesus Christ–in favor of a whole lot of works that they’re still not sure will save them. In disgust, I walked away and bought a liter-sized styrofoam sup of horchata for 18 pesos.

I found myself humming “Rock of Ages” as I walked away from the church, a place that can never provide any kind of security. How blessed I am to know the truth.

Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to the cross I cling; Naked, come to thee for dress; Helpless, look to thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die. –Augustus M. Toplady

5 comments

  1. Tears. A streams of salty, sorrow-filled tears. Guilt-laden, grateful for forgiveness, blessed beyond human comprehension. Tears.

  2. They are on their knees because they don’t feel worthy to stand in the face of greatness as they pray. Especially in such a Holy place. Please don’t feel disgusted. Our prayers are for the benefit of home, community and humanity…past, present and future. Our faith, love and devotion to the Holy Trinity and the Holy Family are complete. I have never met another Catholic that felt “unsure” of their place in Heaven or questioned if they are “saved”. God is a loving and just God. There is a place for all Christians, and yes, us Catholics, proclaim Jesus just as you. Our many prayers, including the rosary focus on the meditation of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a beautiful time to reflect on how He gave everything for us. There are many misconceptions about Catholicism. So many, it makes me sad that we are reduced to “They wait in real confession lines and murmur their prayers in the chapels and sacred spaces. Hoping to have their sins pardoned, their time in purgatory reduced, extra blessings to counteract their own sins”. It makes me so sad that you believe Catholics “hope to have our sins pardoned”. We are confessing to Jesus our grave and menial sins so that we can move forward and learn how to overcome temptation however small or large. In that, you might say we are saved at every confession. It is the most amazing feeling to express sins and concerns during confession (to Jesus) and then complete the circle through prayer and meditation. So much is offered to us when we are blessed to be in God’s grace and learn each day how to live more completely in his likeness. I have no doubts as to my salvation. Disgust is the least of feelings to feel when surrounded by so many in loving prayer. Be safe.

    Love,
    Cheryl

    1. The most heartrending thing to me–the thing that makes me turn away–is that they don’t feel _worthy_ to be in a holy place. The truth is, none of us are worthy, but by believing and confessing our sins to Jesus once, He erases all our sins and puts His righteousness on us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Then, He sees us as worthy to come before Him in prayer, and no priest or “holy place” or confession line is necessary to draw closer to God. He says that our righteousness is like filthy rags to Him, but with the wounds He bore on the cross for us, we are completely healed. He’s making us more like Himself, yes, but not through rote prayer or self-sacrifice. He already paid that price.

  3. Romans 14; 1-4
    14 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    Romans 15; 5-7
    5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

    I have found no greater love and purpose in my life than when I found Jesus through Catholicism. I was baptized in a Methodist Church and Baptist Church. I was never so lost and didn’t have a true love or devotion to Jesus, his life, crucifixion, death and resurrection. I only knew if I didn’t go to church and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior I would burn in hell. I went to church Sunday am, pm on Weds. and Thursday for youth group. I learned the spirituality of living in Christ when I converted to Catholicism. I discovered true love. I consider myself blessed and don’t hold any ill will toward anyone walking their path to salvation. I simply refuse to judge in anyway whatsoever. I cannot. I look at every opportunity as a way to grow in my faith and build a stronger relationship with Jesus. It is by his grace that I am taught by those around me and the situations I am placed. Sometimes, I am hard pressed to figure out why I am where I am and I pray for discernment.

    The Rosary isn’t rote prayer. It is a meditation. The Lord’s prayer can be considered a rote prayer. Is it not alright to pray when it is for His Glory and Praise? I believe All of God’s children are on the same path. You have written about your feelings of inadequacy and that is exactly the same for Catholics. If we did not feel worthy to be in a Holy place we would not go. Much the same as any church is a Holy place to worship.

    I agree, He paid the ultimate price for us. It doesn’t make us wrong for praying on bent knee. It doesn’t make us (Catholics) less the Christian because we confess our sins to Jesus at confession and in our hearts. It is by His grace that we are forgiven. Catholics never forget the importance of remaining in His grace, that we may better know His path for us, guide us and lead. That His spirit will teach us and show us as we open our hearts to Him. What Glory. A priest can be a mentor in confession. We achieve a deeper spiritual awareness through prayer, confession and Mass. It is beautiful to me. He is my salvation.

    We do not turn our backs in disgust or speak of distaste if one faith chooses a different prayer, or church or path to follow Christ. It is not for me to judge the way, but only to live my faith as true as I know.

    If I were in the presence of so many, in devout prayer, I would have considered myself so blessed to be with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Rejoicing in prayer and song or solitary in humble prayer. All for the glorification of Jesus Christ. What an amazing opportunity.

    It seems, in this post, that you scorn, in disgust,pity countless of those that humble themselves in devote prayer to the same Jesus that you do.
    Remember, you are in a country that is predominately Catholic.

    1. I’m not trying to trying to scorn anyone. I’m wondering, though, why someone who believes what the Bible says would spend their time praying through a few dozen or a hundred Hail Mary’s on a rosary when the Bible is clear that Jesus is the only One worthy of our reverence, the only One who can answer our prayers. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.”

      Humble, sincere prayer is truly an amazing, powerful thing! But only when it’s directed to the God who is able to hear and answer. He truly is our salvation, apart from any mediators, saints, or priests.

      James 4:12: “God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy.”

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