I do not know which would be the best adjectives for describing what the recent trip of Holy Father Francis meant for Mexico. Perhaps better than an adjective, is the verb “awaken”, the best-adapted term for describing how much this visit meant for a people for so long lost in the midst of a rough road, plagued by corruption and violence. But what was the importance of this trip? Why was it necessary that Pope Francis had to visit Mexico?
The importance was the awakening of the faith. Mexico is the second country with a majority Catholic population (about 84% of the population, 100 million of the faithful in a total population of 120 million in 2015), and yet the society is marked by a rising secularization, and by the difficulty for the Church, as an institution, of recovering its credibility after so many scandals of sad memory.
The Holy Father came to shake up Mexico, and he did it under the guidance of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In his homily at Mass on February 13th, Francis said that, at the dawn of December 12th,1531, God awoke and continues to awaken the hope of the littlest ones. Every speech of the Pope had this purpose: to rediscover amazement for a God Who is infatuated with us, Who does not abandon us to our fate and Who has wanted to share with us the tenderness and refuge of having a Mother in common. In every appointment, the Pope reminded us of the beauty of being Catholic, of knowing that we have a common family – which is the Church – where everyone is able to find themselves.
The most beautiful thing was to see the simple – but profound and tremendously rich – faith of the holy people of God. It continues to surprise me, this immense snake of thousands of people who followed him along the way. Men and women, healthy people and sick people, old and young, who spent several hours waiting behind a barrier just to see, passing for a few moments, the vehicle of the Pope. They certainly did not come to encounter a politician who denounced corruption or drug-trafficking; for them, the Pope is the papa, the Vicar of Christ on earth, who brings us before the face of a God Who is not uninterested in us, but Who continues to offer His Salvation. How beautiful it was to see these crowds awaiting the Pope, or to consider the holy pride with which the carpenters of Michoacán had embossed the throne, the altar and the ambo which the Holy Father used during the Mass at Morelia. How could one not be moved with tenderness faced with the children who spoke to the Pope about their illnesses in the pediatric hospital “Federico Gómez”, or not be moved at the sight of the shining eyes of the prisoners at the penitentiary of Ciudad Juárez?
How it has helped me to see the love and the care in adorning the altars of the different places where the Pope celebrated the Mass: how much elegance and how much grace had the colonial village by which the native people of Chiapas have depicted their land, by having it as scenery in the Mass at San Cristóbal de las Casas…
There would be so many gestures and so many words to comment upon, but for me, that which awakens my faith is considering so many good people who are waiting for us, who are thirsty to receive a pastor who speaks to them of this good God who is our Father. I think of so many students who pass through our halls and I think of our responsibility as teachers.
I think we all have so much to learn from Pope Francis, from his gestures of nearness, from his spending himself without reserve, from his efforts to construct a culture of encounter, from his claims without being afraid of rumors or human respect… I hope that his trip bears much fruit. Now we ought to re-read his messages and concretely take into our own initiative this desire to awaken the hope of the littlest ones, and to find the energy needed to do it, it is enough to look at that very beautiful photo of the Holy Father while he prays before Our Lady of Guadalupe. As the Pope said to the Bishops, we all need to be reached and transformed by her maternal gaze, by the irresistible force of her sweetness, and by the irreversible promise of her mercy.