28 Jan 2008
To be Mexican is to be Catholic. The Catholic Church influences just about every major facet of life, … the way the people celebrate births, deaths, marriages, birthdays and other festivals.
It is easy to be Catholic. ... Cathedrals abound from the mountain villages to the large cities. In the city of Puebla and the nearby town of Cholula, as many as 350 Catholic churches and cathedrals are available for worshipers. This area is traditionally considered more Catholic than Rome.
In Mexico, to be Catholic is to worship the Virgin of Guadalupe, … the patron saint of the country. When the national Mexican soccer team plays in their green jerseys ribbed in red, embroidered on the right breast of the players is a small emblem. … The image on the emblem is that of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The Virgin of Guadalupe was the powerful unifying factor between the Spanish Colonizers and the Aztec indigenous people of the country. As legend goes, Mary … the mother of Jesus … appeared on December 12, 1531 to a Mexican Indian named Juan Diego and gave her approval for the indigenous peoples to accept the new religion of Catholicism. As proof of her appearance, she emblazoned her image surrounded by roses on the inside of Juan Diego’s cape. He showed the image to the bishop and the Virgin was declared the Patron of Mexico.
The Virgin of Guadalupe has also been crowned the Queen of Mexico, the Celestial Patron of Latin America, and the Empress of the Americas. Most importantly, the Virgin is considered the mother of God.
As the legend grew, so did the power of the Catholic Church and that of the priests. This power and influence is clearly illustrated by the magnificent cathedrals built in the 16th and 17th centuries. The size, the ornate gold trim, the huge pipe organ, the icons and the paintings all attest to the apparent desire to demonstrate God’s majesty. Meanwhile, the natives who provided much of the gold, … as well as the labor, continued to live in their grass huts.
In the city of Puebla, two bell towers dominate the skyline. The Puebla Cathedral, built in the 16th century, is one of the largest in all America. During the construction, the workers realized there was no way to lift the bells up into the bell towers. The story is told that one-night angels came down and lifted the bells in place. Thus, Puebla received its official name, … Puebla de los Angeles, … Puebla the city of the angels.
It has been written of Puebla that it is a land of God and saints, … of magic, beliefs and wisdom; … a mixture of indigenous people and Spaniards. Nowhere can this mixture of beliefs better be seen than at the Church of the Virgin of the Remedios in Cholula. The church, … built in the 16th Century, … sits atop a large mound of dirt that … when investigated … reveals one of the largest land mass pyramids in the world. Here, is a mixture of the indigenous with the Spanish. The pyramid was a religious shrine for the ancient Indians. It was not a burial tomb. When the Spanish conquered Cholula, they invited the people to continue to worship in this spot, but they were to worship in the Catholic Church. The religious shrine of the pyramid was replaced by the church … and … the indigenous gods were replaced by the saints. But in fact, neither was replaced because under the church … the pyramid remains… and, … behind the saints the gods still exist. … This mixture of ancient beliefs and Christianity is widespread throughout the Catholicism of Mexico.
Many question exactly what the Catholic Church teaches about Mary. A few of the teachings are the perpetual virginity of Mary, the immaculate conception of Mary, and the bodily ascension of Mary. The Church also accepts that Mary is a co-redeemer alongside Christ, she is the mediator between the people and God, she is the dispenser of all grace, she is the queen of heaven, and she is the prototype of the church.
Mary, … and her manifestation as the Virgin of Guadalupe, … are the central figures in the faith of the Catholics in Mexico. (Charles on-camera comments: In this painting, in the upper right hand corner, we can see God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit is a dove above them. Then coming down the ladder, we see Mary and then Saint Bernardo who is interceding for the people. The people are reaching to him and in this painting it’s suggested that the saints would intercede to Mary and then Mary to the Father and Son so we can see the different levels of intercession in the Catholic Church.) (Charles note … The on-camera recording has a little too much echo and you will need to renarrate this.) But it is the Virgin of Guadalupe that is the mother of the religion and of the country.
The Catholic Church claims the unique authority to give out grace to its members. Salvation and favor with God can only be gained through the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, only in the Catholic Church can one find salvation.
According to the Catholic Church, there are seven sacraments that are needed for salvation:
It is a salvation of works.
In the Catholic Church, the Bible and the sacred traditions are equal and the Church has authority over them both. All teaching and interpretation of scripture can only be done by authorized representatives of the Catholic Church. To listen to an unauthorized teacher is a sin.
In the religious practices of the people, there is never a feeling of “grace” as the people continually bargain with God, trying to manipulate Him, or covering many bases through prayers to Mary or other saints, and wearing charms for good luck.
The good news is that the Catholics of Mexico are already familiar with many Biblical teachings. This small symbol displayed in churches and in homes is a depiction of the Trinity. There is little difference in the doctrine of God, of the Holy Spirit, of Christ, of mankind, and of sin. Beginning with the Scriptures, Catholics can come to understand faith by grace through Jesus and only through Jesus. The key to helping Catholics understand the Gospel message is sharing the truth found in God’s Word.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
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