The Beauty of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Visiting Mexico's shrine to the Virgin Mary, the pope describes the love and piety of her devotees.

Excerpted from "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way" with permission of Warner Books.

[My earlier] pilgrimages to

Jasna Gora

[a Marian shrine in Poland] may have given birth to my desire to begin my pilgrim journeys as Pope by visiting a Marian shrine. This desire led me to make my first apostolic journey to Mexico, at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The love that the Mexicans and the people of Latin America in general have for Our Lady of Guadalupe-a love expressed spontaneously and emotionally, but intensely and profoundly-is very similar to the Polish Marian devotion that shaped my own spirituality. They affectionately call Mary

La Virgen Morenita

, which can be freely translated as "the Black Madonna." There is a popular Mexican song about the love of a young man for a young lady, which the people address to Our Lady. Those melodious words linger in my ears:

Conoci a una Linda Morenita . . . y la guise macho.
Por Las tardes iba yo enamorado y carinoso a verla.Al contemplar sus ojos, mi pasion crecia.
Ay Morena, morenita mia, no to olvidare.
Hay un Amor may grande que existe entre Los dos, entre Los dos . . .

I met a beautiful dark-skinned woman and came to like her very much.
Evenings-full of love and affection-I would walk to see her.
When I looked into her eyes, my love grew.
O dark-skinned woman, my dark-skinned woman, I will not forget you.
There is a great love between us, between us . . .

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I visited the shrine at Guadalupe during my first apostolic pilgrimage in January 1979. The decision to travel there was made in response to an invitation to take part in a meeting of the Conference of Bishops of Latin America at Puebla de Los Angeles. To some degree, this pilgrimage inspired and shaped all the succeeding years of my pontificate.

First I stopped in Santo Domingo, after which I went on to Mexico. Something extraordinarily moving happened while we were making our way to our quarters for the night: As we crossed streets heaving with crowds, we could almost touch with our hands, so to speak, the devotion of these countless people. When we finally reached our destination, where we were to spend the night, the people just kept on singing-and it was already midnight. Then Father Stanislaw Dziwisz realized he would have to go out and silence the crowd, explaining to them that the Pope had to get some sleep. Only then did they quiet down.

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