Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pilgrimage to Esquipulas

This past week my dear friend came for a visit.  We rented a car and toured up to Esquipulas, a city about 6 hours away.  In the center there is a basilica with a famous crucifix called the Cristo Negro.  The basilica itself was visited by Saint John Paul 2 in the 1990s and is considered the largest Catholic Shrine in central america (in 1996 JP2 called it the "spiritual center of Central America").  The city is also on the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites.

The basilica itself is gorgeous!  We were blessed to be there during a Jubilee year and pass through the Jubilee doors!  The crucifix is in the center behind the altar but to access it you have to go outside and through a side door.  Tradition dictates that when you leave the crucifix, you walk out backwards.  It was beautiful to see!

My friend and I were the only non-latino people there.  The shrine receives over 1 million visitors a year but no one spoke English and the food and lodging were remarkably cheaper than where I live.  The gardens were beautiful.  The people super friendly and the food delicious!

We were able to attend three masses and went to confession (in English...although the priest only listened to us speak in English, he answered in Spanish).  We were only there for a little less than 20 hours total.  It was such a peaceful, tranquil shrine...I hope to go back some day!

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