FRANCIS IN MEXICO, Chiapas, by Mayra Delgado de Yamallel •
What a blessed opportunity Mónica Guerra de Morales and I had to attend Encounter of the Families, with His Holiness, Francis, in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas!
Along with four other friends, who belong to the Apostolate of the Cross-, we arrived in this city for this encounter the previous night. We had tickets to Victor Reyna Stadium, which were provided by the Archdiocese of Monterrey.
The first thing to decide was what would be the best time to go the following morning. The stadium opening was set for 8:00 a.m. (the event was estimated to begin at 4:15 p.m.). One of our friends contacted her friends traveling with Fr. Lomelí (who is charge of the Family Ministry in Monterrey), and we agreed that it would be best to leave our hotel at 4:30 a.m.
As it would be close to twelve hours of waiting, we prepared ourselves with some food, because we knew that nothing would be sold inside. We also took plenty of sun block, repellent, and a lot of excitement and enthusiasm!
We got as close as we could to the stadium, since the roads had been closed the previous night. We walked approximately a kilometer and a half, and we met Fr. on the way. The archdiocese had provided some hats and a bandana to identify us, and this was a great help. After walking this stretch, we reached the stadium, and we encountered the first checkpoint. Fr. Lomelí and we passed without any problem, and we got in a line that had formed the previous night. It was 5:15 a.m. We lined up with other people who came from Monterrey. There we found out that some acquaintances, arriving a few minutes after us, were unable to pass the first checkpoint, and they were sent to another line very far from the stadium; this made us feel very fortunate.
We prayed the rosary, we conversed with people from other states, and we defended our places, because there were some who wanted to break in the line. In a nutshell, we were eager to enter the stadium and to get best spot possible. The opening ended up being at 9:15 a.m. an hour later than planned. Our heart leapt with emotion upon entering the stadium and seeing the replica of the Copoya cross (the original is found on a hill and it is this city’s symbol), the chair that Pope Francis would occupy, and at one side the picture of the Holy Family. We sat in seats very close to all the people from Monterrey.
The first hours passed without any incident. There were few people, and we could move from our places and seek some shade.
Very difficult times
There was a very complete and lively program during the hours of waiting. There were songs with a marimba and musicians, rehearsals of cheers, testimonies, the classic “wave”, but after a while, they announced to us that there was no water in the restrooms. The sun began to intensify, and the water that had provided became scarce. The stadium began to swell with people! There were people in the aisles, standing and sitting, which made it difficult to move. A friend went to look for a security person (there was very few personnel to maintain order) to tell them that it was dangerous for people to be in the aisles. They responded that they could not do anything. The combination of these factors made the last three hours VERY difficult. Frequently there were calls for the paramedics (who passed with difficulty) to take out the people on a stretcher, who had become dehydrated or fainted. For our part, we became desperate and distressed. The heat was unbearable and sheer press of people made it feel like we were drowning. But God works in everything! At that moment, within the program, there was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Everyone began to pray and with the little water we had, we revived our bodies. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament eased us and gave us the necessary strength for the last stretch.
The helicopter arrived with the Pope
Suddenly, at about 3:00 p.m., they announced that the time of the encounter would be moved forward as much as possible. That was hopeful, and at 3:15 p.m., the moment that the image of the Holy Father’s helicopter, which was coming from San Cristóbal to Tuxla, was shown on the large screens, as if by magic, an inexplicable euphoria overtook everyone present! The thousands of hearts at this stadium forgot whatever discomfort they were experiencing, and a joy ensued that is impossible to explain with words– not to mention when the helicopter flew over the stadium! Everyone jumped and waved their arms! The helicopter touched down, and on the screens, we saw the figure of the Pope emerge. We knew then we were minutes away from seeing him!
Blessed opportunity of being present and feeling close to the smiling Pope who also reprimands and motivates!
When we glimpsed him in the Popemobile, our ecstasy was complete. Everyone wanted to capture his gaze and like children reaching for soap bubbles, we wanted to receive his blessing.
He began his speech with a kind and loving “Good afternoon.” It was a wonderful afternoon! Every word he said was that of a shepherd “with the smell of sheep”. His extremely hopeful and encouraging message was directed at the Mexican families and of the world; the thousands of faithful who were gathered there listened to it attentively and respectfully.
We all took our petitions some written others were photos. Everyone wanted to make our families, friends, and all the people who entrusted a prayer or petition to us present to the Holy Father.
His Holiness felt immersed in a people who are markedly Marian. Perhaps that is the reason that the Gospel we heard was that of the Wedding of Cana; and perhaps, it was what motivated him to invite us to hold hands and to pray the Hail Mary together…
It was a blessed opportunity to be present and to feel close to the smiling Pope who reprimands and motivates! From a Pope who prays and who asks that we pray for him! From him, who believes and who made us commit to defend the family above all!
From the Pope who simply CAPTIVATES… and left us without no other option than missing him already!