VENEZUELA/CHILE, Maria Fischer •
“Thank you for letting me share my story,” says Luis Osvaldo Ortiz Oropeza, an Venezuelan who has been living in Santiago de Chile for four years. “If it is to give praise and glory to Christ and to spread love for Mary, I’m always happy for the Blessed Mother to be in the limelight. Because she is the one who is writing the missionary story in my life.” —
A missionary story of my life. A message in honor of World Communications Day that the universal Church celebrated on 16 May for the 55th time. “In order to tell the truth of life that becomes history” (cf. Message for the 54th World Communications Day, 24 January 2020), it is necessary to move beyond the complacent attitude that we “already know” certain things. Instead, we need to go and see them for ourselves, to spend time with people, to listen to their stories and to confront reality, which always in some way surprises us. “Open your eyes with wonder to what you see, let your hands touch the freshness and vitality of things, so that when others read what you write, they too can touch first-hand the vibrant miracle of life”. This was the advice that Blessed Manuel Lozano Garrido offered to his fellow journalists. This year, then, I would like to devote this Message to the invitation to “come and see”, which can serve as an inspiration for all communication that strives to be clear and honest, in the press, on the internet, in the Church’s daily preaching and in political or social communication. “Come and see!” This has always been the way that the Christian faith has been communicated, from the time of those first encounters on the banks of the River Jordan and on the Sea of Galilee.
It all begins with a question
“Along with saying hello, I would like to ask you the following: each pilgrim mother has a number or code the back. Sometime ago I was given a broken pilgrim mother that had been found in the bin and I lovingly restored it. After knowing the story, I was very excited to learn more about the Blessed Mother and I realized that the number on back was 457 or 957, and I wanted to find out what this meant.”
This message arrived from Santiago de Chile at the schoenstatt.org editorial office a few days ago. Motivated by the search for real stories about life, I asked … And it seemed as if my Pilgrim Mother in my office shrine who had spent some time in Venezuela with Christel Sonnekalb in 2004 and has since then been a schoenstatt.org collaborator, smiled.
Walking 10 days under her protection
Luis Ortiz is from Venezuela and has been living in Santiago de Chile for four years. He found a Pilgrim Mother image in the bin that was half broken, forgotten, lost, abandoned, injured by her pilgrimage through the streets. The risk of the one who goes out…
Luis relates: In case, she once again won me over. There is a particular story behind all this. In my country, Venezuela, devotions to the Blessed Mother are not “popular”. Nevertheless, the day I left some friends who are nuns gave me a picture of the Blessed Mother on a card and a consecration prayer, asking to say it every day, together with the Rosary. And so it was for 10 intense days of journeying, where I most definitely did not feel unprotected at any point. Arriving at the place where I was going to be staying for some time, I found this image and on the back, I got to know your shrine.”
Bringing consolation to people in situations of risk and dispair
I asked Luis for a few photos of the Pilgrim Mother and those that he sent me touched my heart. Nothing sweet with flowers and rosy clouds, but the brutal and real life of the streets.
“The photos were taken at the Venezuelan embassy last winter where there were more than 300 homeless and unemployed people affected by the pandemic. They were asking for humanitarian assistance and a flight to return home. In that moment, in addition to taking food, I always wanted the Blessed Mother to console the many people who were sheltered there, filling them with confidence and hope.”
The other photos are with people on the streets and addicted to drugs, those who spent the winter in the squares of Santiago, and they are there because society has forgotten about them. I would go with my bicycle loaded with sandwiches and tea, so that they can experience a moment of charity, a gesture of love. The maternal figure for a person on the streets is important, and with the Blessed Mother, they welcome us with much love and respect, despite the fear they feel.”
I want my country to belong to the Blessed Mother
“I am Venezuelan, and I wish that my country could enjoy the presence of the Blessed Mother. There are already a few pilgrim mothers in some states. But I would like to promote this devotion more widely. My heart jumped for joy when I read that your Pilgrim Mother visited Venezuela twice. Praise be to God!
For me, it is very special to see the actions of the Blessed Mother in my life and around me.
Venezuela and the whole world need much prayer and I know that the Blessed Mother intercedes and protects the many people that we pray for.
I am certain that many Venezuelans who are abroad and, in some way, experienced the presence of the Blessed Mother in the shrine. We don’t want to keep this for ourselves, but we want our Venezuelan brothers and sisters to also experience this. For this reason, I sent pictures of the Blessed Mother to two parishes in Venezuela where the parish priests are spreading it to the people of God. In total, there are four parishes where, with the help of my friends, we can plant seeds of love for the Blessed Mother.
I would like to be a Missionary and have the blessing to take Our Lady on mission. I have already been doing it as a small service of love to people living on the streets but soon, I will take her to Europe, along the road to Santiago de Compostela, so that I can evangelize along the way and promote devotion and knowledge of the shrine and the Blessed Mother.
Glory to God for all that he has accomplished through the love of the Blessed Mother in my life. May this testimony serve so that many people dare to draw closer to God, to the God who sleeps in the streets, to the God who roams through the night seeking shelter, the God who flees from wars in search of a better future for his family.
May the Blessed Mother make our hearts sweeter, closer, more serving!… May our life be an example and a reflection of the merciful love that God has for us and that he wanted to express through the tender gaze of our mother who waits for each of us in every shrine, in every pilgrim mother in every corner where a Marian devotion begins and confirm that we are all hers, and that she uses us as her instruments.
May we never shirk from the mission and the opportunity to serve those who suffer, to serve the Christ who shines in the face of our brother. “
Come and see
“Journalism too, as an account of reality, calls for an ability to go where no one else thinks of going: a readiness to set out and a desire to see. Curiosity, openness, passion. We owe a word of gratitude for the courage and commitment of all those professionals – journalists, camera operators, editors, directors – who often risk their lives in carrying out their work. Thanks to their efforts, we now know, for example, about the hardships endured by persecuted minorities in various parts of the world, numerous cases of oppression and injustice inflicted on the poor and on the environment, and many wars that otherwise would be overlooked. It would be a loss not only for news reporting, but for society and for democracy as a whole, were those voices to fade away. Our entire human family would be impoverished,” said the Pope.
It would be a loss for Schoenstatt to not know the story of Luis Ortiz and his pilgrim mother.
Original: Spanish. Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, Cape Town, South Africa