MEXICO CITY – When their will slackens, some Mexicans are turning to their faith to break their dependence on alcohol and/or drugs by taking oaths to the Virgin of Guadalupe, whose basilica in this capital receives some 200 religious faithful each day who swear to leave their addictions behind.
“It’s impressive the number of people who come to take their oath. Each day we attend to about 200 people,” said Father Raymundo Maya Paz, the 59-year-old canon of the Basilica de Guadalupe and parish priest of Santa Maria de Guadalupe Capuchinas.
All sorts of people come to the church to promise to correct their course in life and live more healthily because “the Virgin of Guadalupe is a very big magnet that attracts them to find an incentive in their lives,” Maya said.
The trickle of the faithful increases to some 2,000 on the weekends, and the phenomenon is especially noteworthy on Mondays and during the first two weeks of January, after the Christmas holidays, he said.
“After the weekend and ... in the first half of January, there are huge numbers: men, women, young people, adults, single people, married people, widows and widowers, from all social levels,” Maya said.
Tonatiuh, 20, came to the basilica with his wife and mother-in-law to promise not to drink alcohol or steal for 45 days, a period that will end just before the Mexican Independence Day celebration in September.
“I came of my own free will to leave behind being an alcoholic. We’re starting little by little, when I make it (for 45 days) I’ll come back to renew my commitment,” said the young man, who acknowledged that he had been having problems with alcohol for months.
His friend Arturo, 29, made the same promise after a decade during which, he admitted, he had become used to drinking almost every day.
“There’s a lot of desire to change. My family is devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe, me – not so much,” said Arturo, who makes his living washing cars.
As parish priest of the chapel located just behind the Old Basilica, where people come to make promises of this kind, Maya said that the oaths taken are an expression of Catholic faith, of the sadness and the pain that having become dependent on some substance causes for people.
“The oath is a prayer, an orientation and motivation in the human and spiritual area. They swear for the time they freely want, with a profound commitment to keep their word,” the priest said.
Alcohol, tobacco and drug problems are the ones most prevalent among those who come to the chapel, but there are other dependencies as well, including gambling, Internet addiction, pornography, lying and others, the priest said.
Once they make their alliance with the Virgin, and to help them keep their promises, the chapel offers the faithful the support of a special group to help them stay on the straight and narrow.