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By Dan Valenti (Aug 25, 2009)
The rain showers that began the morning of Encuentro Latino were "tears of joy from Jesus and Mary" for the gathering of pilgrims celebrating Hispanic heritage, Divine Mercy, and The feast of the Queenship of Mary. So said a pilgrim as she stepped off one of the nearly 70 busses that made their way to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Saturday, Aug. 22. In all, more than 4,000 pilgrims attended.

Father Dante Aguero, MIC, main celebrant of the 2 p.m. liturgy at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine on the south lawn of Eden Hill, serves in the Marian mission at Santa Fe, Argentina. He told a story in an interview before Mass. The story concerns a dream that his mother had. He shared the story during his homily.

A Mom's Prophetic Dream
"The best part of being here to participate in this liturgy is that it is the way Our Lady wanted it, as a way to continue bringing me closer to God," Fr. Dante said. "Fifteen years ago, my mother had a dream. She saw me speaking to a huge number of people seated on a hillside. In this dream, she saw me crown the Blessed Virgin Mary. I only found out an hour and a half ago that I would be crowning Mary on her Queenship as the last day of Marian Week [celebrated each day on Eden Hill beginning Aug. 15]. When I heard this, I realized my mother's dream had come true, just as she saw it. I cried when it [sunk in]."

Breaking out in a wide smile and his face beaming with joy, Fr. Dante said he would call his mother that night and tell her about it.

He then spoke of a life-saving dream he had of Our Lady when he was a seminarian. Life was difficult for him, and he said he was "living in sin." Father Dante said he almost gave up his vocation, but one night Mary came to him in a dream and "gave me a unique experience." He said the dream was unlike a regular dream in its vividness and sense of reality.

"Mary's face was radiant and beautiful," Fr. Dante said. "She didn't speak using human words, but she communicated her total love for me through her eyes, which were full of the most tenderness, gentleness, and compassion I had ever seen. She told me to remain a Marian and become a priest. I immediately felt love — 'liquid' love that poured into my body. She told me of her love for me, 'not because you are holy or not holy, but because you are my son.' Before that dream I was dead. After that dream I came alive."

Expressions of Gratefulness and Joy
Many priests and deacons joined Fr. Dante on the altar during Mass, including last year's main celebrant, Fr. Diego Maximino, MIC. Father Diego expressed his gratitude and joy at being on Eden Hill for this special day of encounter with our Lord and Our Lady.

"It's such a delight, to again be among so many good people," Fr. Diego said.

Deacon Benito Torres from Our Lady of Angels Church in the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., said he was paying his first visit to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy for Encuentro Latino.

"To me, being here for this celebration is a new experience," Deacon Benito said. "This is my first time, and I feel so in touch with Divine Mercy, in a wonderful, special way. It's beautiful here." Benito said he is learning about God's mercy through the Diary of St. Faustina. He called Divine Mercy "beyond our comprehension or measure. God's love for us is total. It doesn't matter how sinful we are. He is always open to forgive us, as long as we honestly repent in our hearts."

Duo Preludio has them Singing, Clapping
The festive liturgy featured a lively music program led by Hector Reyes of Duo Preludo Ministries from Miami, Fla. Thousands of pilgrims sang full-throated with the hymns, clapped time with their hands, or thrust outstretched arms to the sky to weave back and forth to the tempo. The Spirit was underfoot and overhead, and the south lawn of the Hill rocked with excitement.

Father Anthony Gramlich, MIC, rector of the National Shrine, opened the liturgy with a prelude, delivering a gracious welcome to Fr. Dante in Spanish, extolling the virtues of this dynamic, young priest. Other Marian priests and brothers heard confessions, concelebrated Mass, helped with crowd control, and ministered to the assembly, including many as Eucharistic ministers.

As these things so often seem to do, just as the liturgy began and Fr. Dante walked into the crowd to bless the pilgrims with holy water, the sun broke out as if on cue. A tropical curtain of heat and humidity swooped down on the Hill. Umbrellas earlier used to protect pilgrims from rain popped up again, this time to provide shade from the sun.

"Pulero! Soberbio!" a young man yelled out from the crowd, Spanish for "Neat! Superb!" The people laughed and clapped.

Crowds of people surrounded Fr. Dante as he weaved his way up and down the roped off corridors, asking for blessings. He repeatedly dipped the aspersorium into a bucket, assisted by Br. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC, and doused them. Signs of the cross immediately were made in unison, like spiritual choreography.

'This is Why They Come'
In the front row of the right wing of the outdoor shrine, an elderly woman silently recited prayers in Spanish during Mass. Her eyes were closed. Her head nodded slightly, as if she were hearing God speak to her. She looked saintly, an embodiment of humility and holiness.

Alberto Rosario, who earlier had emceed witness testimonies and children's activities including the ever-popular breaking of the piƱatas, stood to the side of the Duos Preludio choir. He nodded to the old woman, whose wrinkles 'spoke' of a long life filled with joy and sorrow tempered by wisdom. She had seen and experienced it all.

"This is why they come," Alberto whispered. He meant that pilgrims come to Eden Hill, a sacred place, to encounter God — that's what Encuentro means: to encounter.

The steamy afternoon included a Rosary for Life, the Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven, singing of the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, Benediction, and blessing of holy articles.

In a special touch at the end, Br. Jason Lewis, MIC, spoke to the crowd in Spanish, telling a few jokes and thanking them for their faith. He then called the Marian postulants, novices, and brothers present to the altar. The crowd gave them a rousing round of applause.

It was a special touch: God, exuberantly experienced, Latino style.

Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of Dan Valenti's Mercy Journal.

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liezy - Aug 29, 2009

wow! what a beautiful dream father Dante. It is obvious that Mother Mary wanted you to be a priest by appearing in your dream like that.
I keep praying that I may see Mary in my dream but I guess I'm not as fortunate as you father. I think she only come to good and special people like you or father calloway and other very good holy priests.
Last week I went to Banneux(in Belgium)with my family where Mary appeared to this little girl called Mariette in 1933. There I asked Mary to find me a good priest so that I could go into confession and there stood a young priest with a holy bible in his hand. I was so happy and came over to him and said that I would like to go to confession, and he replied '' yes of course. That's why I came'' Mother Mary has answered my prayer! Seriously that was the most beautiful confession I have ever had in my 16 yrs of living in The Netherlands.