Monday, May 12, 2008


The parish of Dulce Nombre de María celebrated Pentecost with a vigil that began Saturday about 6:30 pm and ended about 4:00 am, Sunday morning. People came in from many rural villages – some walking, some in pickups or buses. After a procession with the Eucharist from Barrio Florida, about 2 kilometers from the church, the Dulce Nombre choir led some spirited singing, and then a group from the town of San Agustín sang. During all this time, Padre Efraín heard confessions.

Mass began at 10:00 pm and lasted until a little after midnight. After coffee and cookies, several other groups sang - from Oromilaca, Plan Grande, and Dolores. Some people left in busses about 2 am; I decided to go off and get some sleep at 3.

I am always amazed at the musical talent found here. But no group has the same style of music. The Dulce Nombre choir has a few set of instruments, including keyboard, drums, electrified guitars and plays loudly, influenced by the charismatic movement. The other groups are usually non-amplified and have all sorts of guitar-like instruments. The group from Oromilaca has many songs in the ranchero style, while the Plan Grande group – La Gran Familia – includes some songs that sound like cumbias.

Planting season will soon begin. Fields have been cleared and prepared for sowing. But the farmers await a few rains to soften the earth.

A traditional day to pray for rain is May 3, here celebrated as the Day of the Cross. (Before the revision of the church calendar it was the feast of the finding of the Cross, I believe.) That evening there was a good a soaking rain that lasted through the night. There were a few rains afterwards in Santa Rosa, but not much in Dulce Nombre.

Saturday, as we walked to the site where the procession would begin, it looked as if it would rain. There were also a few thunderclaps. I kept on hoping that it would wait until we returned to the church. I didn’t feel like getting soaked.

But, just as we stopped at the site where the procession would begin, it began to rain. Oh, no, I thought. But a young man at my side said, “La lluvia, una bendición de Dios.” The rain! What a blessing from God. Later another person remarked, “Que rica la lluvia.” How rich/delightful the rain is.

We walked to the church. I got soaked, as did almost everyone, even though someone let me walk part of the way under her umbrella. When we got to the church, I changed into a dry shirt (which most people did not have the luxury of doing) and my pants dried within a few hours.

As I look back on my experience, I realized that, even after 24 years in Iowa, I still have vestiges of the city outlook where rain is a pain, something to be avoided. However, I do remember how as a grad student I enjoyed walking in New York City during and after a shower on a hot summer day.

But for those who work on the land the first rains are a real blessing, since they offer the promise of food to feed the family. Rain is truly a blessing of God for them.

In many cultures, rain falling on a birthday, a wedding, or a special event is seen as a gift of God and a special sign of God’s blessing. Rain – water – is a gift of God, not something to be squandered not to be appropriated as one’s personal possession.

Water is not a commodity and so many people in Latin America and throughout the world are resisting efforts to privatize water. (See Vendana Shiva’s Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit.) Even the Vatican has warned that water must not be treated as a commodity; it is a public good and there is a right to water (Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine, 485).

But more than that water is for the people here an absolute need – not only for crops. They need good drinking water – unpolluted and easily available. I know a number of people working on water projects, but the needs are greater than the projects presently planned and the funds which are available. But there are efforts to “give drink to the thirsty.”

Rain – water – is truly a blessing from God. And so our response should be gratitude and a commitment to see that all may have water to drink. Writing this I remembered that the Gospel reading from the vigil was John 7: 37-39, which includes these words of Jesus:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes drink…. ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ”
May Christ satisfy our thirst and may our hearts, full of living water, share that water – both material and spiritual – with all God’s thirsty people.

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