Monday, November 30, 2015

The last day of November

Today we ended November in Plan Grande with the novenario of José Arnaldo Sánchez. There was a Mass in the afternoon and this evening many gathered in the house of his widow and children for the rosary.

I had gone to the velorio on the night after his death and the funeral Mass the next day. I had a visitor and so it was good for him to see part of the daily life of people here.

Arnaldo died as the result of an accident. I think he was examining a car when it tolled over on him.  After several days in the regional hospital he died.

I most remember him for the day he helped me to start my car when the battery was low. But I know his wife who is one of the village’s catechist and he was the brother of several of the men I know here, including the grandfather of my confirmation godson.

Funerals are times for prayer, but they are also social events, times for people to get together. People gather to pray in the house during the velorio, the wake. and for nine days until the novenario, the ninth day.

Padre German dropped by for the prayer during the velorio and for the funeral Mass. At the novenario, the people prayed the rosary and asked me to say a few words. I ended my short words with the Canticle of Simeon and the closing prayers of Night Prayer.

Then coffee, tamales, and chop suey were served to all – included the groups (mostly men) who were standing outside and nearby in the road. People will probably stay several hours to comfort the family.

At the novenario, as at the velorio, a five year old kid – Elmer Noé – attached himself to me. His father lives in a nearby town and he is the nephew of the widow. He also teaches in a nearby school.

Elmer Noé is a very affectionate kid who held my hand and sat on my lap for a while. He also held the hand of his great-grandmother who was seated in front of me.

He also is a sharp kid, knowing the prayers and songs. He even led the first decade of the rosary during the novenario.

He is not the only sharp kid I met today. After Mass, I heard someone playing the drums. I looked over and saw it was the 18 month old son of one of the musicians. What surprised me was how good he was and how much he enjoyed playing the drums – especially the cymbal. I encouraged his father to keep up the good work with him so that the child can develop his musical talents.

Between Mass and the novenario I had some time to work and eat dinner. My neighbor Gloria came by to ask a few questions about the coming meeting of communion ministers and to invite me to say a few words at the novenario.

As she left I noticed the sky in the west – a beautiful rose color, between the clouds and the mountains as the sun was setting.

It was a blessing to see the beauty, a sign of God’s presence here.

I recalled the sunset in my words at the wake, noting that God worked and shone in the life of Arnaldo – and this can be seen in his family.

All this is a reminder to me of the importance of being aware, with eyes open, to the many mysterious ways God shows his presence among us.

Sunday morning I shared another sign of God's loving presence among us as twenty-nine entered the catechumenate at morning Mass in Dulce Nombre. If they persevere, they will be baptized at the Easter Vigil.

The rite is simple - a welcome at the church door, a signing of the catechumens with a cross by their sponsors, and the handing of a bible to them. What always moves me is when the sponsors kneel before the catechumens to sign their feet with the Cross.

I spent some time with the catechumens that morning; I asked them to share what touched them during the rite. I then encouraged them to recall the significance of their sponsors kneeling before them. They are children of God; they are made in the image of God. The sponsors are kneeling before a sign of the presence of God, just as they might kneel before Christ present in the Eucharist in a tabernacle.

This message is important for so many of the people who are treated like dirt, as if they were worth nothing. They need to hear that they are children of God, of infinite worth. To have a sponsor kneel before them can be a moment of revelation - of God's infinite love for them.

As I write these words I think of Thomas Merton's famous revelation at Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, which can be found in his journals as well as in  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.
   In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream....   There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.... There are no strangers! ... If only we could see each other [as we really are] all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.... I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other....
Would that we would open ourselves to worship the God present within all of us - made in God's image.

No comments: