Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 30, 2006
A savvy woman saves the day
Rain in Guatemala makes a priest's day unpredictable
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
This is winter in Guatemala which means that it's basically the rainy season. It rains practically every day. The rain pours down with a vengeance.
I was preaching in the "church" of Cumbre Del Rosario lately when the rain started pouring down. The church doubles as the local primary school and it has a tin roof. The noise of the rain on that roof sounded more like a major hail attack.
During the homily, I raised the volume of my voice as the violence of the rain increased. After a short while I simply gave up and the congregation and I burst into laughter. I had lost that battle and it was time to move on, skipping the Prayer of the Faithful and on to the Offertory.
The next day I was to visit the community of San Pablo II in the morning and Cruz Chut in the afternoon. I parked the truck at Cumbre Del Amay and met two men of San Pablo II who were waiting for me. They acted as my guides as I had never been there before, and they also carried my backpack.
Fortunately I had with me two walking sticks made of tough, light aluminum. They are also adjustable and I had used these when I made the pilgrimage to Santiago of Compostela in Spain two years ago. As I slipped and sloshed around the muddy trail, I gave thanks for that simple invention. Without them I would have been a muddy mess by the time I arrived at the community an hour later.
San Pablo II hadn't had a visit from the priests for four months. The people were happy to see the three of us. They served us a refaccion, as they call it, a light lunch with cookies and coffee. Then I was off hearing confessions. Mass included three baptisms. The stipend for a baptism is 10 quetzals or $1.66. That pretty well exhausted their funds so there was no collection and no lunch after the Mass.
Then we headed out to Cumbre del Amay and, once there, I had to drive the truck backward on a narrow slippery trail for over a kilometre as the fence had been locked and I had no way to turn the truck around. Then on to La May where I parked the truck on the roadside. Two men were waiting there and led us to the community of Cruz Chut an hour away.
Preparing for the bishop
A bit of a lunch there also and a long session of confessions as several adults were getting ready to receive Confirmation. Our new bishop will be coming to Chicam n in a month or so for Confirmation and they were eager to prepare for it.
(There are no confessionals proper in any of the communities I've been to so far. Usually there's a chair for the priest in front of the altar. People just come up, kneel and confess.)
By the time confessions and Mass were over, it was past 7 p.m. All of it had taken more than two hours. They insisted we eat something before we go.
By the time we left, it was pitch dark. I hadn't brought my flashlight and a two-kilometre walk on a muddy, slippery trail awaited me. We started out feeling our way, sort of groping in the dark.
But there was hope and there was Providence, as shortly, around a bend appeared some 30 young people returning home from somewhere holding torches, small cans filled with fuel at the end of a stick. The adult leader of the group handed over his torch to my guide and we carried on, saved by my two faithful companions, my walking sticks.
I only slipped in the mud once.
I got to the truck and was on my way to Chicam n, a trip on primitive roads that would take nearly two hours. As it turned out, it took a little more as I discovered that I had a flat tire. Fortunately I was only about five kilometres from Chicam n. It was dark and I had never yet needed to replace a tire on this truck. I wasn't even sure if I had a spare tire.
I locked the truck and started walking home carrying my backpack. It was a long walk - or it appeared to be.
The next day, Sister Rosa drove me to the truck. She also helped me change the tire, as I had never explored the recent tire-changing technology. But she had.
Praise God for great, gifted and savvy women, I said to myself as I trucked back home.
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