Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 5, 2006
Blessed are the faithful
Guatemalan peasants are poor in money, but wealthy in faith
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
I'm forever amazed at the faith and goodness of God's people in this poor Central American country of Guatemala. I've been a missionary here for more than a year and I'm touched by their kindness, understanding, support and especially their faith.
Off and running
Yesterday, Sunday, was a full day. It started on Saturday afternoon when I drove for the first time to Las Vigas, (not Las Vegas!) one of the 70 communities we serve in the Diocese of Quiche.
I had never been to Las Vigas before and as I left the main road to reach the community, the road was so bad I doubted that I could make it all the way there. But my faithful Toyota steed didn't blink an eye and got me to the church on time. The problem was nobody else was there.
People passed by and I inquired about the 3 p.m. Mass. Nobody had heard about it. I pulled out the monthly agenda they must have received and showed them.
Eventually a little group of passersby discussed the situation and suggested that I come back Sunday after the 10 a.m. Mass at San Antonio's that's up the hill and down the road a few kilometres.
So I agreed to return after the Mass at San Antonio which was preceded by the regular 8:30 Mass that I presided at Chicam n. I told them that the earliest I could make it to Las Vigas would be around 11:30 a.m., but it could also be a longer wait. They promised they would be there.
As it turned out they were, but I wasn't. At that time I was just finishing a surprisingly long series of confessions at San Antonio's. Just about everyone came to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation.
A packed house
I was surprised that people didn't leave as the church was just as packed as it was an hour and a half before when I began confessions. As I was making the final preparations for Mass someone came and mentioned that there were three babies to be baptized.
It was then that I decided to relax and quit pushing the agenda forward. Let there be what was to be and Las Vigas was out of my mind.
As it turned out the presumed 10 a.m. Mass at San Antonio's actually began at 11:30 and ended two hours later at 1:30 p.m., after which I was invited for lunch. I declined, thanking the people and telling them that I was late for the Mass at Las Vigas and that I had to go.
When I arrived there it was 2 p.m., two hours and 30 minutes later than I had hoped. I expected that the people would be long gone but the church was packed. These are people of genuine faith and they felt that it was worth waiting as long as was necessary since they hadn't had Mass for more than two months and probably would not have one for another two more months.
I began to appreciate the love that people have for their Church and the Eucharist in particular. They didn't mention confessions and neither did I.
The main reason for not mentioning confessions was that I had a fourth Mass to celebrate at 3 p.m. at Las Culebras. I told the people at Las Vigas that after the Mass not to take offence if I were to leave quickly. By 2:45 p.m., we had finished the Mass and the people understood I had to go. They were very grateful that I came. For one thing they had run out of consecrated hosts that they share during their regular lay-led Sunday services.
In contrast when I arrived at Las Culebras the church door was locked and there was no one in sight. So I went knocking at a couple of doors. People told me they didn't know there was a scheduled Mass that afternoon.
One elderly man told me that the Mass program was at the church. We went there and he pulled out the program and read that indeed there was a Mass scheduled for 3 p.m. He quickly went knocking at a few doors and soon the little church was full as the news quickly spread around. We celebrated the sacrament of Reconciliation and then the Eucharist.
Just before Mass was to begin I went outside for a breath of fresh air and saw a group of some 10 teenagers hanging out nearby. I went over to them, shook hands with all of them and gently invited them to come to Mass. Then I went in and got ready.
As I was about to begin, in came the young men who devotedly attended Mass. It was like the crowning of a moving day where time and again people taught me about real faith, genuine love of Christ, love of the Church and of the Eucharist.
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