Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 4, 2006
A Guatemalan missionary's lot can be a weary one
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
I left the rectory at 8 a.m. and arrived in the Beleju region an hour later. I was to celebrate the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Sebastian and at 3 p.m. a second Mass at San Pedro's Church a 10-minute drive from St. Sebastian.
Getting off the truck at St. Sebastian I was met immediately by a few members of the church council and led to the kitchen for coffee and time to do some planning for the Mass and the usual bit of gossiping.
Head full of homilies
With Mass fast approaching my homily is pretty well always on my mind. Since we're celebrating Mass several times in the week and the Scripture varies from day to day, I need to produce a few homilies each week.
There must be easier ways, but somehow I manage. Last night I worked on the homily and did not get far as I felt tired. I went to bed and at 3 a.m. I woke up and worked on it for another hour. Then back to bed.
As I arrived at San Sebastian Beleju at about 9 a.m., quite a few people were already congregating around the church. I shook many hands and was led by the president of the church council to their primitive kitchen by the church.
The president's wife was busy cooking food for us. She looked overworked and a bit drained. I felt sorry for her and I couldn't say much to her as she only speaks her indigenous language - Poconci.
By the time Mass began a half-hour later the church was full with about 1,000 people. Mass had been scheduled for 10 a.m., but because many people were lined up for confessions it started more than an hour late.
During confessions the choir led various hymns in the Poconci language and the people joined in with gusto.
There are no confessionals - the cramped, closed little area we use in Canada for confessions. In Guatemala all is in the open. They place a chair in front of the altar and that's where people come, kneel and confess their sins.
I listen diligently but I don't have a clue what they're confessing as they speak in Poconci. Spanish is a foreign language for most. I share a few words of encouragement in Spanish and give them the absolution as well as a penance which is usually to offer the Mass for their family and their community.
In the afternoon I celebrated a second Mass at San Pedro's Church, the second of three Catholic churches in that area. About 700 people were at that Mass. The church can hold up to 1,000 people, or so believes Franciscano, the president of the local church council.
This Sunday was especially quiet with no baptisms and no weddings. But confessions, yes! Always!
By the time I started the hour drive home, it was already dark. Julio, a young man wishing to join the Oblates was with me. Along the way we had to climb a steep hill. To my surprise the truck couldn't quite make it. So I backed the truck to a level area and tried again.
The truck had no guts. So I locked in the four-wheel drive. I still could not climb that hill. Then I realized the light for the four-wheel drive component had not lit. I backed the truck again and at the bottom were two men who were on their way to their home in Cala, an hour away. They suggested that I try climbing the hill in second gear instead of first.
Bless the wingless angels
So I did and the truck flew up that hill and other hills with no problem. I told Julio God has a way of sending us the right angels when we need help the most. God bless these two wingless angels who spared me much travail in a dark night out in nowhere land.
The next day I called young Paco, a wiz as a mechanic. Within five minutes he was back. The problem was a broken wire that he fixed at no cost. Thank God for angels of the night and angels of the day.
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