Mystery of Mission

I am back in Boston, but I’ve wanted to post something about my final days in Ecuador, so here is the one last post that finishes the trip. There’ll be more anecdotes and reflections in the future (oh, there are many of those!), but as far as a sort of real blogging of the trip, this will be the last post. Thank you to those who have accompanied me, I hope it’s been a blessing for you.

A week ago last Sunday was my Mom’s 4th anniversary, a day after my father’s anniversary. My mother always had a devotion to the poor and to all who suffered. I remember as a young boy with my brother each Christmas time helping her wrap boxes for presents for children in Appalachia. For a number of years I remember helping her make her Friday morning phone calls to the elderly homebound. And even with a small income – and a fixed income for many years – she supported many different charitable causes. At the time she died, she was supporting 30 of them.

That my Mom and Dad are together is a great thing. But I think it’s worth sharing here the song that my Mom and I shared at the end of her life, Pescador de Hombres. If you’ve followed the posts from this journey to Ecuador, the words in English might resonate. The mission is always shared …. I also received yesterday a picture from the first Communion of the disabled girl Juliana, which I described in an earlier posting: (https://alivingmonstrance.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/angels-were-singing/). This is the 9-year-old who has had 4 heart attacks already, who received her first Communion in the remote monastery. Pictured here are her aunt and uncle. What great timing with the song here, my mother’s mission. I’ve also put an older picture from years ago of my Mom with my sister Lisa….

LORD, WHEN YOU CAME TO THE SEASHORE

1. Lord, when you came to the seashore you weren’t seeking the wise or the wealthy, but only asking that I might follow.

REFRAIN: O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing, Kindly smiling, my name you were saying; All I treasured, I have left on the sand there; Close to you, I will find other seas.

2. Lord, you knew what my boat carried: neither money nor weapons for fighting, but nets for fishing my daily labor. (R)

3. Lord, have you need of my labor, hands for service, a heart made for loving, my arms for lifting the poor and broken? (R)

4. Lord, send me where you would have me, to a village, or heart of the city; I will remember that you are with me. (R)

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In Quevedo, all the attention was on the novena and preparation for the feista of the Divino Nino. There was a procession and Mass each evening. The procession would begin in one of the communities, and about 75 to 100 people would walk the distance, probably about 1 to 3 miles, to the shrine of the Divino Nino. The final day included the Caminata, which was advertised on a few large billboards in the city. For this, thousands came out to process from one of the churches in the city to the shrine, it seemed to me to be about 5 miles or so. A number of the children were dressed like the Divino Nino, with pink attire and the blue belt …

We arrived at the Shrine in the evening, where there was a stage setup for music and the Mass, a band playing traditional music, some fireworks, and a whole number of food vendors.

All in all, it was a very exhausting month of preparation for Padre Julian and the team, but everyone was pleased in the end with the day. I prepared some videos and photos for the Facebook site of the Shrine – if I find the time, I’ll try to post them up here on this page and update it if anyone’s interested. The video of the crazy cow, or the vaka loca, is worth it. It’s a part of the fireworks entertainment, and it’s basically a guy running around under the cover of a fake cardboard cow with sparks shooting out all over the place from it’s head … well, right after the vaka loca, I got seized and had to pass on the fireworks display to go and eat dinner with the bishop and priests:

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A few days after the fiesta, Padre Julian and I went to the beach city of Manta for a day, where there are some of Ecuador’s better beaches. I didn’t get any photos because I had forgotten my camera when we went out for the beach and getting around. But it was a good day for relaxing and getting out of the more urban hustle and bustle.

Early in the day, all the fisherman put out their catches and bring them onto the beach and into a marketplace for buying and selling. I took a walk to go and see what was going on. At the end of all the fishermen were some large fishing boats in drydock. Some were being refurbished, it looked like one was being built from scratch and then another one particularly stood out. There was the boat up on wooden supports, and there was a man working on the hull, patching up all the cracks and holes. Obviously, when you’re out at sea, you can’t see the hull, and you can’t do any fixin’. When you get the boat out of the sea and into drydock, up on the supports, then you can see all the problems and you can get to work fixing them.

It reminded me of the need we have of putting our ship into drydock every now and then, to find the problems in our life and to fix them. When we’re in the midst of the action of life, we can’t see our hull. We start to take on water, maybe we don’t move as well as we used to through the ups and downs of life. We have problems and we don’t know where they come from. Then it’s a good time to get to drydock, take a look at that hull, and get to work fixing it. Then, we’re ready to get back to the sea of life renewed.

When Jesus walked along the sea of Galilee, he saw two men casting nets in the sea, and two men on the shore mending their nets. He called all of them. He wanted good casting and good mending. He wants both for us, too.

The high seas of life can be absorbing. We can find a thousand excuses to keep on going despite the problems in our heart. Don’t forget time for drydock.

And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.  (Mt 4:21-22)

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In the smaller cities, there are little pockets of more American-type places, like malls and shopping centers. It has the feel of an American mall, and the people generally are attracted to go, if they can afford to. The key word, the buzz word, is “shopping”. It’s written – in english – on the sides of these big shopping centers. That’s it. SHOPPING. And that’s what they call these places, just “shopping”, in their best english.

In one of the shopping centers in Quevedo, there is a modern movie theatre, and so a few of us went to the theatre and saw the movie Valiente, or Brave. It is a 3-D animation movie from Pixar about a teenage princess in Scotland who desires to live her own life despite the overbearing nature of her mother, who wants her to fulfill her ideal of future queen. Well, if you haven’t seen the movie, I might spoil it, so you might want to skip to the next paragraph…

The girl in anger with her mother’s overbearing attitude tears her family quilt, separating her mother from herself and her father. She finds a witch in a forest, who gives her a special potion that will change her mother. Her mother takes it, and turns into a bear. The spell is permanent after 2 days, and the girl receives a riddle to undo the spell. Well, the mother is then a hunted bear on the run, and her daughter takes her out into nature outside the kingdom, into her world. There the daughter teaches her mother how to live in the wild, as a bear would need to. They begin to bond there. There’s one telling scene where the mother, in order to get into the river to catch fish like her daughter, takes her crown off of her head and places it on a rock nearby. In the end, the girl sews up the tear in the family tapestry, signifying her own taking her mother back, and after this whole process of reconciling, the family is reunited. So, where am I going with it? Well, the mother had to come down and take off her crown to open the door to reconciling. That’s the key to mending the tear. In the tapestry … and in the nets of the Gospel …

So, taking a step back a bit, we got to the movie theatre, and I’m with Padre Julian and the man who takes care of the Shrine property, with his significant other and their 1 year old daughter. They are on the poor end of things down there, and so it was their first time ever to a movie, even to the shopping mall. We are first looking for a place to buy an industrial size mop and bucket for the Shrine, but this too is a new concept, so finding one is difficult. No luck. The next thing was to buy something for the baby’s mother to put over her, because they are not prepared for the cold air conditioning inside the mall. We head into the movies then with two new large boxes of popcorn and some drinks, also a new thing. We even had an assistant come and help us mount the new, sophisticated tray onto the modern seat, next to Padre Julian. Well, it was there no more then a few seconds when both of the boxes of popcorn fell on the ground, spilling everywhere. The assistant runs to get another box of popcorn and brings it back. A few seconds later, that one is on the floor too. We get rid of the tray, get another 2 boxes, and then the movie begins. Well, the sound is so loud that the little baby can’t stand it. Crying, screaming. So after everything, the couple leave with their daughter to take a taxi home, and Julian and I watched the movie… I thought to myself: this doesn’t fit. All this shopping stuff, the commercialism from America, it doesn’t fit. It’s like we’re trying to make this society like our own, like the mother with her daughter in the movie. All the commotion and troubles in the encounter with “shopping” reveals the big tear between us and them, and the commercialism ain’t fixing it. We can’t send the people here our modern commercial stuff. We need to be humble and come to them, take the crown off our heads. That’s the only way to mend the tear between Latin America and the USA. That’s at the core of mission …

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In one of our home visits in Quevedo, we met one of the clowns in the local circus act called, Circo de Las Pelusas. They have a great popularity in Ecuador, and with their clean act they appeal to children. The man we met was in preparation to receive the sacrament of Confirmation:

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On my flight back, I was sitting next to two Haitian women who were returning to Boston from a visit to their homeland. As it turns out, they are parishioners in Waltham and know the same pastor there that I know. We had a great conversation the whole ride, it was a gift and blessing. Of course they invited me to go to Haiti, but I told them that one new culture and language was enough for me right now, never mind Creole and French. I’m hoping to stop by a Mass in their parish sometime soon.

But the very next day I was continuing on in m reading and came across this passage. Now, I don’t know where my relationship with Ecuador and the village there is ultimately leading, but this story reinforces the message that I shared in a youth group meeting earlier in the month: great things start small:

It all started with one man who loved Haiti. Beginning in 1967, Harry Hosey used to visit Haiti every year. Each time he went, he was touched by the people and their needs, and so each year he tried to do a little more to help them. In 1978, a Haitian priest invited him to visit a parish where the people were suffering terribly from a drought. The extent of the deprivation convinced him that it was time to find others who would share his concern and join him in outreach to his new Haitian friends.

When he returned to Nashville he told his story to the people of St. Henry’s Parish. He not only succeeded in convincing the parish to make a six-month financial commitment to that Haitian parish, but he found Theresa Patterson, the ally he needed to being something that would really make a difference.

St. Henry’s commitment planted a seed. The parish decided to make its financial commitment ongoing. The next year, Theresa Patterson accompanied Harry to Haiti. Then, as the two of them talked, the seed of a new idea began to grow: other parishes could get involved in similar projects. In 1996, after eighteen years of development, 292 parishes have become involved in Harry Hosey’s project, now know as the “Haiti Parish Twinning Program.”

Reflecting on the growth of the program, Theresa Patterson says:

I’m not a person of great vision, but I do believe that the mission of the Church is to link us together. I think every parish in the United States should have a connection with another parish in the Third World. That’s how we will grow as a Church…

I feel that there’s a great need in the Church for lay people to get involved in hands-on mission work. I’ve found that people have a real hunger and thirst to do that. When we do, it takes us out of our narrow focus on ourselves…

We need to understand the people of the Church in other parts of the world. We share the same faith, but our lives are so different. We can share material things, but we learn so much more when we meet the people. When we are involved in twinning, we are involved as pay people with lay people, we make personal contact and that allows us to learn from their spirituality…

Every day I thank God for the way this has grown. I’ve seen so many little miracles through the years. I feel sure that God has had a hand in it all. I think this is what we are meant to be as Church.
(Sharing Faith Across the Hemisphere, p.203-4)

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And a few final thoughts on the mystery of Christ’s love revealed in the mission of the Church.

The missionaries … live out a unique and privileged vocation in the Church. As they travel in some of the poorest, most hidden and forgotten areas of the world, they are there as people called and sent. By their presence, they become living links that forge and strengthen the bonds between the communities that send them and the communities that receive them. As the missionaries enter into the life of the people who receive them, they become bridges of international relations: not of the sort that are negotiated in the U.N. assembly or bartered in the meetings of the International Monetary Fund, but rather of the type that are built in living rooms, on park benches, and in parish halls. While they perform an inestimable amount of service, the greatest is ultimately the sharing of day-to-day relationships – and most especially, the common relationship they have together as human beings in community, as people of faith who stand as equals before God.
(Sharing Faith Across the Hemisphere, p. 195)

A short parable I’ve heard from a priest one time ….

A man once was walking along and all of a sudden fell into a deep pit, from which he could find no way out. So every now and then over the course of the day he would call out for help. At one point, a doctor passed by. The man shouted, “Please help me!” The doctor wrote him a prescription for anxiety medication, handed it down, and went on his way. The man thought, “How is this going to help me?” A little while later a priest came walking by. The man shouted, “Please help me!” So the priest reached into his pocket and took out a prayer card to hand down. He gave him a blessing and went on his way. The man thought to himself, “How is this going to help me?” A short while later, a CEO came walking by. “Please help me!” the man shouted. The CEO wrote out a check and handed it down, and then went on his way. And the man thought, “How is this going to help me?”

A little while later, another man was passing by, and so the man in the pit shouted again, “Please help me!” The man stopped and looked at him. Excited, the trapped man said, “Please help me, I’m trapped in this pit!” All of a sudden, the man jumped down and landed in the pit with the trapped man. Stunned and frustrated, the other looked at him and said, “Now we’re both trapped! What did you do that for?!”

The man paused, and smiling at him said, “I know the way out.”

Jesus does this for us. When we let him do it for us, then we too can know the way out. Then we can do it for others. This is the core of the mystery of mission …

Jerome

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