By David Jimenez
Originally published in the Spring 2013 Edition of the
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Vocations Newsletter
Late at night in the village of Guadalupe in the Petén region of Guatemala, I encountered what seemed to be an inexplicable presence. Removed from the busy lights and bustle of the city, the sky glimmered with an infinite number of stars. The wonderful winter breeze felt as refreshing as a summer evening back home. The small chapel of the town soon filled as stoic, quiet abuelitas took their smiling, adorable nietas into this holy place.
The young children became fascinated with the saint cards and images of Mary and Jesus brought by our group, captivated by something so simple and seemingly unremarkable. One could only grin at the innocent giggles and smiles of the children as they heard our broken Spanish and even more awful Q’eqchi'. The Mass erupted with the sound of boisterous instruments and songs. Although our Maryknoll Priests and Maryknoll Brother played their part, it was the laity that really brought life to the ceremony as they read the Word of God, surrounded the altar with incense, venerated the Eucharist, and prayed to La Virgen de Guadalupe. During the Mass, four languages of Spanish, Q’eqchi', English, and Latin were all spoken at one point, the best possible example of the universal Church. During the handshakes of peace, one could see the friendliness, cheerfulness, and respect that everyone held for one another. Indeed, it was not the firm handshake one encounters in the United States, one of firmness, strength, and dominance. It is instead a very warm touch of hands, a sign of communion and friendship. Far from the great cathedrals of Paris and Rome, one could feel more in this tiny chapel the presence of God than anywhere in the world.
|Br. Marty Shea, MM|
As a fractured Church in the United States seeks to rediscover its own identity and purpose, my encounter with the Church of Latin America is a powerful reminder to return to our core. As Father David said, the “Church must be about people not issues”. We must, as the people of the Petén do every day, let Christ enter into our lives, sharing intimately in our struggles, poverty, and deepest hopes. We must not treat Christ as an outdated icon, a political tool, or a cultural artifact, but a person who invites us to walk with him, him, to follow him, and labor with him to build the Kingdom of God. Whether as a Maryknoll or Jesuit, religious or lay person, I hope to take on the same mission that the ordinary people of Guatemala continue to make, the same commitment the Lord revealed to Saint Ignatius of Loyola:
"It is my will to win over the whole world, to overcome evil with good, hatred with love, to conquer all the forces of death - whatever obstacles there are that block the sharing of life between God and mankind. Whoever wishes to join me in this mission must be willing to labor with me, and so by following me in my suffering and struggle may share in my glory".
[David Jimenez is finishing his freshman year at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He joined us for our January 2013 Mission Immersion Experience to Guatemala along with Daniel Mello of New Bedford, Massachusetts]