Friday, November 15, 2013

A "Holy Spirit" of Service

Early every Wednesday morning the 45 seminarians here in Tlapa climb the hillside and have a special morning prayer service that reflects the customs and traditions of the indigenous peoples of La Montaña. Most of the seminarians are indigenous themselves, and they organize this time of prayer. Flowers, candles, and incense tend to play a major role in the celebration.

The huge cross in the prayer area was donated by a religious congregation called the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, and the cross has symbols of a heart and the Holy Spirit on it—it is the cross of their congregation. At this week’s prayer service, I remembered an incident that occurred in the diocesan offices here in Tlapa several years ago.

There was a meeting scheduled for 10 AM with the bishop, and several of us were waiting for the meeting to begin. I was talking with two priests when a man approached us and requested that a priest accompany him to the local hospital to “confess” and to offer his dying father “the last rites.”

The two priests explained to the man that they were busy now, that they had a meeting planned with the bishop. But the meeting should end by 2 PM (lunch time in Mexico), and one of them could gladly accompany the man to the hospital at that time.

It was evident that this possible “solution” to his request wasn't what the man was hoping for. What if his father died before 2 PM? It pained me to see the anguished look on his face.

Just then Father Juan Manuel Ayala, Missionary of the Holy Spirit, walked in. He was to be in the same meeting with the bishop and us. He noticed the man standing off to the side and went up to him and asked if there was any way he could serve him. The man mentioned his dying father in the hospital. Before he could continue talking, Father Juan Manuel interrupted him and asked him if it would be okay if he (Juan Manuel) went immediately to the hospital to celebrate the sacrament of the sick. The man said, “Of course.” Juan Manuel gave him an embrace and said, “Thank you, my friend. It’s for moments like this that I became a priest. I am so grateful to you. Do you want to come with me right now?”

The other two priests interrupted to remind Juan Manuel that it was time to begin the meeting with the bishop. Juan Manuel simply smiled and said, “You guys start without me. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Off they went. Less than an hour later Juan Manuel showed up for the meeting. The bishop asked him how things had gone at the hospital. Juan Manuel said that he had just had time to celebrate the sacrament of the sick with the dying man before he took his last breath.
A seminarian called Jesús
I thought of this at morning prayer on Wednesday. I don’t know where Father Juan Manuel is, but I give thanks for his wonderful example of true service to his brothers and sisters. And I pray that I might be more like him.

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