Thursday, October 2, 2014

St. Michael the Archangel, Protect Us from the Evil One—Hunger

It was a pleasure and honor to be invited to the village of Tototepec for the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel (September 29). The rainy season will soon end, and harvesting of the corn and bean crops will—hopefully—be able to begin in mid-October.
The statue of St. Michael is taken from the church and processed through the village.
The statue is allowed to "rest" for a short period of time in several homes during the long procession

So the next few weeks are vital to the people of the mountains. And St. Michael the Archangel is seen as the being that can determine whether the poor families will have a decent harvest and be able to eat this year, or if the harvest is less than ideal and the poor families will suffer this year. Here “the Evil One,” “the Devil,” is specifically called “Hunger” in the prayers of the people. And the prayer is that St. Michael assist them in warding off this terrible evil.
One image of the procession with St. Michael in Tototepec
I went to Pascala del Oro with the bishop of Tlapa, Dagoberto Sosa Arriaga. The road was terrible (which is the main reason he asked me to take him), but we were able to get there and back. Other vehicles that tried to make it there for the village festival had to turn back.
One part of the road to Pascala del Oro
Bishop Dagoberto had to "encourage" this burro to get out of the middle of the road
I went to Xochitepec, where two friends—Juan Manuel and Lalo—of the priests who serve in that parish, were visiting from the state of Tabasco. They were helping Fathers Hector and Juan discern ways to carry out their pastoral plans this year in the most effective way possible. Such signs of solidarity are signs of hope in La Montaña.
Juan Manuel, Hector, Juan, and Lalo in the programming meeting
Of course, the sunrise in Xochitepec is always incredible. And the sky becomes an amazing kaleidoscope of colors when the storm clouds begin to move in. 
Just another "normal" sunrise in Xochitepec
I wonder how the villagers can "interpret" this sky to suggest that a storm is approaching
I took Doña Julia from Xalpitzahuac to visit her son (Juan) and daughter-in-law (Cecilia) in the hospital in Tlapa. Their first child, a girl they named Jasmín, was born a month ago, but her health is delicate, and the doctors told the parents that it was very unlikely that she would live much longer. I visited the hospital daily all last week.
Doña Julia and Cecilia looking at a cell phone photo of Father Fred Monk,
director of Mission Mexico. They say they remember his visit to their village in 2006.

At the parents’ request, I asked Father Juan (he is called that even though he is still a deacon), from the Cathedral of Tlapa, to come to the hospital to baptise Jasmín. When other families saw him walk into the hospital carrying the red book with the baptismal rite, many asked him to bless or baptise their sick children. Father Juan ended up celebrating five baptisms that evening, as well as many, many blessings. It’s a pity that there is not an organized health ministry for Tlapa’s hospitals
Father Juan and Juan (the father of Jasmín) shortly before the baptism; the baby's father is convinced
that someone is his village put an "evil spell" on his newborn daughter
At the request of some teachers, I visited a junior high school in Tlapa, in the poor neighborhood of Zapata. The small school has 580 students, and most of them are indigenous students who were rejected at junior high schools closer to their home because they don’t speak Spanish well. The dedication of the teachers, students, and parents is noteworthy, but it is challenging to offer a quality education to the students.
These are four "classrooms" used by the junior high students last year
The red roof on the left is that of new classrooms built this past year. But it is still
incredible that 580 junior high students fit in the buildings shown in this photo
And this morning, on my way to pick up a Canadian friend at the airport in Mexico City, I stopped off to visit Fresvinda, a woman who is a sparkplug of organization in the very poor neighborhood of Cuernavaca called La Estación. I know that many people from southern Alberta have visited La Estacion, and surely many have met Fresvinda, who coordinates many programs at the Women’s Center. People have probably read about the violence in Mexico, and sometimes that violence strikes home. Two months ago, Fresvinda’s 22-year-old daughter, Citlalli, was murdered here. “Citlalli” means “star,” and Fresvinda now claims that she has a special star looking over her work. It’s a beautiful image, but tears flowed when Fresvinda referred to it—and what a pity that such imagery has to be made possible by such senseless violence.
Mike MacDonald and Fresvinda talking during a quiet moment at the Women's Center in La Estacion
So life goes on, the struggle goes on, and Mission Mexico tries to assist as best it can. Thank you to all who make possible this sharing. I think that many times it isn’t the financial assistance that makes the big difference; it is the simple fact that people care. That encourages greater faith, hope, and love—and it’s tough to put a price tag on those realities and to measure their exact impact in the lives of the impoverished. But they are definitely important! Have a great week, everyone.

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