Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Misery Loves Company—Doesn't It?

Several times in my life I’ve heard the expression “Misery loves company,” and I think I’ve always interpreted it as suggesting that unhappy people like other people to be unhappy too—which sounds like not too nice an attitude to have. But now I’m not so sure.
People lining up (sort of) to register for the assembly of Delegates of the Word
On the weekend I attended an assembly of the Delegates of the Word from the 26 villages that make up the parish of Xochitepec (several catechists came along to learn too). A “Delegate of the Word’ is the spiritual/religious “leader” in each of the villages; he or she coordinates activities such as prayers for the sick or deceased, paraliturgical services on certain days, religious education for children, pre-sacramental talks for parents and sponsors, ceremonies requesting rain, etc. The Delegate is chosen by the village in an assembly and is an important figure in the village life.
Father Juan addressing the assembly of Delegates and catechists
As the Delegates spoke about their role in their communities and what they think they need in order to exercise that role more effectively, I was struck by what one gentleman said about his service to his community. Basically, he said the following:

“In my village, when someone is ill, I pray for that person. I would love to be able to say to the sick person, ‘Here, take this money to buy medicine or to travel to a town where there is a doctor.’ But there is no way I can. I pray for the sick person, but I think that it is my presence and my accompaniment with the family that makes the biggest difference. The fact that they know that they are not alone makes a huge difference to them.”
One small group of Delegates preparing to report to the assembly
Maybe misery loves company, but true Christians love being that company to people in misery. That accompaniment is one element of Mission Mexico’s ministry in Mexico. We want to make a difference on a material level, but we try to respond to people’s needs at all levels—as did Jesus of Nazareth. And just "being there" with and for the other can make a difference.
Father Hector coordinating one of the sessions during the assembly
In an article in the July 2011 edition of Foreign Affairs, Paul Farmer states the following:

"Accompaniment" is an elastic term. It has a basic, everyday meaning. To accompany someone is to go somewhere with him or her, to break bread together, to be present on a journey with a beginning and an end. There's an element of mystery, of openness, of trust, in accompaniment. The companion, the accompagnateur, says: "I'll go with you and support you on your journey wherever it leads; I'll share your fate for a while. And by 'a while,' I don't mean a little while." Accompaniment is about sticking with a task until it's deemed completed, not by the accompagnateur but by the person being accompanied.
Some of the participants during morning prayer on Saturday (in front of statue of St. Mark)
In the “History” section of Mission Mexico on its website, Father Fred Monk, founding director, writes that one of my roles here  is to offer hands-on assistance and the solace of presence, love, solidarity and the gospel message to the people served by Mission Mexico.” I am grateful to my wonderful mentors and teachers—such as the Delegates of the Word—who guide me in this effort. And I am grateful to all the supporters of Mission Mexico who make this service possible. God bless.
Mike with some children from the local music group in Xochitepec

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