Sunday, May 10, 2015

Reformulating Almost Everything I've Ever Learned

All day the words that Father David shared yesterday kept reverberating in my mind.
Father David—someday he will hopefully publish his journal with his "reformulations"
David is a “new” priest—ordained earlier this year—who came to the mountains three months ago, after receiving all of his priestly formation in different urban centers. In a meeting yesterday that was looking at how the diocesan church here might offer better service to the impoverished indigenous population of the mountains, someone asked David if he had any ideas to propose.
Fire (in this case, with candles) is a huge element in terms of interaction with the divine
I don’t remember his full response, but I do remember one expression he used. He smilingly said that he is still trying to put the pieces together, that the experiences with the people in the mountains is—in his words—“forcing me to reformulate almost everything I ever learned.” A lot of heads nodded in the meeting: almost everyone could identify with David’s “reformulating” journey.
The cross and flowers are two more important elements in most rituals
Of course, David had a stark introduction to the spirituality, rituals, and customs of the native peoples. He arrived in mid-February—just the time of year that many families begin to experience real hunger after their small corn crop from the rainy season begins to diminish. It can be a time of dehydration, malnutrition, sicknesses, and real suffering. And it’s a time when the people especially carry out rituals around springs or caves or the highest mountain around their village.
Offerings are made to ensure divine protection
These rituals are designed to propitiate the forces of nature, so that the new rainy season come as soon as possible, overcoming hunger and allowing corn—the life of the people—to flourish once again.  People pray, dance, sing, and offer sacrifices to the cosmic forces. The clouds are called upon to provide a good rain. The winds are invited to not blow too strongly through the corn fields. Lightning is requested to not cause any disasters. And the rain itself is asked to fall softly in order to fertilize well the fields.
Each flower in the necklace of flowers represents some pain or tragedy in the life of the person
preparing the necklace. Having the bishop bring these necklaces to God is a special
blessing in the eyes of the people here—and the bishop is fully aware
of the significance of this ritual.
A couple of weeks ago a group of doctors and dentists came from Mexico City to various villages in the mountains for five days. They offered free checkups to hundreds of children, youth, and adults. It was the first such experience for these medical personnel from a Catholic parish in Mexico City—but probably not the last. Besides just offering their service, they tried to get to understand the people’s perspectives on their lives, their illnesses, their hopes, etc. All the doctors and dentists admitted (like David even after three months) that such an understanding was going to take a lot longer than five days—and a lot of "reformulating."
Unpacking some of the dental equipment brought from Mexico City
Mission Mexico has been accompanying these people for more than fifteen years. Lives have been impacted in small ways and huge ways. The people here are truly grateful for the many signs of solidarity. And they pray too that God (God is the cosmic forces) reward each and every person who has supported Mission Mexico in its efforts to bring life to this very challenging reality here. Have a great week.
Medical and dental equipment loaded on the Mission Mexico truck

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