Monday, August 8, 2011


"Never more a Mexico without us."
This most recent trip into the indigenous mountain highlands of Chiapas probed themes of friendship, service and loyalty.  Making the journey for the first time with me was George Moger, retired special ed teacher and basketball coach of long successful service in Port Huron.  His main purpose was to immerse in Spanish language, while helping out with basketball or construction skills.  I was to work in medical clinics as in 6 previous visits. 

View of Tila Sanctuario from bell tower--Clinic is white with white railing in front.

George showed courage ascending bell tower---does not like heights.

When we got there we found most all regular basketball had stopped when school got out for the summer, and no real construction projects.   Don Ramon, now retired middle school principal, was available for some Spanish classes, a couple of hours, on half the days, but that left a lot of time.  And one of the problems of immersion [I still have it after 7 visits] is that trying to keep up with the regular conversations of our hosts at the parish often makes one’s head spin, leading to episodes of language fatigue.
Don Ramon reads names of the confirmed as Padre Heriberto congratulates.

George & I had agreed to speak Spanish, instead of any English, most all the time we were there [except for short time outs for necessary full comprehension], and we both held to this fairly well.  But whatever help I might be was limited, as I had two trips, one overnight, for extemporaneous medical clinics in remote villages.  All parish staff were busy with preparations for the Bishop’s coming and confirmation of over 200 teenagers [average age 15—diocese believes they should be a little older, well trained 5 years, and more mature].
Dishes on the kitchen porch
George found an admirable solution.  The woman who came in daily to work in the parish kitchen, only hired for half the day, could use help.  Reina is 4ft.6’’, about 45 years old, very capable, and of kind disposition.   Chol is her first language [as for most all in Tila] but her Spanish is very good. George is, with basketball prowess, at least 6ft.6’’ and the most polite gentlemanly person I know.  Every day he’d spend 2 to 3 hours helping with dishes, mopping floors, and she’d patiently explain language, her work, and life in Tila.  How much he’d really taught her about friendship and service we didn’t find out till the last day there.
Matias [seminarian], George, Reina
Reina gave us each a gift she’d made, handicrafts of her side business-- George a bright yellow-bodied red-combed woven chicken tea cozy, and me a white embroidered with local fruit patterns mantilla, to wrap tortillas in.  We took pictures, said goodbye, and then she told me to be sure it was well understood, and to tell George, “I’m very glad I met him, because I thought all from the U.S. were bad, and now I know that is not true.”
With incense & statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the lead, Padre Heriberto & comunidad in procession at Carmen [Carmel] Chinal.
This was the second time I’d heard something similar expressed on this visit, not said during any of the 6 visits over 12 years previously.  When we were finishing the Offertory rite, midway through the 3 ½ mass, in the village of Carmen Chinal, in the midst of copious wood chip indigenous incense burnt in a foot-tall goblet of baked clay, Padre Heriberto introduced me to the people crowded into the simple cement floored tin roofed chapel.  Before he handed me the microphone, and a huge downpour, rain on tin, made me cut short my words, he gave preamble.  “Mike has visited us 7 times and brings simple medicines and will offer brief medical ‘consultas’ for those interested after mass.  He is a friend that shows us that not all people in the U.S. are bad.”
Padre preaches at 3 hour mass at Carmen Chinal, before 4 hour clinic ending 10:30 pm.

This need to exonerate and testify for the moral fiber of a U.S. citizen is something new.  Even when some of the Chiapas villages were being regularly overflown 10 years ago by helicopter gunships {donated by the the Mexican army cause of occupying rural Chiapas} I hadn’t heard such general criticism.  Mexico since the 1920’s has been our [somewhat reluctant] friend.  The ambient feeling in Mexico now is that our recent wars of choice Afghanistan/Iraq/Libya, financial crisis, NAFTA, and drug war weapons support to both sides [traffickers & swat team soldiers] is killing them with collateral damage to life limb and economy.   They can’t understand our self-imposed fears, addictions, & debt woes.  Mexicans, from the wealthy middle-aged woman playing video games on her tablet and young dapper business man in the other seat next to me on the return plane trip to Detroit, to the faithful villagers and parish-house cook in remote Chiapas, are baffled by our behavior.
Community of Joljatiomtyak, family of Rogelio, shucking frijoles--kitchen/living room on left, bedroom/my clinic on last 2 visits to Chiapas.

Because of this, travel---meeting, working, serving, and praying together, one to one and community to community---is becoming ever more important.  We need many U.S. citizen ambassadors in many nations to dispel the many mutual misconceptions that have steadily arisen due to the activity of powerful interests at the top of U.S. society.
With part of Rogeio's Joljatiomtyak family--Chol speakers who tolerate my Spanish.

Friendship and service we did experience in Chiapas.  But this brought to mind an important value lamented by Padre Heriberto as on the wane in all parts of society—lealtad, loyalty.  He’d had friends leaving the priesthood; we all see promises under siege, in marriage, friendship, churches, business, politics, banking, pensions, labor contracts, social security.  One’s word counts for little anymore-- only the day to day scrimmage for personal gain.
Debt-ceiling-fight by Phil Ebersole Wordpress--[President Reagan raised the debt ceiling 17 times]
We resolved to continue and expand our connections, “Si Dios Quiere,” Lord willing.  There is hope Detroit diocese seminarians and other faithful will come to know the people of Chiapas, and their pilgrimage to Nuestro SeƱor de Tila.  Our church is Catholic—in diversity there is strength and loyalty.

"Is not one of our problems today that we have separated ourselves from the poor and the wounded and the suffering?  We have too much time to discuss and theorize and have lost the yearning for God which comes when we are faced with the sufferings of people."   -- Jean Vanier {founder of communities inclusive of the disabled}


On the current financial crisis--
We are being rolled by powerful Wall Street bankers and politicians. Those hating Obama, as well as all appearing alien, are willing to drag the whole country down just to defeat him and the outsiders.  Our self-inflicted fiscal suffering is directly connected to our sin of racism.  Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, intercede for us.  May God grant us the grace to purge greed, war, and racism from our hearts and nation.   {Two more days of the Jagerstatter novena--but please keep praying for these miracles.}

From today's old testament reading at daily mass, Dt10:12-22---
For the LORD, your God, is the God of gods,
the LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome,
who has no favorites, accepts no bribes;
who executes justice for the orphan and the widow,
and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.
So you too must befriend the alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Click on images to enlarge.

No comments:

Post a Comment