Tuesday, February 22, 2011

street faith

Yesterday I mentioned I visited the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Salud, the church Don Vasco built for his flock in Pátzcuaro.

The man was not just a social planner.  He had big plans for the political and religious life of Pátzcuaro.  Including a big cathedral.  After all, he was the bishop.

It didn't happen.  After he died, the bishopric was snatched away to Morelia, and Don Vasco's massive five nave cathedral never got past the stage of being a one-nave parish church.

But its architecture did not interest me as much as two other reasons.

The first was Don Vasco himself. 

The bishop's remains are buried there in a plain tomb -- and worshipers still bring flowers in his memory.  The man is bigger than Juarez or Zapata in these parts.  Considering what we know of him, that devotion is understandable.

The second reason is more personal.  I try to attend church services during my travels.  After all, that is why the buildings were constructed.  Not just for half-naked tourists to traipse through.

In Protestant countries that is a bit problematic.  They usually have services only one day a week, and, in Europe, those services are attended by a demoralizing small number of congregants -- to the point where services are often held in corners of massive churches.

Not so in Mexico.  Mass is celebrated each day -- often several times a day.  It is the Burger King of churches.

I stopped at the basilica on my morning walk.  Mass had just begun.  So, I sat and participated to the best of my ability. 

Meaning, I just sat.  I am not Catholic and I do not speak Spanish well enough to fully participate in the service.  Nor am I convinced that Benedict XVI would have approved of me taking an active role.  That left me feeling a bit like George Spelvin in The Actor's Nightmare.

When mass was completed, I looked around the church, and left in front of a middle-aged woman.  As she came out of the church, into the Pátzcuaro morning, she began singing.

Not loud.  More like a conversational tone.  I know enough Spanish to recognize she was singing about God and love.

In The States, people would most likely have stared and wondered what was wrong with the woman.  The eccentric tends to attract reactions like that.

Not in Pátzcuaro.  People greeted her.  She greeted them and kept on walking down the hill as she sang of God's love.

I don't know about her mental state.  Maybe she was a bit slow.

What I do know is that she had the sincerity of someone who lived with the comforting knowledge of what she sang.

And I thought that was a darn good way for anyone to start the day.


Irene said...

Who cares what Benedict XVI thinks. You were in a place of worship and you are welcome to pray quietly any way you desire. If you are moved to join in the singing even better. I just know that the woman who continued to sing as she went down the street had joy in her heart.

Steve Cotton said...

No one showed up in red shoes to ask me to leave -- or to take away my tacky camera.