Monday, August 15, 2011

the church lady

Sunday is church day.

And that presents a dilemma for me.

Unlike San Miguel (and even Melaque), Pátzcuaro does not have an English-speaking church.  But it is filled with the Spanish-speaking variety.  Some quite grand.

And, even though I am not a Spanish speaker, I long ago learned to experience my faith even when not completely understanding (or agreeing with) English words that surrounded me.  Why not take the same tack with Spanish?

So, I did.

I knew something different was happening in the morning.  The usual bells calling people to worship are almost always just a few clangs.  Not this morning.  The bells rang and rang -- in an unusual order.  And, of course, there were the dynamite-loud sky rockets.  Something was up.

When I got to the Basilica, it was decked out in Mobil red and white grand opening pennants.  I learned long ago that little flags outside usually mean grand decorations inside. 

And I was correct.  The Basilica looked like a Hapsburg coronation was about to occur.

This was a big Sunday on the liturgical calendar.  Assumption Sunday.  Not Jesus’ assumption, mind you.  This was Mary’s non-scriptural assumption.

In my tradition, this day simply does not exist.  But for the Roman religion, and especially its Mexican variant, it is a whale of a day.  And the Basilica is a Mary church.

The nave was packed with worshipers.  It was not just standing room only.  It was elbow-for-space full.  I could not get a good view, but it appeared there was an effigy of Mary laid out in front of the altar with candles at each corner of her bier.

Being such a special Sunday, it was a great setting to celebrate first communion.  The long line of young girls and boys dressed in white looked eerily like a Moonie wedding in West Virginia.

But the children could not have been more proud to go through a ceremony that would recognize them as communicants in their church community.  For their parents and relatives, it may as well have been a wedding.

And, I suppose, in a theological sense, it was.

They made me feel proud.  Even when I had to wonder who was the watcher and who was the person being watched?


Nita said...

I think I have learned more about Mexico and some of the rituals than when I had things explained at other times. You are a walking, talking, geography, English, and history teacher all rolled into one.

Krispykey said...

This church was built on the ruins (that is, destroyed by the Spanish) of a temple to the moon goddess.  The statue of Mary has a moon symbol.  I attended 7 a.m. Mass here when I visited Patz. a few years ago....very moving experience.

Thank you for your blog commentaries, quite wonderful.

Joannavdg said...

Oh Norm, what a lovely post... I wish you were here in Rome with Jorge and I and could help me sort out all the bubbling that's going on in my "recovering Catholic" soul.

Steve Cotton said...

Glad to keep those little gray cells working.

Steve Cotton said...

That is one reason the church was not built on the main plaza -- as is the usual case in Mexican towns. Don Vasco wanted to be certain that the temple was destroyed and replaced with a church. As is so often the case, the worship continued in a different form.

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks. In this postmodern world, God touches our souls in many ways -- even in those ways we find rather restrictive.