Friday, June 09, 2017

on the road to san antonio

I need to share something with you.

Even though I am thoroughly enjoying sharing my experiences in Colombia with you, life here in Barra de Navidad goes on. And some important things are happening.

You can tell that because in the early hours and in the late afternoon, cohetes (the Mexican sky rockets, that grace every religious procession, with a boom that would put the Concorde to shame) can be heard across the town. That has been going on for several days, and it is a sign certain that something major is transpiring on the Catholic calendar.

And it is. This is the feast of Barra de Navidad's patron saint -- San Antonio de Padua.

Protestants (especially those with a unitarian bent) know very little about the the Catholic hierarchy of saints. But I do know my history.

San Antonio was a Portuguese Franciscan priest who did most of his evangelical work in Italy. In Padua. Thus the ending to his name.

That explains why he is honored in Portugal, its former colonies, and Italy. But the Catholic church claims to be trans-national. And its saints certainly are.

That is why it is not that surprising that the local village of San Patricio is named after the patron saint of Ireland. And that Barra de Navidad honors a Portuguese priest as its patron saint.

Every saint is assigned a special patronage. I guess, by the Catholic church. St. Roch is for bachelors. St. Isidore of Seville tends the internet. Dysfunctional families can apply to St. Eugene de Mazenod.

And San Antonio? He is the patron things of anything lost. People. Souls. Articles. 

But he is apparently the go-to guy for other distressed souls. The elderly. American Indians. Counter-revolutionaries. Travel hostesses. Runts. Harvests. The poor and oppressed. Pregnant and barren women.

With a curriculum vitae that strong, it is no wonder my neighbors venerate him with traditions any Catholic Spaniard or Italian would immediately recognize.

I have missed seeing the daily procession carrying San Antonio's image through the streets to the church. I knew it was happening because of the tell-tale cohetes. But my evening exercise walk was ether too early or too late to catch the procession under way.

Yesterday, we ran into one another.

Almost everything was exactly like every other procession I have seen in Mexico. Four women carried the image of San Antonio on a litter.

They were followed by one of the many "Indian" dance groups that form particularly to honor saints through their stylized dances.

Then came a pickup with a tableau celebrating the institution of the eucharist -- complete with a distracted altar boy along with a boy and girl kneeling at the altar.

The last group consisted of lay people who are in the procession to show their devotion to the saint.

What was a bit different yesterday was what was sandwiched  between the dancers and the lay walkers. Another pickup contained a folk singer with a guitar. His tunes were not the usual chanted hymns. They were quite upbeat.

And the reason for that was easy to see. He was followed by a priest leading children to their first communion. No. He was not leading them. He was hopping and dancing for joy. So much so, that he jumped right out of one of his sandals.

Each night I have passed the church, it has been filled to overflowing with people honoring their patron saint of the lost.

I thought you might like to hear that life in Barra goes on, while I bury my nose in my Colombia essays. 

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