Monday, December 14, 2009

Virgen de Guadalupe

On December 12th, the Catholics of Mexico celebrate the appearance, 500 years ago, of the Virgen de Guadalupe to Juan Diego. She is, according to the belief of many, one incarnation of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The main area for worshipping her is the Basilica in Mexico City, but Puebla also has a church specially dedicated to her.

Abraham has an assignment for one of his seminary classes to investigate and report on Catholicism in Mexico. The afternoon and evening of the 11th and again on the 12th morning and once more at night, we joined swarms of people outside of the church to conduct interviews. The park by the church was filled with carnival rides and vendors of everything from food and drinks to tee-shirts and trinkets. By night, it was a blaze of light and sound, so filled with people that at times we couldn't even move through the crowd.

We interviewed five women and five men, chosing a range of ages. Our questions included asking if they were Catholic and why. At the 'why' question, the women I interviewed gave me blank looks. Some of them asked, "What do you mean?" Well, of all the religions in the world, why that one? All but one answered, "Because my parents are." The interviews revealed that many didn't really know what they believed or why. Several admitted to never reading the Bible.

At midnight on the 11th/12th, Abraham and I watched part of the service in the Basilica on t.v. It was very disheartening to see the thousands of people streaming in and through the church, giving their adoration to the "mother of God."

The afternoon of the 12th, Abraham and I met Ken out at Huejotzingo to practice "Joy to the World" and the script of A Christmas Carol with the kids. More kids came this week than last week, but we still haven't had all the participants together at one time. Our Scrooge has never rehearsed with the kids, and we're not entirely sure he'll actually show up. Never a dull moment...

On Sunday afternoon, we all stayed busy putting up Christmas decorations, putting more layers on piñatas, rehearsing the song and the script, distributing snacks and cleaning up afterward, and going over the normal Bible story. Next week on Sunday is the actual presentation, but we will go to Huejotzingo Saturday in the morning rather than in the afternoon, because one of the girls has her quinceaños celebration in the afternoon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

the Christmas season

Advent has begun. This year in my class, we're doing different Christmas-related activities each day and discussing the story of Jesus' birth. A few days ago, I asked my fifth and sixth graders to write down as much of the Christmas story as they knew. The results were surprising: these children of pastors and missionaries had many errors in their stories. I hope that by the time we leave for vacation on the 18th, the children will know the true story.

Meanwhile, we continue to work with the children in Huejotzingo. Abraham and I edited Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol and converted it into a reader's theater. We have started going on Saturday afternoons as well as on Sundays in order to practice two songs and the reader's theater. Last Saturday we also started making piñatas. Although many of the kids do not read well, they are starting to learn their parts.

Last Sunday a friend of Abraham's from the seminary invited him to speak at his church. This church is brand new and meets in a home. Abraham spoke from Luke chapter 2, emphasizing how the shepherds shared the news of Jesus' birth immediately. We too have the privilege and responsibility to share the Good News.

This season in Mexico is one when the focus leaves the birth of Jesus and turns to Guadalupe. Thousands of pilgrims walk, drive, or bike to the Basilica in Mexico City to adore the virgin on Dec. 12. We've been seeing pilgrims traveling, carrying their images and pictures. Please pray that the true message of God's Gift to humanity would break through the confusion of the traditions surrounding Guadalupe.

On Sunday evening, Abraham and I set up our first Christmas tree. We found a good artificial tree at a swap meet and bought lights and bulbs to decorate. After returning from Huejotzingo, we put the tree together and strung lights. The results are lovely! This will be our first Christmas as a married couple and my first Christmas away from my parents, brother, and sisters. We will be starting new traditions together.

"God bless us, every one!"