Letter from Honduras: A month of Sundays
The month of May began with Las Vegas’ annual celebration of our patron “saint,” the Holy Cross. For the first time, thanks to Padre Manuel, a distinction was made between FIESTA (feast) -- three days of religious services, the vigil, the processions, two Masses, etc. -- and another three days of FERIA (fair) -- a parade, contests, dances, the crowning of the “queen” and her court, the “carnival” grand finale.
There was some overlap, with lots of fireworks for both modes, thanks to the fearless Pedro Cruz, who lights the rockets right in his hand. And remarkably few drunks.
With crosses dressed, as it were, in flowers, our little church becomes a jewel. I encourage the kids as much as I can, but those who have become teens barely have enough interest even to look on, much less participate.
Every time Chemo does something, I thank him sincerely, you know, without losing my cool. And when, as happens more often, he’s missing in action, I try just as sincerely to re-invite him, without overdoing the guilt trip. But it really is sweet when he’s “there.” The Masses were filled to overflowing.
“Las cintas” is probably everyone’s favorite contest -- running a horse at full speed to pluck a tiny ring on a ribbon (a ‘cinta’) off a wire, with only a ballpoint pen. I can’t believe anyone could do it even once, but the winner is the one with the most sashes (also called ‘cintas’) for each ring they snatch.
A young wizard from Yorito was the champion with five cintas, but the crowd favorite was old Manuel, who finally got a ring after 20 tries on the very last ride of the afternoon. Of course, by that time, his exhausted horse had slowed down so much that it was just a little easier to aim that pen!
A beauty pageant seems a contradiction to the way the Romans paraded Jesus around before they crucified him, but any excuse for dress-up cannot be denied. And this year, crowning the Queen of the Fair seemed to have some special meaning, not totally unrelated to Jesus, the “suffering servant” crowned with thorns.
María Josefa, 14, had to drop out of school this year after a series of seizures; for someone always in the mix of things, it’s hard to recede into repose. But her friends did not forget her, and she was their choice for the fanciest title of the week.
Threading through the fiesta/feria was the novenario following the death of Doña Sofía, 103 years old. As I remarked, when it was my turn to lead the prayer, this lovely old lady perfectly timed her passing to keep us all focused on what mattered most, the love that makes our faith real and creates one family of us all. Oh, there were tears, of course, but one of her grandsons, at the burial, said, “We were so blessed to have her with us so long.” A great-great grandson could have given the same speech!
May brings Mother’s Day, too; here, that becomes a whole month of “las flores” (flowers) for the Virgin Mary. This is especially for the little kids, and they seem to love to put their tiny bouquets at Mary’s statue, “walking” up the short aisle every afternoon on their knees, not really grasping what they’re even doing, but shining in their innocence.
The rainy season began with a bang, a thunderclap, actually, on Saturday, May 12. Chemo and I were eating supper at Alba’s when the huge storm broke like a dam, the rain flying sideways and the winds flattening the outhouse in back like a cardboard box. We all huddled in the kitchen to await our fate. But, as suddenly as it attacked, the storm slunk away. The rains have now been gentler, daily, sometimes in the morning, or in the afternoon, or evening, or overnight.
Now folks are scrambling to start planting -- not even waiting for the right Moon (which you can’t see these cloudy nights, anyway) or Pentecost, the luckiest day to sow, some say.
Speaking of Mass, we have taken a big step toward becoming a whole parish. We now have Mass every Sunday. (It used to be once a month.) Padre Manuel keeps things lively, but he has a definite agenda. “Las Vegas is a wonderful faith community, but it lacks one thing: we’ve got to organize!”
He’s the one to help us do it, too, because he manages the most efficient meetings you ever saw; no one gets to complain, accuse, or excuse. A problem is identified, a concrete solution proposed, personnel committed, a date set for completion and evaluation. Bang bang bang, not yadda yadda yadda. He’s trying to extinguish the constant phrase, “Si Dios quiere” (‘God willing’). “Don’t worry about God, God will come along if we just get going!”
Well, OK, but I did pray like crazy that Chemo would pass his first big test this past Saturday with Maestro en Casa. And he passed! (Of course, we did study like crazy, too.) (Chemo looks so scholarly in his new glasses!) Oh, and what was the test? Mostly on accents, aguda, grave, and esdrújula. I had to bite my tongue, you know, lest Chemo question the value of such trivia.
Pastor Dennis Lindberg certainly passed his biggest test. Last month I wrote about his heart attack and miraculous recovery. Six weeks later, he’s now back home, with visits from therapists and such, and making great progress on dancing the foxtrot with his remarkable wife Jane!