Happy Turkey Day! As you can see, at this house, every day is turkey day!! The folks here celebrate Christmas Eve the same way that we celebrate Thanksgiving. The family makes every effort to get together and be in the same place for a festive meal and those who can afford, or raise, turkeys have Turkey for dinner.
A few weeks ago, a young woman asked if we could talk the following week. This young woman is as good as gold. She is always at Mass, has a bright and cheerful smile, is intelligent enough that she is a grade level ahead, (she skipped a grade earlier on), and as far as I can remember she’s never asked for anything. A lot of folks will ask for a variety of things from medicines, to shoes, to a house, a bathroom, a lollipop, cinco pesos . . . you get the idea. Often the requests are legitimate, although sometimes folks do try to take advantage of the Church.
This young woman who is now in high school had never asked for anything, which is unusual, and has always been willing to serve in multiple capacities, such as being coordinator for the lectors in Sabana Cruz, so when she asked if we could meet at the church before youth group to talk, of course I said yes.
She met her father once, when she was 7, for a few minutes then never again. Her mother lives in a different city and they rarely talk. She lives with her grandparents who are verbally abusive. She told me how she chose to live a good life, not seeking attention or pleasures in the streets but choosing to love and serve within her family and church. This was a choice that she made when she was younger. There are few persons I know who are as helpful, responsible and attentive to those around her. She longs to love her mother but her mother is not there to love. She tries to love her grandparents but they are always suspicious of her. Her story is typical in the pains, sorrows, tears, and brokenness of her family, but she is not typical. She has chosen a higher path of virtue, love, and humble service.
In my opinion, the crisis is particularly one of manhood- a lack of the strong and faithful love that men are called to live providing their love as a shelter for their family. Too many children do not know who their fathers are. I think in a certain sense, that is why we are here as missionaries: to proclaim God’s love and His challenge to live accordingly. To proclaim God’s unyielding love before the horrors of sin and destruction as a good Father who continually lavishes his blessings upon us. To challenge men to live for others and love sacrificially and faithfully as a gift to their family and God. It is no more and no less than a reflection and imitation of God’s own love that we proclaim as the law of the Spirit.
Two weeks ago, I celebrated a funeral with a community that has a mere 11 houses in it, Blas Martinez. The funeral was for a man as sweet as honey, and as faithful as the sunrise. His name is John Francis, affectionately known as Tonton. Every time I came to Mass, he sat on “his” bench, sang with all his heart, and greeted everyone with a warm endearing smile. He participated in the Mass with his whole heart and formed those around him through his powerful and humble example. I’ve never been as convinced of a person’s goodness as I am of this man’s. (I am praying for him as the measure of entrance into heaven is the perfection of the Father). This community is beautiful, the children are innocent and the people are faithful. The rosary is prayed together. They are strong in the Lord in their lovely humility. Despite the shipwreck of so many families, there are men like this, and young women like the one mentioned, who give hope to those around them, live well, and reflect God’s love in this world, making our poor proclamation of the Gospel worth all the while.