Hey there, lovely readers!
Sorry for the dead air on my blog these past few days. I’ve been having a mini-vacation in the city of San Ignacio, known locally as Cayo. I have much to share about that experience, but I’ll write that post tomorrow. First, I’d like to tell y’all about church last Sunday.
As usual, I went to St. Peter Claver for the early (and only) morning service, but the usual priest wasn’t present. Instead, mass was led by a rather jovial man named Father Jesus. During the mass, a group of young students from one of the rural schools of Toledo received their first communion. I’m not exactly sure of how communion works here, but my thinking is that each Catholic school in the area is designated a week for the sacrament, meaning that first communion masses happen throughout May and June. Anyway, I think that this particular week’s bunch may have come from a particularly poor area, as they weren’t wearing the white, lacy dresses we see on communicants in the states (and which were worn by the children the last two weeks at St. Peter Claver), but rather their school uniforms. Also along these lines, the acolytes at St. Peter Claver wear what I believe to be old choir robes when they serve mass. I am wondering if perhaps I judged too harshly in my diatribe against the immodest clothing worn by church-goers in PG. While I do think most cases of immodesty are preventable, I wonder if there are some who cannot afford the items that they might want to wear. The clothing stores here in PG do not offer much variety, and they certainly don’t offer much that can be called “modest.” Side note: A few days ago in one of the clothing stores, I saw a pair of tights that, when I looked closer, actually turned out to be slightly thicker than tights and painted to look like jeans! So the wearer is pretty much walking around town in a pair of stockings masquerading as legitimate pants. (I actually find these things pretty hysterical-looking, and I think that my dear friend Jayme may need to receive a pair as a gift. If anyone can pull them off in the US, she can!)
But I digress. What I really wanted to share is the wisdom offered to us by Father Jesus last Sunday. He asked all of us to think about the small, one-room, thatch homes that we often pass when entering PG by car…and then to think about parents who don’t always know if they have enough food for their children…and about the violence in Belize’s major cities (an 11-year-old boy was murdered earlier this week, an innocent victim who happened to obstruct one gang member’s attempt to kill another). After we had conjured these images of need and hate, Father Jesus told us that we make a choice each time we encounter these situations. We can pass by without a care, or we can ask ourselves, “Why does it have to be this way?” When Father Jesus spoke in these terms, I thought of all the times that I’ve “passed by”–whether by looking the other way, or dispassionately skimming a newspaper article without mourning for the victims it lists–people in dire straits–homeless people in Philadelphia, poverty in Peru, violence here in Belize. To ask the question–“Why does it have to be this way?”–is to take the first step away from apathy and toward action. Because it really, really, truly doesn’t have to be this way. We walk by sorrow and tragedy and hurt time and again, and then we go to church and sing and pray, week after week, but how much more genuine and beautiful would our worship be if it were complemented by action! Father Jesus eloquently urged us to implement our “Sunday values” into our everyday lives. And so, on his behalf, I urge you beautiful people to think about how you can better serve the world tomorrow, and further illustrate love in everyday life.
Inspired by Father Jesus’ homily, I went for an afternoon walk around PG, my camera in hand. I want to not just tell you, but show you, how people live here. Being in Belize has reminded me (and I need regular reminders!) of how little I really need each day, but amid the relative comfort of the ProWorld bunkhouse, I don’t know that I’ve truly grasped the way in which many people here live. It’s certainly not comfortable, nor easy, and it certainly doesn’t have to be this way.