Saturday, April 19, 2008

¿Quién vive? ¡CRISTO!

[Who lives? Christ!]

The Hispanic population in the rural South has exploded over the past decades. This little corner of Georgia is no exception. Tonight, I was invited to come to a prayer meeting. Some two dozen people, crammed into what looked like a little wooden garage-shed. Almost all from Central America.

The acclamation above is how it started. It felt like an evangelical prayer service: the cantos were praise & worship themed in Spanish, with a high-powered band (drum set, electric keyboard and guitar) accompanying, high energy, lots of clapping and swaying. There were readings from Scripture, and two periods of oración, where the leader and the people prayed out loud, all together, in a rising crescendo of imploring, babbling, voices, stream-of-consciousness, somewhat mesmerizing. One guy gave the central "message" -- a heartfelt plea to keep Christ central in their lives, to trust in him, no matter what. He made a good connection to the Eucharist and the sacraments as well. Lots of Amens. One of them apologized that there were no images of Our Lord and the Blessed Mother, but they had just moved here. They gave me, the new guy, the outsider, a very warm welcome. At the end they prayed the Our Father, the Haily Mary and the Glory Be.

And they insisted that I share a few words. Well, I've given presentations in Spanish, and speak it with decent fluency. But off-the-cuff?

So, I thanked them for their welcome, and shared that I was really moved by their faith and their devotion. I then talked a bit about the Holy Father's visit, his message to the Church about welcoming immigrants, and his central point, that Christ is our hope.

And this hour-and-a-half prayer service is what these folks do after the Saturday evening Spanish Mass!

And at the end of yet another day of keeping up with our amazing Pontiff -- which has already lifted me up so much, and filled me with such joy so that at times I felt that my chest would explode -- somehow this little gathering of faith-filled people in a small corner of Georgia, filled me with incredible hope.

Christ, indeed is alive! Alleluia!

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