Tuesday, August 26, 2014

LABOR DAY 2014


   We introduce Bill Droel of the National Center for the Laity as the guest author of our 2014 Labor Day article.  www.catholiclabor.org/NCL.htm

   
   Droel is longtime editor of INITIATIVES, a free newsletter on faith and work from the National Center for the Laity (PO Box 29112, Chicago, IL 60629).  We expect to continue to post Bill Droel’s articles on this blog.



The Working Catholic
Bill Droel
Labor Day History
Labor Day began in 1882 when machinist Matthew Maguire (1855-1917) and carpenter Peter Maguire (1852-1906) organized a parade in New York City. Both, though unrelated, were Catholic laymen active in the Knights of Labor, the first successful national union in this country. The New York parade was repeated in 1883 and 1884.
Soon thereafter Oregon, and then a few other states, began honoring working people with an official Labor Day on the first Saturday of June. It was later changed to the first Monday in September. Finally in 1894 Congress voted for that day to be a national holiday.
Once upon a time I was part of a lobby to change the feast of St. Joseph the Worker from May First to the first Monday in September in the United States only. The proposal got a fair hearing from the U.S. bishops but the inertia of bureaucracy stopped us.
May First means something to workers in Europe, but strangely not to people in the U.S. Strangely because that date commemorates an event in my sweet home, Chicago. It all started on May 1, 1886 when the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Union, with a city permit, demonstrated for the enforcement of eight-hour work laws. A previously scheduled follow-up rally was held on May Fourth. “No single event has influenced the history of labor in the U.S. and even the world more than this [1886] Haymarket Affair,” writes William Adelman in Haymarket Revisited (Illinois Labor History, 1976).
Late in the evening someone at the rally threw dynamite; the police fired wildly. Soon seven police and four workers were dead. Eight workers were quickly arrested, including a lay minister, a printer and others. Seven were found guilty in August. One was given 15 years; two got life sentences; one was killed in jail. The remaining three were hanged in November.
Thus by July 1889 European countries designated May First as Labor Day to honor Chicago’s Haymarket workers. The European date, contrary to assumptions, does not point to any date associated with communism.
Haymarket history was pushed aside in the U.S. and young adults now know of our Haymarket area only as a trendy place to eat.
Catholics risk losing a crucial part of our identity if we forget our own labor history.
Cardinal James Gibbons (1834-1921) of Baltimore spoke up in Rome in 1887 for the Knights of Labor and thereafter he spoke stateside in support of the Catholic doctrine on labor relations. His good pastoral sense was not always the norm in Europe and Canada. The close cooperation between the U.S. labor movement and Catholicism benefited both for an important century in our nation’s growth.
The connection between labor and, to use the current jargon, new evangelization was particularly strong in the years before and just after World War II. There were several “labor priests” in those days including Chicagoans Msgr. John Hayes (1906-2002), Msgr. Dan Cantwell (1915-1996) and Msgr. George Higgins (1916-2002), who spent most of his career at the national bishops’ conference.  There were also several outstanding U.S. “lay apostles” who devoted themselves to nurturing the relationship. They staffed over 100 Catholic labor schools where workers were trained in parliamentary procedure, history and Catholic social doctrine. They produced inspiring newspapers, including Work here in Chicago. And they formed some networks operating alongside the labor movement, including the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists and the Catholic Labor Alliance. A good start on this history is reading Go To the Worker by Kimball Baker (Marquette University Press, 2010).
 Of course, things have changed. But young adults are still invested in their jobs—probably more so than in the industrial era. The challenge is to assist them with new ideas and new forums. The future of the U.S. Catholic church, despite worthwhile energy devoted to other projects, largely depends on a turn toward the world of work.

Droel is editor of INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a newsletter about faith and work.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

VATICAN II

"LUMEN GENTIUM" III, #18

EXPLAINS THE ABUSE CRISIS

CARTOON BY LIAM GIMA LANGE (FRESHMAN, LOWELL HIGH SCHOOL, SAN FRANCISCO, CA)

August 2014















(First Cartoon Section: "Frankly - the abuse and cover up are                              inexplicable"....."Really?".

Second Cartoon Section: Priests preside in the place of God over the flock...Lumen Gentium III #18)














Thursday, July 24, 2014

THE PROCESSIONS – WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?


Final posting on the Gate pilgrimage to Guatemala
  
   The Holy Week processions in Antigua Guatemala reach their zenith on Good Friday.  Members of the various parishes of the city prepare their floats with statues of the suffering Jesus.  Many include the sorrowful mother Mary also suffering for us. The cobblestone streets are decorated with special ‘rugs’ which are works of art.  



They are made with colored sawdust, flowers and vegetables.  The heavy floats are carried in shifts by the faithful dressed as middle easterners. Thousands of people line the streets for the passion spectacle starting at 4:00 A.M. and continuing well into the next morning.   



WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

   Perhaps for some of the tourists Holy Week in Antigua Guatemala is an experience of 16th century pageantry.  For others it is very personal. The personal message is easily accepted, but difficult to practice.  To imitate the story of the life of Jesus is a continuing personal ‘jihad.’ Arguments against a personal goal of love of neighbor as non violence and forgiveness seem hollow.   

   There are no banners or slogans but some see a political message in the story of Jesus’ life and passion.  The University of San Carlos in Guatemala City does a Holy Week presentation depicting the Guatemalan indigenous as the suffering Jesus executed by the Guatemalan military.  ( http//www.huelgadolores.com/: also https://www.behance.net/gallery/Holy-Week-Chronicale/7966217) Before he was martyred in 1998 Bishop Gerardi wrote:





The suffering of Christ in his mystical body is something that should cause us to reflect.  That is to say, if the poor are out of our lives then, maybe, Christ is out of our lives.  (Goldman, Francisco, The Art of Political Murder, Grove Press, New York, 2007, p. 12)

Statements like this were correctly understood as political by Gerardi’s killers   There is a political message when a core part of evangelization is “preferential option for the poor.” Pope Francis’ renunciation of Ronald Reagan’s trickle down economics makes this clear.  (Evangelii Gaudium, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC, 2013, #54, p. 54.)

Let us consider reflections by two other companions on the pilgrimage.







Gerard Mullaney, Cuyahoga Fall, OH

   You asked for my reflection on the processions and the genocide.  So here goes.  I see the processions as a metaphor for our journey through life.  Life includes suffering – the platforms of the processions depicted Jesus processing with us and suffering with us – and we walking in procession with Him.  As we reflect on Jesus and His posture in regard to is persecution, we do not see anger nor do we see any giving in to injustice or the ways of the times that He sought to challenge.  We see Jesus simply remaining faithful to God’s message of peace, justice and love (which also includes forgiveness of His persecutors) – while accepting that suffering may come.  Perhaps this then inspires not only those who experienced the genocide, but all of us to move beyond what was done and what is done that brings suffering and to respond to a call for peace, justice, and love as Jesus did – and He is processing with us.






Joan Bleidorn, Milwaukee


   The April, 2014 G.A.T.E. trip to Guatemala was truly a transformative experience for me, giving me first hand evidence of the disastrous effects of U.S. foreign policies in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  The policies of privatization, the acquisition of land by the wealthy, to be used for growing export crops like sugar cane, the rapacious mining, poisoning the water, the civil war massacring the poor in their small villages – all these things led to the breakdown of society, the development of a violent drug culture, often involving those in high place like the police and the government.  We are seeing a blowback at this time, with children on the U.S. border risking their lives to seek safety in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”  U.S, policies have created this situation, and we now owe these refugee children a place of haven and welcome.














Friday, July 18, 2014

THE PILGRIMAGE CONTINUED - ANTIGUA GUATEMALA

   Antigua - founded in 1543 and named Santiago de los Caballeros. 


The city of Antigua was the third capital of the colony of Guatemala.  This Spanish colony included almost all of Central America including Chiapas which today is part of Mexico.  After devastating earthquakes in 1773, the capital of the country was moved to Guatemala City.  Many Guatemalans abandoned the city of Antigua, but some of the ruins of colonial buildings remain.  The name of the old capital, Santiago de los Caballeros, was changed then to Antigua Guatemala (the old Guatemala). 


Where have we been and where are we going?

   We arrived on Tuesday of Holy Week in Antigua to experience the famous processions which rival Seville, Spain as a tourist attraction.  We found ourselves enveloped in late medieval architecture, and anticipating our participation in late medieval piety with the processions and rituals. The small town of about 35,000 is packed with visitors from all over the world for Holy Week.


                                  Preparing for the Good Friday Processions in Antigua


The baroque architecture of the ruins of the 1773 earthquake is still easily perceived, and some of the buildings have been restored to look like the originals.  The dominating architecture transports you back to the days of the Spanish empire.


Bartolome de Las Casas, O.P.   

   Joanne and I went for a brief walk in the city.  We came upon the Merced, the remains of a church and convent built by the Mercedarian Fathers from 1749 – 1767.  


                                              Church of the Merced in Antigua

Despite being constructed to withstand earthquakes, the complex was badly damaged in the 1773 earthquake.  The restored version of the church is a close version of the original building.  

   In the front of the building is a statue of Bartolomé de Las Casas, O.P., Bishop of the area from 1543 to 1547. 


                                     Statue of Bertolome de las Casas outside the Church of the Merced

He was called ‘Defender of the Indigenous People.’  Opposing the prevailing theology of the day, Las Casas insisted that the Indigenous were fully human and had full rights as human beings.  He denounced the ‘encomienda’ system established by Imperial Spain for the Spanish Americas in 1502.  According to this system the encomendero (owner) was given an allotment of indigenous people to protect and instruct in the Roman Catholic faith.  In return the indigenous were to provide labor and tribute to the encomendero. A similar program was used in Spain in the reconquista (reconquest) of Muslim territory.  Gustavo Gutierrez writes that a key reason for Las Casas’ fierce opposition was that “these laws perpetuate and definitively establish the system of distribution (of native people), or encomienda, that is the servitude of the Indians and the exploitation of their labor.”  (Gutierrez, Gustavo, Las Casas, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 1993, p. 284.)  

   Las Casas instructed confessors to refuse absolution to encomenderos unless they freed the Indians working as slaves on their work sites. (Ibid. p.33) The nearby provinces of northern and southern ‘Vera Paz’ (true peace) were named reflecting the quality of life advocated by Las Casas and his Dominican Friars.

    The founder of Liberation Theology, Peruvian Gustavo Gutierrez, notes that Las Casas insisted that the colonial economic system be completely abandoned not merely adjusted. (Ibid. p. 288)   United States’ global neo-liberalism of today is a similar economic system that desperately needs to be changed.  Gutierrez refers to the Latin American Bishop’s documents from Medellin, Columbia (1968) and Puebla, Mexico (1979), which advocate change in political and economic structures, to demonstrate that the Church’s tradition of justice for all, preached by Las Casas, continues. (Ibid. p. 286) 

   We toured the beautiful baroque Merced Church.  Inside parishioners were preparing their float for the processions.

   Three of us decided to go to visit the Santo Domingo Church; we thought it was a church, but it turned out to be a luxury hotel and a museum.  The original church and Dominican convent were destroyed in the 1773 earthquake. Remains of the original church can be found in the hotel-museum complex.


                   Dominican Shield displayed in the Hotel/Museum of Sancto Domingo in Antigua

   I talked to a museum guide about Bartolome de Las Casas and also the massacres of the indigenous during the civil war.  I asked him if he felt that revenge was necessary.  He thought awhile and responded, “No! Father Bartolomé would say no.” I asked another Guatemalan about the guide’s response and he said, “It’s a Ladino (upper class) comment – he’s told you what you wanted to hear.”


Holy Thursday at the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral

   On Holy Thursday we went to Mass at the Cathedral.  We arrived early, but the plaza in front and the church itself swarmed with people.  We saw room available in the front of the church; Joanne and I went up to claim the seats, but we were told they were reserved.  We went to a side aisle; our companions remain in the back standing.  At least we had the wall to lean on during the long ceremony.  The entrance procession included the Bishop, clergy and well dressed lay leaders of the church, certainly Ladinos or upper class.  They took the reserved seats in the front near the altar.  The Bishop washed the feet of the important Ladinos in the Holy Thursday ritual which attempts to enact the story of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper.

   The readings of Holy Thursday are selected to point to key understandings of Salvation History.  The homilist, the Bishop of the area, chose to emphasize the importance and the need for priests.

   It is ironic that the myth of the Eucharist and the Catholic priesthood was in the process of collapse during the 16th century in northern Europe yet still remains viable in Guatemala with similar 16th century trappings.  Is it that some Latinos & Ladinos, by necessity are better at salvaging the good from a myth and simply ignoring the obvious absurdities? 


   The myth of the priesthood and the Eucharist establish an upper class institution yet still were a challenge to the racism and greed of the U.S. dominated, global economic system.  The numerous martyred priests and religious are witnesses. Is it reasonable to ask: do the myths enveloping Jesus, the young Jewish handyman executed by imperial Rome, in one way or another make sense of our lives politically and personally?    

Thursday, July 3, 2014

SANTIAGO ATITLAN


Jesus returns to Jerusalem...

Then taking the twelve aside he said to them, “Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man is to come true. For he will  be handed over to the pagans and will be mocked, maltreated and spat on, and when they have scourged him they will put him to death; and on the third day he will rise again.”  But they could make nothing of this; what he said was obscure to them, they had no idea what it meant. (Luke 18, 31-34)



   
                                               Lake Atitlan


   We went by van on a short trip to parish of Santiago Atitlan. Both San Lucas and Santiago are on the picturesque resort Lake Atitlan.  



                             Lake Atitlan - Guatemalan Resort Area

   Santiago Atitlan was the parish of Father Stan Rother from Oklahoma City.  Father Rother was murdered by the Guatemalan military in 1981.  We visited his church and the rectory where he was killed.



                            Patio of Father Rother's Santiago Church

  The Pastor of San Lucas Toliman, Father Gregg Schaffer, warned his fellow pastor at Santiago Atitlan, Father Stan Rother, that the military was after Father Stan.

   Father Rother was not politically ‘concientizado.’ There was nothing reported about him conducting clandestine meetings.  No one says they remember Father Stan discussing the 1968 document of Medellin promulgated by the Latin American Bishops demanding changes in political and economic structures.  The military targeted the pastoral priest because of his unrelenting support for his cherished parishioners. During an army attack Father Rother sheltered hundreds of people in his church.

   At the advice of Father Gregg Schaffer, Father Stan Rother returned to Oklahoma City.  He was invited to preach at an Oklahoma City church and he questioned Reagan’s claim that the communist threat in Central America justified the massive military assistance given to these countries.  A parishioner reported Father Stan’s sermon to the Guatemalan embassy. 

   

                    Memorial to Father Stan Rother, Santiago Church

   Father Rother couldn’t be away from his beloved people while they were under attack.  He returned to Santiago Atitlan to face the military bent on genocide.  Within a few months Father Stan was murdered.  His body was sent to Oklahoma City for burial but his heart remains enshrined in the church at Santiago Atitlan. 


Nakal kolonton – My heart is at peace

*Laughlin, Robert, with woodblock prints by Naul Ojeda, Diccionario del Corazon, from a Mayan dictionary compiled in 1599 by a Dominican Friar - metaphors of the heart with the Spanish medieval translation and the modern Spanish version.  Taller Leñateros, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico 2003.


     The name of the town 'Santiago' is significant.  Many cities in Latin America are called Santiago.  The name refers to St. James; some scripture scholars would speculate that St. James was Jesus’ brother and a Pharisee.  A legend tells us that the remains of St. James, after martyrdom, were sent miraculously from the Holy Land by boat to northeastern Spain.  James arose from the dead to lead Christians to a military victory over the Muslims.  There is a city in Mexico called Santiago Matamoros – St. James the Muslim killer.  Churches in Spain and Latin America have statues and paintings of Santiago Matamoros riding on his horse and wielding his sword.
 
   I didn’t notice a painting or statue of Santiago in Stan Rother’s church or town.  Again it was perhaps because of being overwhelmed by the stories of Rother’s murder and the slaughter of the indigenous in the area.  I wasn’t looking for Santiago on his horse; after all we couldn’t blame him … or could we?

   Matamoros is the name of a military post and prison in Guatemala City.  General Efrain Rios Montt was taken to Matamoros Prison in 2013 after being convicted of genocide.  A companion on the trip recalls the statue of Santiago Matamoros outside Stan Rother’s church, but does not remember a statue or painting inside the church.

   Our next stop in Santiago was the Peace Park.  (Parque de la Paz)  At first I didn’t realize it, but just our presence was an acknowledgement of a victory for the people and a sign of hope for Guatemala.  Two Guatemalan leaders, poet and theologian Julia Esquivel, and the head of the water project in Chutzoropi, stated unequivocally to us that there was no hope for Guatemala through the government.



                                   Santiago Peace Park

   We experienced a sign of hope when we visited the Peace Park.  The people of Santiago Atitlan successfully rejected military force – the power of the government.

   On December 1, 1990 a group of soldiers from the local military post were out partying and got out of control.  They killed one of the townspeople who were trying to constrain them.  In the morning thousands marched to the garrison to demand an end to the murderous rampaging of the military in Santiago.  The townspeople were met with gunfire; eleven were killed and several injured.    

   Community leaders demanded a meeting with the Guatemalan government.  With international support, an agreement was reached permanently removing the military from the town of Santiago.



                          Graves of the massacred at the Peace Park
   

   The graves of those killed in the massacre are in the Peace Park along with a plaque stating the agreement of the government to remove the military from the area.  There are no religious symbols such as Santiago Matamoros. However, every year on December l, a celebration takes place to remember the victory of the people; part of the celebration is a Catholic Mass.  
  

    Peace Park, Saturday, December 2, 1990, Panabaj, Santiago Atitlan


SISTER, WOMAN OF FAITH 
by Julia Esquivel, in exile, New York City.

I think of the Indians
driven from Manhattan with blood and fire
and my heart
crushed by sorrow
along with other hearts in solidarity
struggles to turn back the claws of Capital
poised over Santiago Atitlan ...

The homeland is an altar – not a pedestal.


The Certainty of Spring, The Ecumenical Program, Washington, D.C. 1993

Thursday, June 26, 2014

SAN LUCAS TOLIMAN, Pilgrimage continued...


   On Palm Sunday we headed south to the Province of Solola to visit the parish of San Lucas, Toliman.

The winding hillside road just outside of Toliman was blocked by buses.  The buses were transportation for teenagers at a regional retreat at San Lucas Toliman.  Parish officials estimated that there were over 2000 youngsters from the region attending.

   When we arrived at the parish of San Lucas we were invited to dinner in the parish hall.  We met two young women who volunteered at the parish.  They talked about the massive retreat that we encountered in terms that the ‘evangelists’ would use.  One, who graduated from the conservative Roman Catholic Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, was director of volunteers for the many parish projects. San Lucas had not experienced the devastation we saw in El Quiche, Espiritu Santo.

   The moving force behind the outreach of the parish was a priest from New Ulm, Minnesota, Gregg Schaffer.  He had remained neutral during the civil war, but had contacts in the government and was alerted when people in the San Lucas area were targeted.  “Father Gregg saved many lives by warning people of the government’s intentions,” we were told. Among many projects as a priest at San Lucas, he established a medical clinic, a school, a coffee project, a women’s center, and a reforestation center.  He asked his parishioners, what do you need?  Then he went to work.  Schaffer questioned financially desperate coffee growers how much they needed for their coffee in order to survive.  They told him, and he established a coffee cooperative to pay the requested prices to the growers. When peasants were thrown off the land, he bought large tracts of land for them to farm. A baby died in his arms and he responded by establishing a medical clinic.  Financial support came from pleas to faithful funders in the Minneapolis area.   Schaffer was a priest well versed in other world theology, but was basically a Minnesota pragmatist with a strong sense of survival and social justice.

   Gregg Schaffer died in 2012 after almost 50 years of ministry in Guatemala.  At San Lucas they are not sure that the projects he started will continue without him.

   



   San Lucas was a busy place preparing for end of the week rituals of Holy Week.  A companion and I went into the Church to observe the Holy Week activity.  I pointed out a piece of artwork on the inside wall of the Church.  It was a plaster representation of the Trinity – the triune God, a basic symbol of Christianity.  In the background was the Father with a black beard – very Spanish.  In front was a bird, perhaps a dove, (definitely not an eagle) and also in front, a crucified Jesus.  We asked what it meant.  A young man, who was working on a procession float in the middle aisle, responded. “That is God” he said.  “But then God is three,” I replied.  “No!”  God is one with three aspects, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” “Could a woman represent one aspect such as mother?” “No!” was the answer. 



   We let it go and looked at the float they were preparing.   The float was almost as wide as the middle aisle and about 15 ft. long.   At the head of the float was a large triangle (the trinity) with the ‘eye of God’ in the center.  At the rear was a boat carrying Jesus and companions, perhaps a reference to the storm on the lake.  (Matthew 8:23-27)   I did not want to strain the good will of the people by asking more questions, but I wondered if ‘the eye’ meant that God knew about the genocide.            

   The preaching in the Christian churches presents the Gospels as historical and confuses the mythical – theological with history.  The Holy Week processions in Guatemala seemed to do the same, but there is a difference in Faith and faith or belief in myth.  Scripture scholar, Jerome Murphy O’Connor, said the New Testament writers were not historians, but theologians who presented an understanding of Faith to particular audiences with their stories of Jesus. The accounts of the passion of Jesus differ and attempt to portrait who Jesus was and his mission.  If the passion stories have the character of a myth, what value do they have?  It could it be destructive; for example a cause of the holocaust.

   Since Vatican II Holy Week processions and passion plays have been carefully crafted not to portray the Jews as the executors of Jesus.  In the Holy Week ceremonies in Guatemala I did not see anything that characterized the Jews as the killers of Jesus.

   Rudolph Bultman and his German colleagues debated the issue of the New Testament as myth during World War II and immediately after the war.  In the series of essays, Kerygma and Myth, (Edited by Hans Werner Barisch, Harper, New York, 1961) the war and the holocaust are not mentioned.  Bultman’s original essay in German was published in 1941.  For Bultman, Faith is an existential affirmation that Jesus is Lord and requires radical commitment to the Lord.  Faith, according to Bultman, is between the Lord and me.

   Holy Week in Guatemala prompted me to ask:  is Holy Week there portraying Jesus’ passion and resurrection as historical fact, a myth to be believed?... or simply quaint pageantry for diversion?... or something more?  


Next Posting: Santiago Atitlan, Rev. Stan Rother – Martyr, The Peace Park.    

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Parish of Espiritu Santo in Zacualpa, Guatemala



 From the depths I call to you, Yahweh.                                                         Lord listen to my cry for help!                                                                            Listen compassionately                                                                             to my pleading.                                                          (Psalm 130)   

   The next station on our pilgrimage was the church and grounds of the parish of Espiritu Santo in the town of Zacualpa in the Department of Quiché.  Here we experienced remnants of the war which killed 200,000 people, mostly indigenous. A companion commented, “We were innocent of the story and it is graphic and startling; they walked us through.”


  Next to the church is a large white cross about twenty feet high.  The crossbar displays the word ‘MARTYRES.’ The church grounds, the equivalent of a convent cloister, were the site of massive killings of indigenous people by the military.  Prisoners were tied to trees – tortured and murdered.  The ‘Santa Cruz,’ the holy cross, became real.

    Some were murdered and tortured in the church itself.  Statues and all symbols of Christianity were destroyed.

   Photos framed on the wall of the ‘cloister’ passageways showed the project of exhuming the bodies for proper burial after the peace accords.

   We were led to a small room off the ‘cloister.’  This was another site for torture and murder.  Torture instruments were displayed on the wall.  The horror of the place came home when we were told that the black stains on the wall were blood stains. At a corner of the room was a life size wooden statue of a Mayan woman on one knee lamenting the desecration of humanity. She is a contemporary ‘mater dolorosa.’

   We then went to a small building with a dirt floor for a prayer service.  Attention was directed to a topped well now functioning as a ceremonial fire pit.  A Mayan woman as official spiritual guide conducted the prayer ceremony at the side and over the fire pit. 




The well itself is significant. The guide explained that not only were people murdered and tortured, but the bodies thrown into this well and two other wells.  She gave us wax candles of different colors representing the diversity of the universe; our candles were lit and eventually placed in the center of the fire.  The wax melting together symbolized the unity of the universe.  We prayed.  After the ceremony, our guide thanked us for listening and understanding that the civil war was not war, but genocide – a revelation for most of us.   

   I asked a Guatemalan colleague - member of Voces de La Frontera - if the killing of the indigenous was really racism.  Couldn’t war on the indigenous be simply economic?  After all, the indigenous are diametrically opposed to some neo-liberal policies.  He said, “Racism is ‘infundido’ (inherent) in the Guatemalan upper class.”  In the U.S., to the extent we don’t care to know or care what happened to the indigenous in Guatemala, we internationalize our own inherent racism. Survival of the fittest capitalism is an excuse for racism and genocide.

   Despite war, the parish of Santo Espiritu flourishes.  The building was filled with people preparing for Holy Week.  The church has been repaired and replenished with sacred images.  The trees where prisoners were tortured and murdered have been cut down and replaced, but the stumps serve as a reminder.  We talked to students taking classes in hopes of entering high school and college.   It seemed to me that the Christian myth survived the onslaught at Espiritu Santo, and now has a new respected partner in Mayan spirituality to build a just society.

                     Ch ‘ilom kolonton – my heart is a warrior*

*Laughlin, Robert, with woodblock prints by Naul Ojeda, Diccionario del Corazon, from a Mayan dictionary compiled in 1599 by a Dominican Friar - metaphors of the heart with the Spanish medieval translation and the modern Spanish version.  Taller Lenateros, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico 2003.