Monday, December 19, 2011


POSADA ANNUAL 2011 (Posada: home, dwelling, lodge)

COMITE TIMON (Steering Committee of the New Sanctuary Movement, Milwaukee of Voces de la Frontera – Immigrant Workers Center)

I found participating in the planning for our annual Posada uncomfortable but rewarding. Columbians, Mexicans, Heritage latinos, and Milwaukeeans don’t see the Christmas story the same way. (Heritage latino: one born in the U.S. who learns the language and traditions from immigrant latino parents and grandparents) We had lots to sort out: Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, Wise men, Shepherds, Sunday of the Holy Family, the presentation in the Temple, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Again we asked: what is a Posada, a novena, the Rosary – is it necessary, what songs do we sing, how does it relate to our work, can we do it?

Sanctuary Coordinator and recent U.W.M. graduate Nancy Flores was our discussion leader. Nancy, a young, heritage latina, led us deftly through the maze, and we came up with a plan. The successful plan was only possible with the wise counsel of moms and grandmothers, members of the “Comite.” One was a mom – grandmother whose son was deported to Mexico and was killed. Another was a woman whose husband had been deported and left her with a large family of children and grandchildren. They recounted past Posadas here and in Mexico and explained what they meant. From experience they knew the Christmas story.

It was a chilly December night and forty of us left the office of Voces and processed four blocks to a neighborhood community center called “Bucket Works.” It was cold and windy, but our candles were protected by cups and we wore our winter clothes. We were accompanied by children, two of them dressed to represent Mary and Joseph on their trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census mandated by the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Mary was with child expected to be born in Bethlehem.

We walked singing hymns in Spanish. Nancy and the Grandmas led; they knew the words. A tall young heritage latino man also knew the words. He took time off from the “Recall Walker Campaign” to be with us.

When we reached our destination, half the group went inside and the other half remained in the cold including Mary and Joseph. Those outside pleaded entrance. After a sung dialogue the outsiders were allowed to enter.

“Entren santos peregrines, reciban este Rincon no de esta pobre morada sino de mi corazon.” (Come in holy pilgrims, not to this poor house but to my heart.) Gradually more people with children joined us.

We read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. Father Alvaro of the Old Catholic Church read a reflection prepared by Nancy. The reflection noted that Mary and Joseph represent the immigrants of today. It is our duty to welcome all into our community.

One of the moms was asked to share a recent close call. She recounted that she had been stopped by the police for going through a stop sign while driving out of a grocery store parking lot. The police followed her a few blocks before they stopped her. She claimed that she did not go through a stop sign, and the officer evidently agreed, but gave her a ticket for not having a drivers’ license. A very dangerous incident; she thanked Voces and Sanctuary for support.

THEN SOME PRAYERS: (My translation)

Our Father, in heaven, make present here the joy intended for us.
Greetings Mary and pilgrims; you bring the chance for salvation.
Glory to God, and thanks to God for the joy of sharing with family.

A Madrina, godmother, for Mary’s baby was chosen. The baby will be consecrated to the Lord by the family and the Madrina in February.

It was time for the PiƱata. The kids’ patience paid off. A big second grader smashed the hanging plaster of Paris image and candy sprayed everywhere. The second grader’s great-grampa, Jim Cusack was delighted.

We celebrated eating tamales, prepared by the grandmothers, and drinking hot chocolate. One of the moms I talked to said she was appreciative of the Posada, but was concerned for the safety of her daughter, the Voces Director, who was in Alabama for a march to the Alabama Capital, Montgomery.

Festivities were closed by singing happy birthday to one of the moms.

When we arrived home there was an e-mail waiting from one of the Voces people who was in Alabama. “I find myself in Montgomery, Alabama after a wonderful national march in opposition to the worst anti-immigrant legislation in the nation, bill HB 56.”

Good work, hermano, God is with us. ¡Si, se puede!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Lessons and Carols, December 2, 2011

Church of the Gesu Milwaukee, WI (The church was named after the founding Jesuit church in Rome: Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Gesu – Church of the Holy Name of Jesus.)

The Christmas concert at Marquette was beautiful – an attempt to put new life into tired myths was laudable. The concert was held in the upper church of the Gesu. This is the “Upstairs Church” of theologian and N.C.R. columnist Jamie Manson. (A distinction she made at the 2011 C.T.A. Conference. Upstairs = formal and in conformity; downstairs = pastoral and politically challenging). The hymns were in English, and impeccable Latin. The student choir was mostly white. I did notice one African American singer and a few Asians in the large choir that I guess was over one hundred students.

I doubt that a concert of such Roman Catholic magnitude could have been done at Marquette when I first arrived as a freshman in 1953. John Walsh, S.J.’s theatre productions were as skilled or more so, but the resulting catharsis was not directed by official Roman Catholic theology. Walsh’s life changing Masses in the basement church are another story, but the place did bring back memories. I remembered the basement church of my student days with renewed Faith and joy. Let’s call it the church of Yeshua – the homeless Jewish handyman from occupied Galilee.

It was liturgy in the round. Music and readings were from the four directions encircling the church. Participation of the congregation was requested and achieved. As a dry Mass, the concert was structured as a dramatization of the battle between good and evil. The singing began with a traditional English Carol, “The Lord Did Adam Make,” explaining creation and original sin. The “good” wins by Jesus shedding his Blood. (E’en So, Lord Quickly Come) Finally victory is confirmed with an outstanding rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from the Messiah.

The result was beautiful but troubling. The congregation was walled in the church by the four directional music and readings. We participated, but did not question. It was a liturgical retro return to cultural - theological Vatican dominance.

It fits, of course. The Marquette sports symbol is the Golden Eagle, the same as the Roman Empire (see The Roman Empire executed Jesus (Gesu), but the fundamentalist theology that explains the Stations of the Cross claims that Rome is innocent. The 1st Station (“Via Crucis” – Way of the Cross) on the eastern wall of Gesu Church shows the Roman Governor Pilate washing his hands of the execution. Rome is sanctified. The Jews were blamed as is presented on the 9th Station on the west wall where men of the Torah denounce Jesus (Gesu) after he falls.

A white male priest in a clerical suit with a Roman collar gave the final blessing. There was no “ita missa est” (go the mass is ended) charge to change unjust political structures. The handyman’s “Good News” that peace is possible through non violent political action was left to boil over from downstairs.