Thursday, July 24, 2014


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.   


   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// also 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.

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