I had a great Christmas. Last night we went to the "midnight" Mass (9 p.m. for carols, then 10 p.m. for the Mass). This was the first year in a long time that my mom hasn't been involved with the music for this Mass. She's been stressed and trying to find a new job, and she decided to take a year off. When we got there I didn't feel like being there, and I didn't feel like singing (unusual for me). During the pre-Mass music, I loved the songs that were just the choir - fancy motets, things with lots of harmony, often in foreign languages. They were singing something beautiful, and I started thinking about Teresita, one of my housemates in El Salvador, and her mom, who is dying (maybe even dead; I'm not sure if anyone would tell me). I pray for her mom, Blanca, every week at Mass, and as I was listening to this beautiful music, I had one of those wonderful prayer moments where it actually feels like you're getting through to God. But more than talking to God, I was thinking, "This is for you, Blanca. This is for you Teresita. This is for you, sister of Teresita whose husband went to the U.S., abandoned you, and started a new family." This beautiful music is for you, a humble campesino family from El Salvador. You are important - very important to me.
There was a lot of music devoted to Mary (this being a Catholic church and Christmas), which reminded me of praying the rosary at Lupita's house. (Lupita was my other Salvadoran housemate.) Her brother was shot on a bus three and a half years ago, and they prayed a novena in her community for the nine days following the anniversary of his death. I had the honor of visiting her home during this time, and participating in the prayers. I kneeled on the hard, dirt/cement floor of a beautiful but humble home, praying the Hail Mary as fast as I could in Spanish, trying to keep up with the women from the community. Dios te salve Maria. Llena eres de gracia. El Señor es contigo, Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres, y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre, Jesús. Santa Maria, madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte. (Say that 50 times fast.) It was one of the most amazing experiences I had in El Salvador. Despite having so much privilege and the power that comes with it, sometimes I feel like all I can do is pray to make things better. I'm usually a positive person, but I have a hard time finding hope for the world, hope for justice and peace.
While I'm talking about El Salvador, I'll tell a story that involves Teresita's mom, which Fr. Privett told at the USF graduation Mass a couple weeks ago. The coordinators of the study abroad program I did, Kevin and Trena, went to visit Blanca and the rest of Teresita's family, and they brought their young daughters. One of them, Sophia, went straight to Blanca's side, and stayed with her for most of their visit. When Kevin and Trena and the girls got back home in the evening, as Sophia was going to bed, she asked Trena whether what Teresita's mom has is contagious. It's not contagious, but how amazing it is that a young child, thinking she may catch this illness, sat at the sick woman's side, holding her hand. It was such a beautiful, selfless, and powerful act - one we should all learn from.
But back to Christmas. This morning we went to Mass again, and this time I sang in the choir. We didn't rehearse much because it was mostly very familiar Christmas music, but that meant that right before Mass, the choir director asked me to solo on a couple songs. Then she added a couple more solos during the Mass by whispering to me and the choir as she played introductions to songs. It was fun, and I sang pretty well. Every year we sing a verse from Handel's Messiah for the Alleluia. "And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior, which is Christ the Lord.'" It was a good Mass.
We came home, had a simple lunch, and my brother came over. We opened presents, and I got some really good ones, including an Edward Gorey calendar, AIDS and Accusation by Paul Farmer, a couple social justice-y prayer books, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and slippers for my cold cold feet. La hermana got Little Miss Sunshine, so we watched that in the afternoon, then had red and green enchiladas for dinner. It was a nice Christmas.
Off to read and sleep. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it - because he is out of place in it, and yet must be in it - his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected because they are regarded as weak; and with those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, and are tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.
-From "The Time of No Room" by Thomas Merton