Dispatches from Mexico

By squeaker

In late February, I took a one-week vacation in the Mexican Riviera Maya. It was great to escape from the winter cold and enjoy some 30 degree heat.

Contrary to my usual approach, I left for Mexico without having yet identified exactly where I would go for Sunday mass. I figured that Mexico was so Catholic that there would be churches everywhere. A preliminary Internet search had suggested that there were many options near my resort, so I didn’t worry about it until I got there.

Big mistake.

When I got to Mexico and started looking into the specifics, it turned out that many of the churches reported on the web no longer existed. Some were apparently destroyed in Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and were never rebuilt. The mass that used to take place at the hotel was also cancelled. I eventually found a spot, but it was a $66 taxi ride round-trip, about 40 Km away.

On the other hand, Protestant churches have apparently been on the rise, especially the Mormons. I fear that the Catholic Church in Mexico has not been connecting with the faithful, leading to a growing exodus. Need I remind you how Fr. Luis Arriaga, of D&P infamy, was only outed by the Cardinal of Mexico City after three years of scandal and only after having been contacted by Archbishop Prendergast. I fear that vigilance has been lacking.

This was a sad disillusionment for me. We tend to look up to Latin America as if the Church down there didn’t have challenges and it was Heaven on Earth. But they’re feeling the pressures of materialism and secularism too.

I did I eventually make it to mass. It was a small church called Our Lady of Carmen. The place was packed. Even the balconies were full. The music was a bit of a cultural shock for me because it was much like Mariachi. If you’ve ever been to Mexico, you realize how this would appeal to the local culture and the Latino temperament and joie-de-vivre, but it took some adjusting on my part. It was actually very tame and restrained music. At no point did you get the feeling that this was a beach party. The choir had a reserved and pious demeanour, dressed in elegant uniforms of traditional Mexican attire. The congregation would sing, but there was no hand clapping. Overall, the mass was very reverent and by the book. The faith of the people was palpable.

Communion time was interesting because it was only given on the tongue. :-p The all-male altar servers were standing next to the priest with Communion plates, which were diligently placed under each person’s chin as they received. Good grief, I can’t remember the last time I saw Communion plates being used in Canada. The only thing missing was a Communion rail so that everybody could receive kneeling.

Overall, it was an enriching experience that again reminded me of the universality of the Catholic Church and of Christ’s call to all peoples.

Although the Faith may be fading on Mexico, they’re far from being in terminal condition as in Canada. They’re definitely in better shape than us. Their boat can be turned around. They need not follow in our spiritual footsteps.

Canada can be salvaged too, of course, but it’ll take a lot more time, sweat and blood. Better to get started now.

5 thoughts on “Dispatches from Mexico

  1. I practice what revenant teachings I learned in my early childhood education at Maison Jeanne D’arc. Even at my first Communion I learned to receive Jesus’ Most Holy and Blessed Eucharist (Whole Body and Blood), on my tongue and have never felt comfortable receiving Him any other way.
    However I also had some wonderful Charismatic experiences later on at two Parishes and also know that Holy Spirit does work His Ways in different ways with different cultures and even people, especially people who have never had the opportunity to learn in the same manner. God has also informed my heart, that, it is not jus the way we receive Him,that is only important , e.g.if the heart of the receiver is only doing it because they “think” they are being more reverent or for show, but the condition of our hearts when we receive HIm . Our motives as usual play a big part here as they do everywhere.
    I have since learned there are many who think technique only is important or relevant, but if the heart is dark or not full of love for Jesus and His other children it means nothing.
    At one of those parishes that was indeed a small intimate Parish the people who attended the prayer group and Masses and other affairs that all had praise for Our Most Blessed One True God at the heart, loved The Blessed Holy Trintiy very very very much and it was so palpable the air was thick with Grace love and healing and guess what we invoked The Holy Spirit sometimes in the quiet silence when The Blessed Sacrament was exposed but, also other times we hand clapped. No Priest , (The Companions of the Cross were often there, in the form of Father Francis Donnelly, or Father Ed Wade) and they did not let on that anything was irreverent. I beleive they were moved by how the Holy Spirit was fanning the flame of love and thus boldness in Spirit and freedom in the way we could praise without “self” consciousness, which is pride all dressed up, in a different light. For instance if ones goes to Africa, and watches how they praise God they will see people are full of fire, color, singing dancing and probably hand clapping too. As was said God sees the heart of the person… is it pure and unself-conscious? , innocent and full of love like a child’s is. That may be what what pleases Him most, because it is hard for children to not be themselves when they talk or sing or praise God. Let us be like them.

    Also, and, in fact I have a very beautiful C.D. by a MIchael Talbot from way back then and have been playing it since The Holy Spirit told me to, since Pentecost Sunday. It is fiery full of Gods’ Holy Spirit Bold, powerful and
    involves hand clapping as they sing to, and invoke The Holy Spirit. It is also full of wonderful faith-filled lovers of Christ who speak of John Paul 11 and one can feel His smile on this beautiful youthful and Christ -filled C.D.

    There is nothing wrong with hand clapping except when it done in the wrong way, and also after, say, a Pastor or person receives something or speaks in a Church after Mass.
    Since when did we applaud during the Holy Time reserved for Mass, or for that matter if there is a musical ministry that has
    “performed” since that is how it is often treated, The Holy Spirit tells me that I should never clap, or applaud those who are only exercising the gifts God gave them , in the first place for HIm not so they could be applauded. Church is not a venue for music or speech performances.

    If people are Blessing God by singing or playing instruments for Him, then that is good, use your gifts, in fact I believe we all should sing praises to God He Loves it!!!, but it is not about us, it is and should always be about HIm, and that should produce great joy in us, just being graced in the first place to do it, because we love HIm, and desire to give HIm the praise and Glory.!!! and then why would we clap or applaud anyone as if they should be praised?.
    If the only reason they are singing to God or playing music to Him or for HIm ,is because He has given them the grace and desire to praise HIm, and they are grateful and want to praise Him just for His Namesake, and for Him in all our lives… Praise God for this!!!

  2. I have a far worse experience, not in Mexico but in Cuba. We went to Caya Coco one Christmas, looking forward to a Cuban Christmas mass. The hotel was unable to advise us or guide us to one. We and several other guests were quite distraught.

  3. Dave,
    I sympathize with your experience. My family is from Cuba. That poor country has been ravaged by more than 50 years of atheist socialist indoctrination and persecution. The Church has suffered much and has shrunk badly.

  4. “Communion time was interesting because it was only given on the tongue. The all-male altar servers were standing next to the priest with Communion plates, which were diligently placed under each person’s chin as they received. Good grief, I can’t remember the last time I saw Communion plates being used in Canada.”

    At the parish I attend (St. Isaac Jogues in Pickering, Ontario) our pastor, Father Paul Dobson, has re-introduced the use of the paten. An altar server places it under the chin of the communicant to catch a fallen host. This actually happened to me when I was receiving last Sunday. The host fell on the paten, was retrieved and placed on my tongue.

    He also has positioned two prie-dieus (kneelers) so that communicants may, if they choose, receive Our Lord on their knees. Fr. Paul also has a priest hearing confessions before masses. The choir sings all the propers and there is Gregorian chant and Latin sung by the choir.

    While I have no objection to standing and receiving the Eucharist in the hand, I find it more reverent to receive my Lord and Saviour on the tongue while kneeling.

    Thank you Father Dobson. I have recently come to understand how a renewal of the Church and a deepening of the Faith may be achieved through good liturgy.

  5. Last year my husband & I attended Mass in Varadero Cuba. It was PACKED; standing room only in the small church and throngs outside the main door. The priest took the time to speak with anyone & everyone afterwards. I was blown away by what I saw there. We visited Cayo Coco this year; we spoke to our priest prior because we found out getting to Mass in that area would be difficult if not impossible….

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