I was in Arequipa today. I was spending a few days working with Father Alex on some of our joint projects. The time flew by.
This afternoon I joined him for an outdoor Mass. Like many of the outdoor Mass I have attended, it was an odd mix of a comic tragedy and poetic masterpiece.
The Mass, assembled on a concrete soccer pitch in a squatter community outside of the Alto Cayma area, was a celebration for the anniversary of the community. There were about 50 people in attendance – and another 15 dogs. At one point two dogs got into a fight – right in the middle of a scripture reading. The commotion led to the toppling of the makeshift altar. The plastic soda bottles that had been fashioned into makeshift flower vase, toppled to the ground spilling a large amount of water right behind Father Alex.
A group of dogs packed around the spilled water – lapping up the sustenance. All the while, Father was homilizing the scripture reading. Honestly, this was nothing out of the ordinary for a Mass in Alto Cayma. However, what transpired next was truly inspiring.
During Communion, only a few people came forward to receive the host. I thought this was a bit strange, as I was familiar with a much larger participation.
After the Mass Father Alex asked everyone to sit down for a moment. And, for ten minutes, he told them how much they are loved. He told them how important they are and how much they are the foundation of the Church. He said that no one should ever feel they can’t receive Holy Communion – as this is their Church and Communion is their opportunity to connect more deeply with their faith. He said that he was honored to be in service to them and wanted them to know how important and worthwhile every one of them is.
At one point the short sermon became more of a Q&A session with the community. People asked him about whether they needed to pay for Holy Communion and whether or not they could receive Communion if they had not been attending Mass. He told them they could always partake in the service and they are always welcome. He said, “you are good people. Really good people. Don’t every think otherwise. And, you should know that I consider it a real honor to be your priest.”
It was beautiful. A real testimony to this wonderful man.
Afterwards, in the car driving back to the volunteer house where I was staying, Father Alex turned to me and said – “that is what I think evangelism is all about Wayne. In the dirt and with the dogs, this is where God truly exists.”
Today I learned a great deal about serving others. And it happened in the dirt and with the dogs . . . and it was wonderful.
Thank you for all of the ongoing support.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.