This morning we joined the Spanish Community in our Parish in las mañanitas for our Lady of Guadalupe whose feast day it is today. And at the end of this week, the Filipino community will have their turn with the start of the Simbang Gabi on the evening of the 15th.
I have always been struck by the similarities between our culture and religious practices and those of the Mexicans. In fact, our brand of Catholicism has a stronger Mexican flavor than a Castilian character. Among Mexicans, Dia de los Muertos is an important day of remembrance of their departed loved ones, very much similar in tone and character to out undas. And I was amazed the first time I cross the border in Tijuana. It was like I was immediately transported back to Manila as soon as we drove over into Mexico from the US. The sights, sounds and the streets felt eerily family, like a strong sense of deja vu.
In the highly secularized societies in the West (i.e. the US and Europe), more and more people are becoming agnostics and even atheists in their religious outlook. There has been a growing falling away from religion and a sense of a spiritual life. Many churches are empty and people now worship in sports arenas or in concert halls. They go on pilgrimage to theme parks in exotic destinations.
But where there are many immigrant communities, the churches are alive and robust. Many parishes in the US and Europe (including Rome), it is the migrant communities that keep them open and alive. In Rome, many of the the Generalate and Motherhouse of religious orders are managed and run by members from countries that used to be colonies of European nations.
Bishop Desmond Tutu was reputed to have said, “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”
It strikes me as ironic and indeed the mystery of God’s ways that we are now bringing back the Good News to those from whom we have received it.
Marian devotions are very strong in both the Philippines and Mexico. Bot claim and profess to be Pueblo Amante de Maria. And Christmas is a dear and holy period for both people. It is time of hope and waiting for the Promised Redeemer. In the deepest part of their soul, our peoples know that they have been resilient in many adversities because of this hope and faith in this Promised One.