Sometimes I get taken aback at the grace and graciousness that abounds here.
Yes, there is poverty, there is violence, there is selfishness. But, grace abounds.
Saturday a week ago I went to San Juan Concepción, planning to go to a meeting – which actually wasn’t there. I went looking for someone and, trying to turn around, I backed into a deep drainage ditch and my right rear wheel was hanging there. I was in dire straits. But men and boys from the community came out, got some stumps and planks of wood and, jacking up the car, they pushed me out.
Thursday, after preaching at the 7 pm Mass in Dulce Nombre, I started home at 8:30 pm in the dark. On an inclined curve, the car headed into the right bank. I stopped before I hit the hill. But, trying to back up and start up again, the car slid into the edge of the left side of the road. I tried to move – but no luck, even with four-wheel drive. A motorcyclist stopped who is from Pan Grande; he had to walk his motorcycle up the incline. But he returned and tried to help me move, even getting rocks form the nearby field to try to get traction. No luck. Two more guys on a motorcycle stopped and tried to help. By this time, Padre German, our pastor arrived with two guys. Finally, they managed to pull the car out and I could return home to Plan Grande.
Friends, neighbors, and strangers stopped to help (though one car came by and got up the incline with no problems, but didn’t stop.) I continue am amazed at the kindness of the people. As I have written several times, one of my major sources of security is in the people – willing to help a gringo, without compensation.
Then, this morning I presided at the Celebration of the Word with Communion here in Plan Grande. After the Prayer of the Faithful, the tradition is to sing a hymn of thanksgiving and take up the collection. As the hymn was ending I looked up and saw Don Salvador, a bent over older man – probably in his eighties – bending over in the middle of the aisle to tie the shoe of a little boy. I stopped and waited until he finished. Then I went to get the hosts from the tabernacle. But I felt as if I had witnessed in Don Salvador’s simple gesture the sacrament of service.
These small acts of kindness, generosity, and care sustain me – and shows me the presence of God here.
There is sin, evil, violence, racism, poverty, crime. But, as Georges Bernanos concludes his novel, The Diary of a Country Priest, relating the final words of the priest: “Grace is everywhere.”