Thursday, May 21, 2009

Padre Martín Avalos is coming!

One of my favorite charismatic preachers and his music group are coming to Arlington this weekend. I started photo’ing Padre Martín Avalos, a charismatic priest from El Salvador, a couple of years ago for the Renovación. At first I was skeptical. Eucharistic adoration was not my “thing”. As I told Father Hoyos, I see Jesus in the faces of our people, not in a little piece of wheat and water.

I expected that this would be just another photography gig but, unlike other preachers, Padre Martín got past my lens and into my heart, mind, and soul. His words and demeanor made me want to put the camera aside and curl up at his feet like Mary of Bethany and listen, just listen.

In person, Padre Martín is a kind and humble man with a great sense of humor. He is the kind of guy you could imagine sitting around sipping horchatas with. He talks of being bored by church as a child, but he still went on to seminary and then discovered a gift for preaching. He assembled the Dei Verbum choir – mostly university students – who play the kind of Christian music he likes – the kind we can dance and clap our hands to, and make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Padre Martín enjoys being in the presence of God and that joy is contagious and brings peace to his listeners.

Padre Martín and Dei Verbum don’t need fancy sets, sexy outfits, or glitzy multimedia extravaganzas to wow a congregation. The choir members are well-groomed – simple suits for the men, flight attendant-like uniform dresses for the women. Padre Martín just looks like a regular Catholic priest – no designer shirts or suits. But when Padre Martín and Dei Verbum start to sing, the place starts jumping and, during the breaks, the CDs fly off the shelves as people want to complete their collections and learn the songs before the next year’s retreat.

When he preaches, Padre Martín doesn’t show off. You do not lose sight of the Message because of the ego of the messenger. He is very much in touch with the human condition of people today and we often feel that he must know us intimately and is speaking directly to us. When he leads the Hour of Eucharistic Adoration – now my favorite part of the retreat! – he talks to Jesus in the form of the consecrated Host as if He were a personal friend.

I could go on and on, but instead I would like to invite all Spanish-speaking readers in the metropolitan Washington area to come and see for themselves. The retreat will take place this weekend, May 23-24, at the Bishop Denis O’Conell High School, 6600 Little Falls Rd., Arlington, VA 22213. It runs from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day and tickets ($15) will be available at the door. Children under 10 years of age can come for free, but child care is not provided. Come and let your spirit be renewed.

Photos: Just a few of my favorite Padre Martín photos from Arlington, Virginia and Santa Ana, El Salvador.

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