I keep waiting for Eugenio to write this story. After all, I only got to know Maricel for three days last year while he knew her for years. I know that she was a devout Catholic woman, mother of three children of whom two are still living (a third son drowned in a freak swimming accident), that she has helped Eugenio with his projects in El Salvador and provided a home for him when he visited that country. I know that she was a gracious hostess to me when I stayed in her home, that she was always kind and generous to her cook and companion, María Delia, who could not praise her enough. She had a zest for life and a heart full of love for her family and friends.
I asked her about Eugenio and she told me what she wanted me to believe in words. The rest was communicated through looks, gestures, tones, an anecdote here, a photo there. Eugenio had helped her through difficult times, she said. She was grateful to him. She saw Christ in him. Maricel is no longer with us and so we will let her words stand.
Perhaps Eugenio will yet share some thoughts about Maricel. A good writer must eventually speak about what is closest to his heart. Until he does so, his words will be hollow and superficial. It is better to write from the depths of your soul even when it is painful.
This story did not have a triumphant, happy ending. We hear testimonies over and over again in the healing Masses but Maricel's testimony in April about her remission from cancer turned out to be ephemeral. We prayed and prayed and the miracle we most wanted to witness didn't happen. Why? Was God not listening? How could He let such a good woman -- the mother of a seminarian! -- die? The death of our loved ones challenges our faith to its core. It is easy to take refuge in busyness, to keep writing the "light" stuff that we think others want to hear...but that is not what they really need.
At the conference at Notre Dame, I was especially struck by a phrase that Rev. Arturo Pérez-Rodriguez used during his workshop on Las Posadas, the Via Crucis and other expressions of Hispanic popular Catholicism: "the vulnerability of God." "Somos carnales del Cristo vulnerable", he said. We feel a kinship with this suffering Christ, an empathy with His grieving Mother, Mary, to whom we offer our pésame.
There are times when we need our clergy to be strong. There are other times when they can help us best by showing their human side, by not trying to "tough it out", by being that Cristo vulnerable so we can join together in acknowledging our common need for comfort from a God who is bigger than all of us, a God for whom physical death is not the final word.