By Fr. Alex Diaz (English translation by Rebel Girl)
July 23, 2014
Yesterday, Tuesday, July 22nd, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture on evangelization titled "Hispanic Catholics and the New Evangelization" given by Father Virgilio Elizondo, a priest in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas. It was a very enjoyable talk and very rich in content. I loved being able to hear something new and refreshing, something different than what we're usually used to hearing, the same trite issues as always that don't lead to thinking beyond the circle in which many find themselves. It was a pity that there were few to hear it, perhaps because they feel a hint of fear at checking out something new.
The talk turned around two big topics that were interwoven -- the first was the seed and the second, the fruit that seed has produced.
In the first topic, Elizondo made us look at our roots, our sources, based on our indigenous roots. United with the mixture of European and African blood, we are the fruit of a mixed culture but one that still conserves the richness of its sources. We are a people rich in faith, in tradition. We are people who worship and glorify God with the music, dance, folklore, and joy that characterize us. We are lively people who have maintained their faith despite the attacks we have suffered throughout history.
Hispanic people are Marian people who gather in the maternal arms of the Virgin Mary. In her, we see the model of Mother, teacher and friend, and we can note this in the various Marian celebrations that take place all over the American continent. Mary plays an important role in the evangelization of our people.
Hispanic people are people for whom Our Lord Jesus accompanies us as the God of love, the one who became man to redeem us through his suffering, the God who consoles us from the cross. It's because of him that we see a path to redemption in suffering. We see and accept the cross of Jesus with faith, joy and hope, and we commend ourselves to him in every moment of our lives. It's normal in Hispanic Christian households to see a crucifix presiding over the home and an image of Mary nearby. The suffering Jesus reminds us that our suffering is united to his in the redemption of the world.
We are an evangelized and evangelizing people, fortified in the culture of encuentro and heartfelt giving to others, warm people who, with our popular religiosity, speak and transmit the faith. A simple people who today are still becoming a new world, that keeps itself alive with its rich cultural tradition and gives birth to new children in the faith and grace of God through an ongoing encounter with the gospel.
The second topic of this lecture was the fruit produced by this continent that sowed the seed of faith. That fruit is none other than Pope Francis, a son of that culture who has become a new evangelization phenomenon -- a man of the people, a warm, simple and humble man who with his simplicity and poverty has attracted those who had been alienated and wounded in the Church itself. His ministry turns around acts, words, and homilies and talks that are short and simple but with a rich and deep message. His message is clear. We should go to the neediest and bring the gospel message in our own lives. Live the gospel and carry it with joy in our body and soul. That should motivate us not to lose hope, in spite of everything that overwhelms and frustrates us. Jesus is always there to support us and walk with us.
Another of the major traits marking his pontificate is preaching clearly and bluntly about mercy, which is nothing more than taking on our brothers' and sisters' -- our neighbors' -- misery, experiencing the suffering of those who suffer, suffering with them, having mercy for suffering hearts. All of these traits were drawn one way or another from this culture that developed amid upheavals and hardship. That's why the pope is only putting into action what he experienced and received from Hispanic American culture -- a simple but rich culture, welcoming, evangelized and evangelizing.
Finally, we are people who are children of the Maya, the Aztecs, and the Incas, who received the gospel from the hands of the first missionaries who with love and devotion forged deep in our soul that gospel love and thus we mixed with European and African cultures and from that mixture we emerged. We have learned from all of that. But above all, we are the face of Jesus who goes on manifesting himself in every culture and every sign and symbol. We are the Hispanic people who with their traditions and traditional virtues have maintained the truth of the gospel.
Fr. Alex Diaz is a priest from El Salvador who is presently Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church in Dale City, Virginia.
Photo: Fr. Virgilio Elizondo and Fr. Alex Diaz surrounded by Catholic catechists and other laity from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.