Bear with me because this is a long entry...
Came back from honoring La Virgen de Guadalupe at St. Boniface Catholic Church, my lifelong parish. Bishop Jaime Soto spoke out against the war in Afghanistan. Good. I saw a couple of Vietnamese families sprinkled amongst the Mexican masses. Even better. I just hope some of us Mexicans will be their when the Vietnamese members of our parish honor Our Lady of La Vang (their patron saint) on August 15. I know I will.
It was a bit different from other years. For one, there was no mariachi, instead replaced by a church choir that was too evangelical for my taste. There was also no Aztec dancers, replaced by other folk dancers from I believe Michoacan. Funny, I always thought people from Michoacan lived in Santa Ana, not Anaheim. But it was still packed. When I got there at 3:30 in the morning, it was packed. And still more came.
What kind of Christian am I that attends church only on the feast days of my patron saints and doesn't even go to church on Christmas or Easter? The truest Catholic alive, for better or worse. Call me a pagan! Come on, do it! But la Virgen is something else. I'm not going to give an in-depth analysis here, but one of the things I have always loved about her is the importance of her color. Of all the gods and goddesses I have read about in world religions, la Virgen is one of the few whose skin color is crucial to her story. I know Krishna and Vishnu had blue skin, but I forget the significance of the tone. But la Virgen was brown--a dark brown. I barely look like her. But I identify with her completely. She represents the defeated. The damned. She is our saving grace, the beautific Mother in contradistinction to the vengeful Father.
So I go every year, freezing, and I spend the entire Mass crying. And I spend the time before Mass crying. And I cry nearly the rest of the day (I'm crying right now). Not just tears welled up in my eyes. Streams of tears. Bawling, even. Why do I cry? The better question is, why don't I cry all the time?
I cry, first of all, for myself since I'm a selfish bastard--for everything that I have and don't have. I cry for my family, my friends, my life. I cry for the Mexican nation, for all the oppressed people and the oppressors. I cry for the evil in this world but also for the beauty. I cry for the masses that congregate every December 12 singing praises to an apparition that may very well never have happened. I cry for the miracles that She has granted the faithful and the prayers that have been left unanswered, leaving the faithful doubtful as to whether She does hear us. I cry because I'm human. Most importantly, I cry because I love--everything and everybody.
Now I know many of you consider me one of the more cynical people around but a professor of mine once put it best. He said a cynic is really a hopeless romantic. That's what I am. There. I admitted it. In the movie Altered States , WIlliam Hurt spends the length of the film trying to get to the meaning of life. He finally finds it out by the end: nothing. Life is nothing, utterly meaningless. Sarte was correct. Hurt despairs at finding this out and nearly becomes part of the great abyss, negating his existence. The only thing that saves him? His wife. They had spent the entire movie sleeping around with other people but at the end she saves him because she is the only one who can--because they have loved each other truly all along. After she pulls him out of the abyss, they are left cradling each other, naked. Primordial love--the only salvation for anyone. I like that message. I believe in it.
I asked for a couple of things from Her this time around--the usual suspects (health and family) and more bizarre things like good grades and a computer that won't mess with my mind anymore. I also made one special request and promised to do something in Her honor if She is to grant me that particular miracle. If it happens, I'll write about it for Pacific News Service, but let's just say I won't know until the next 12th of December.
A really beautiful thing happened when I was about to leave. As I was kneeling and bawling my eyes out, a stranger put his hand on my shoulder and gave it a good squeeze. Shocked, I turned around and saw his smile. I nodded. We both knew la Virgen would always be there for us, and more importantly, mankind.