Oct. 15, Feast of St. Teresa of Avila
Dear Fellow Dominicans,
Oct. 17 & 18 I will be preaching the mission appeal for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith at Queen of Angels Church in Lompoc, CA. Both this Society and the Living Rosary were founded by Pauline Jaricot, who, according to Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P., in her wonderful St. Dominic's Family (available through the internet), was a Third Order Dominican.
This assignment gave me the opportunity to take Mon., Oct. 12, to Fri., Oct 23, off. However, I had so much unfinished business that I am still here, Thurs., Oct. 15, Feast of St. Teresa of Avila. I have been so busy because for the last 18 monsth we have been only two Dominican priests at this mission, but on Oct. 30 two more Dominican priests will be arriving to join us. My main purpose in delaying my departure was to send you this thank you letter, but there was much I had to get out of the way first. Finally, I can sent you this appreciation of your help in caring for
As an example, right now I am dealing with an 18 y/o mom with a problem pregnancy; a heroic mom stressed out with colitis because she is the only and very poorly paid wage earner for a disabled husband and five children; numerous students who are diligent at school but cannot keep on without financial aid; a beautiful 15 y/o girl whose front teeth are being protruded but whose parents cannot afford the 1,200 pesos ($75 US) to remove the wisdom teeth causing the problem; etc.!
On the spiritual front, this morning I brought the sacraments for the first time to a poor, elderly lady to whom the parish supplies some food every other week. As I was knocking at the gate, dressed in my habit, a very poor young mom with three young children passed by and looked at me, so I said, “Buenos días.” She returned the greeting and passed on. I noted that I had never seen her at church. I was struggling to undo the lock on the gate, and this gave the young mom time to return and say, “I have come back to kiss your hand.” I never refuse because that would deeply hurt these people of sincere admiration for the priesthood, and then I bless them as a sign of appreciation. I did so and took the woman’s name and address (she can afford no phone), and promised I would visit her after my return from California in about two weeks. She was very touched by this.
I entered the elderly lady’s front yard, sat, and heard her stories. Fourteen years ago she went on the operating room in the government free hospital for a scheduled knee transplant. At the same time a young woman was brought in with a knee shattered in an accident. The one available artificial knee went to the young woman, but the doctors never told the older woman that all they had done for her was remove the natural knee. It was some days before she realized this. She was never able to get the situation corrected, and since Mexico is not a litigious society, the poor just offer it up and weep. Her left leg has no knee to this day. I asked her if she was Catholic. She told me that her father, who had married at 14, was martyred during the persecution in Mexico when he was only 21. In the late 1920´s, the federal troops put him in a press and would ask him, “Who lives?” Each time he would cry out, “Long live Christ the King,” for he was a Catholic Cristero. The soldiers would tighten the machine, and again ask and receive the same answer. Eventually they tightened the man so much that his heart popped out of his mouth. The she told me, “And you ask me if I am a Catholic? I will never abandon the faith of my fathers!” We had spoken for long enough that I was ready to leave, so I said, “Think about going to confession and I will be back in about two weeks.” “Why?” she replied, “I am ready to confess right now!” Because she can hardly walk due to her missing knee, she had not been able to receive the sacraments for a long time and had been longing for them. I also anointed her and gave her Holy Communion, and promised to send her a Communion Minister once a week.
This was just this one morning. I had ned already, and more kept occurring as the day progressed. Each day is full of equally touching experiences, but, to paraphrase the last sentence of the Gospel according to John, were I to write all that the Lord has gotten me involved in, not even the whole rectory itself would hold the books that would ensue.
After my return on Oct. 23 I will answer those of you who have written to me. In the meantime, please be assured that my heart carries within it constant gratitude for your financial help. I pray for you daily, especially in my daily Masses, and our poor pray for you also. Please pray for us here, including for native Dominican vocations; this latter is a developing story in itself, which I hope to relate to you soon.
With much love and appreciation,
Fr. Bart, O.P.
Dominican Mission, Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.