As my host The Reverend Aurelio de la Paz Cot reminded me once I arrived here, I will be participating fully in the church community every Sunday. He told me that this Sunday he will be presenting me to the community and that I should prepare something to say. “It doesn’t have to be a sermon but figure something out,” he instructed. I have never had to speak publicly in a foreign language so this task brought a bit of anxiety. I knew that I was going to thank the priest for his hospitality and this opportunity but besides that I was clueless. I am a person who works better under pressure, so I left a good majority of this planning for Sunday morning. By communion I had figured out what I was going to say. I got up in front of about 100 people on a very warm Cuban morning and explained to them what my mission was. I told them that I am here to socialize, communicate and to help. Talking to this audience felt really natural and comfortable and the only word I messed up was “pride.” This comfort came from the way church is lived out.
The key word here is energy. Aurelio dances his way up to the altar during the procession and sings along to the hymn the entire time. He has memorized the entire church service, from his sermon to the hymns. The church uses a projector to display the readings, prayers, and lyrics for the service. When I asked about this, the answer wasn’t that they didn’t have the prayer books for the entire congregation -- it was that because the congregation is mainly elderly and it is easier to keep people’s attention with a projector (and the letters are in a larger print). After he found his way to the altar, he plugged in a cross directly behind him that illuminated green LED’s that surround the outside of the cross. At first this made me chuckle but then it started to grow on me. In his house there is a hand-drawn picture of Jesus with a massive smile on his face, as though he just heard the funniest joke in the world. I asked him about this and he said that it was a gift, and that usually pictures of Jesus are of him being serious (I will try to upload this picture at some point). “What, Jesus can’t have a good time too?” This is the theme for his service and it is one that I enjoy. There is no falling asleep during Aurelio’s Sunday Mass. The passing of the peace was its own ordeal, took about 15 minutes to settle everyone back down to continue with the service. The love and happiness of the people here is very real.
This post is sponsored by: Rev. Lois Keen, James LeVan, Nancy Jacobs, and Helen Ross. Thank you for your support.