“El Señor esté con vosotros” “Y con tu espíritu!”  The Lord be with you – And with your Spirit (not a new translation in Spanish by the way) sums up our Sunday.  Not only because we heard it twelve times over three separate masses (welcome to my life), but on this day when we were once again feted, cared for, encouraged and prayed for, the Lord was truly with us and the Lord’s Spirit was returned by our party many times over.

We began with a mass at home base in Cuana at 9am.  Our children, not only the ones we brought but the ones who came dancing into our lives, played with us after mass.  One little boy Alex especially stole our hearts.  A bit irascible, pretty funny and all cute, he hangs out at the parish all the time.  We played with him constantly and with his brothers and sisters.  In Cuana, there is no better place to be than the parish.  Having spent all this time with Alex and our family, we were surprised to meet a reserved woman bearing some knitted items.  The second great industry behind a little grocery store or restaurant in your house is the making of intricate linens painstakingly sewed and knitted by the local women.  Our light faces alerted them to a potential buy and while, perhaps not surprisingly, I am fully resistance to linen tableware, many of our party allowed an economic boomlet to surface.  But Alex’s grandmother came not to sell; humbly she gave with lovely knitted things to each in our party as a thank you to all if us for the time we spent with her children.  Never was anyone more kindly rewarded for doing what they love.

At noon, it was on to mass two for our only time in the second biggest church in Yolo.  Evidently, and I hated not knowing this, YOLO is an expression for young people – “You only live once.”  The town and our experience matched perfectly.  The Church of St. Francis is historic, beautiful and in serious need of repairs.  Its place on the national register makes repairing it more difficult.  As Fr. Graziano explained, the government will not come forward with permission or money.  Most of us were given a flower and Fr. Giorgio and I were given another garland of flowers which weighed heavily and acted as another stole, which was not my preference on another humid Mexican day.  We were introduced to many of the ministries at the end of mass and Joan commented smartly that they were doing things in this subsistence village that we should be doing in our parish.

The people of Yolo, just that much closer to a bigger city in San Luis or San Marcos, seem a little more forthcoming.  One young woman I met said, “You are welcome,” when I said Gracias.  I asked her if she knew more English and she said through a translator that she would learn more if I learned more Mixtec.  I wished we had more time there.

Finally a 6:00 p.m. mass in Cuana, our “official mass.”  We began with a dance by some of the children elaborately outfitted in hot clothing.  The dance depicted the battle between the Spanish and the Indigenous people.  It is an interesting way to spend your Columbus Day holiday.   You are not exactly rooting for the Europeans to win, though they always do.  By the way, Columbus Day did not appear to be celebrated in Cuana.

The dancers clanked real machetes as they crossed one another.  I firmly believe that the way to introduce more boys to dancing is to give them real machetes.  The youngest and smallest of the dancers, a little boy whose lit up sneakers made it easy to follow, stole the show.  He raced with abandon from incorrect position to incorrect position brandishing wildly his sword and always landing on the wrong side of the line.  I cackled like a Cuana rooster when he suddenly left the line and bashed a giant beetle with his machete.

The mass was again wonderful and everyone did a great job of sticking it out in unbearable heat.  Time and again we met the leaders of the parish who are so young and hopefully devoid of the superstition that Fr. Graziano so wants to defeat.  We say often the young people are the future of the Church.  Then we say they are the present as well.  At San Augustin, they are the hope of the Church.  We lived side by side with that hope.  The most gratifying part of the trip for me may have been watching our group walk into that Church.  No longer were we a paler group sitting by themselves in a corner of a Church as others looked upon us in curiosity.  This night, we walked hand in hand with the people of the village.  Children scurried to sit on the laps of our young people.  We had finally done it.  We looked, and felt like, brothers and sisters.  In Christ, all things are possible.