Friday, December 17, 2010
It Sits On a Hill
On Wednesday evening, December 15th, Fr. Isaac and I made a trip to Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Decatur, Texas. It is probably about 50 miles north of Fort Worth. It sits on a hill overlooking the valley and surrounding hills, and on this particular evening the Church had a beautiful view of the setting sun. Father Sojan George HGN, is the pastor. He also has the care of St. Mary's Church in Jacksboro, Texas and St. John The Baptist in Bridgeport, Texas. These three parishes have been linked together for many years. Father Sojan is assisted by Deacon Mauricio Hernandez, and a very able group of catechists and others in involved in the liturgical, catechetical and pastoral life of these parishes. The average Sunday Mass attendance at Assumption is over 700 people each Sunday, most of whom are Hispanic. My trip to Assumption that evening was prompted by an invitation to attend what is called in Spanish a Pastorela. The Pastorelas are traditional and often improvised theatrical and allegorical presentations about the birth of Jesus Christ. The word pastorela is a reference to the "pastors" or shepherds who on their way to adore the child Jesus must first deal with obstacles that Satan and his fellow devils put in their way. Sometimes Saint Michael the Archangel makes an appearance. This makes for a battle between good and evil but narrated in some very humorous situations.
I attended my first pastorelas some years ago at Montserrat Retreat House in Lake Dallas. Father Nathan Stone S.J., of the staff, had helped the Hispanic youth council to organize these events. The pastorelas, like Los Posadas, the way of the Cross and the dramas of Holy Week, can trace their origins all the way back to the Franciscan Friars, who evangelized much of the new world when they came from Spain. They taught the indigenous people their faith and Holy Scripture by way of allegory, drama, and symbol. The Mexican people carry on these pastorelas and other sacred dramas to this day. They have taken into their lives, and continue to live the Faith as they were taught hundreds of years ago. Like many of these dramas, the particular one I saw depicted the journey to Bethlehem by the Shepherds, and later the Magi, and the accompanying struggle of the devil to impede their journey to the Christ Child! How often the human person today struggles with evil in the face of wanting to do the right thing. The presentation was not only funny at times but also an edifying witness to the Catholic Faith by all who participated and all who were presented.
The Pastorela was preceded by a lengthy dance by Matachines, who are Mexican dancers whose dances reflect a drama based on the history of Montezuma. Yet, as The Wikipedia notes "Even though the dances are based on this story, people who join the Matachines do it for a deeper religious purpose, since most of them join to venerate either Our Lady of Guadalupe, for example, or a particular saint, or to worship God." I blessed the Matachines before their presentation and was told that this particular dance narrated the history of the Aztec people turning away from human sacrifice and embracing Christianity and turning to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The evening was a very touching one for me this Advent, and once again I was blessed by being able to spend time praying with so many Hispanic families. These dramas are truly great moments of catechesis and evangelization, and communicate the Faith in a living and vibrant way. And this is not only for all those in attendance, but all who participate.
Posted by Bishop Kevin W. Vann, JCD., DD at 8:48 AM