The Missions: San Francisco and San José

Unless the mission is oriented by charity, that is, unless it springs from a profound act of divine love, it risks being reduced to mere philanthropic and social activity...Consequently, being missionaries means loving God with all one's heart, even to the point, if necessary, of dying for him. - Pope Benedict XVI

The hombre arrived in town over a month ago. There were rumors he came from over the mountains, but nobody knew for sure. A loner, who had single-handedly become the terror of two towns: scaring the woman and children and causing our easy going populous to lock up at night. People would walk to the other side of the street when they saw him coming, even the mayors found plenty of excuses to stay out of town. The police were no match. The local troops who fearlessly guard the nations borders hid behind their forts. This six foot-plus burly man who didn’t like to be told what to do was a job for the local pastors.

The works were in place. Fr. Gee made arrangements with the hospital to have the ambulance ready and some unlucky policeman drew the small straw to ride shotgun. The only problem…How to get him inside the truck? Since, the hombre, the one they called, El Loco, was presently menacing Pedro Santana, the lot fell to the newly appointed pastor of the victimized village—Fr. Murphy. So armed with the only weapons he had, his wits and pack of sleeping pills he rode into town.

It was a typically, sultry afternoon, the tropical sun nearing its summer solstice. The town had few folks about, some itinerant Haitians and young boys enjoying school’s end, riding their bikes in the empty streets. At the general store I explained the plan to the proprietor who was known to supply El Loco with his daily victuals. I was in luck; he liked Coca Cola. We conspired to dose a bottle of soda and wait for him to come around. Unfortunately, the clerk was heading out of town and his wife wanted nothing to do with our man. So, I took my tainted bottle and I went to wait for the right opportunity. I figured it wouldn’t take long. All I needed to do was open the church and hang around. He always felt a need to check out what was going on in our place of worship and sometimes would enter the sacred space while I offered Mass. Without fail, like Moses parting the sea, my flock would fill in the spaces up front as he walked down the aisle.

As I suspected, he made his rounds; attired with his customary rags about his feet, soiled clothes, a head styled yellow from mango and dust with which he groomed himself. I sat astride my motorcycle parked in front of the church gate. I made like I was busy. At the right moment I took a draft from my canteen and bade him a “Buenas tardes.” I had his attention and tried my best to give him a thirst quenched satisfied look. It worked, he asked me for some pesos. And according to my policy, I said, “No.” Before he left me disappointed, I reached into my bag to reveal some nice cold refreshment. His eyes lit up. He took the bait. Now, the fear was for him to walk away, take his medicine and take a siesta in some secluded den we never find. The local street urchins were deputized on the spot. They were to be my eyes and stay on his trail while I went to get the wagon (ambulance) in Bánica.

I only pray Fr. Gee and I never have to depend on our local ambulance service for serious medical treatment. Getting this operation together is like readying a shuttle launch. Of course, they were in no hurry. They were not looking forward to an hour and a half ride to San Juan with El Loco. When I returned my ‘Little Rascals’ had followed the man out of town. He was still going strong an hour after imbibing his special draught. I rallied the boys back to town with the hope that the police would pick him up along the way. When I got back to the scene, I met the police and ambulance driver coming my way without the prisoner. Their only excuse, “He’s still walking.”

I don’t know if I’ve made this clear enough. One man, who has menaced two towns of about 1,100 persons each for over a month still isn’t sufficient grounds for the locals to do anything themselves; it’s up to the priests.

By the time we organize a posse large enough to induce sufficient courage in the local populace, our man is gone. Fortunately, they were on his trail in under a half hour. With ropes to bind him and at least ten men, they got him in the truck.

I must admit, I was a little sad at this moment. May be it was a little remorse from having laced somebody’s drink—that wasn’t in my list of expectations for pastor’s duties. Or may be, it was to see this man, who admittedly was seriously deranged, be deprived of his freedom. I’m mean if you can’t be a vagrant here, where can you be?

It seems the story is heading for a positive finish. He slept on the way to San Juan where he was admitted to the hospital to their psychiatric ward. We had thought they would need to relay him to the capital. But thankfully that may not be necessary as he is now under a physician’s care.


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