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 army has been unusually active this week. There are multiple roadblocks between Pedro Santana and Bánica. Beyond just keeping the troops occupied, they seemed to be checking to see that papers are in order: that Haitians are here legally, that vehicles are licensed, etc. Interestingly, when I was asked to stop. The young soldier asked for my vehicle papers. Not that I had them to give. My philosophy is that when they give me a road, I’ll give them the papers. Well, a young passerby excitedly spoke up, “That’s the padre, he’s my jefe!” I didn’t even recognize the young man. But there I was, some exalted figure in his eyes. It is really difficult for my American mind to get a grasp on the Dominican understanding of the Church. They aren’t big in attending church, nor in participating in the sacramental life. But, seemingly, in some patriotic way they consider themselves Catholic. I have experienced cultural Catholicism before, but this has a new dimension then from a Boston Irish or Philly Italian Catholic. Here, the military does not have the right to vote, nor do the police. There is a fear based on history of a coup or of military dictatorships. They see the Church as the third institution. There is the civilian government, the military, and then, the Church. In their minds it’s the Church you can trust. So, while your politician is corrupt (or at least, extremely partisan) and your military could turn on you, at least you have the Church, the voice that might keep the others in check. While this doesn’t do much for promoting a personal relationship with one’s Lord and Savior, and I’m not sure how it’s helping souls be saved, it is the reason why the Cardinal is in the paper everyday. And, it is the reason why I may never see a soul cross the threshold of the church but I’m his padre: a mascot at least and a defender against tyranny ideally. Personally, I’m not ready to follow the footsteps of Pope St. Leo the Great and confront Attila the Hun outside the gates of Rome, but I must admit it’s nice to borrow his social status.


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