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Praying to End Violence

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October is the month of the rosary (a circular string beads representing prayers to Mary that I, and most folks in town, wear daily).  This year the Oratorio had a big tent set up in the atrium to pray rosaries at any time to the Virgin of Peace (an image of Mary that appeared in Bosnia back in the 1980’s and continues daily). 

Outside the tent are signs that the prayers are pro-life.  That is simply a code to let folks in the know realize this was where to come to pray for ending the violent killings in San Miguel.  (Ironically the praying started just as a head in a cooler was found by the Bodega Aurrera overpass to announce another gang has arrived).

So, to me, the notion of public prayers to end gang violence was all very cool.  Month-long public prayers so we don’t become the next Celaya, a city with a long history of drug related deaths and crimes.  The prayers to Mary are a prime example of the compassionate and feminine nature of culture here.

The first day I’m sitting by the tent with my killer dog (joking, he’s totally passive), about two dozen women and a man playing guitar when an elderly gringo walks in wearing a Green Peace tee and starts screaming in English at them.  Mostly about how they are all so dumb to give up their reproductive rights to constantly be put down by the Church.

One by one, in a line, the ladies do a sign of the cross like a well-trained line of Rockettes doing a high kick in his direction and he storms out.

Chatting about the encounter released a variety of different thoughts….

Some Mexicans in the tent were baffled why he doesn’t understand they are praying to the Virgin, everyone’s Virgin not just their’s.  Mary knows what is in all their minds and hearts and will help.

I try to explain that to most Northern Protestants Mary isn’t their Virgin.  She is part of Catholic idol worship and merely a gal best remembered as only a footnote in the Christmas nativity set.

Another mentions how we all worship the same God, despite any religion.  Again, I mention how he might not believe in any God and you can’t assume that beneath the dogma, we think we are all the same.  My Southern Baptist minister brother would certainly not cotton to that notion!

I pondered if I should I have pulled him aside and tried to explain what was actually going on?  The answer, in my heart, is still no.  He would have either been angry at the false advertising, clueless at the current gang situation, unable to understand the unity of voices in prayer to ward off evil, or, quite possibly, angry that the whole affair simply wasn’t about him.  Fearing any of those options, I wouldn’t risk a month of near constant prayer to end local deaths to appease a fellow foreigner.  A senior citizen who, in all fairness, would likely feel anything but appeased not realizing there is more to grace than a prayer said before a meal.

Whenever a guest, you have to follow your host’s lead.  You don’t have to understand the subtleties or even get the big picture.  You simply need to try to understand, or don’t, in which case simply bow out of the tent/situation before uttering a word.

by Joseph Toone

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed hereby are those of the author and not necessarily thos of the San Miguel Times.

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