Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pilgrimage to Rome: Labor Day Mass at St. Peter's Basilica where I heard people singing Pescadore des Hombres

On Labor Day, I attended mass at a side chapel of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. A priest from Iowa presided--a man in his mid-forties, humble and earnest. He told us we should ask God to bless the work of our hands and to be thankful for the work that God has given us to do.

An enormous painting of The Presentation of the Lord loomed over our side chapel, and the splendor of St. Peter's Basilica gave the mass a special power. But I was touched more profoundly by music I heard coming from another mass--a Spanish-language mass taking place somewhere beyond my sight at another side chapel in the vast basilica.

Somewhere people were singing a song I had often heard while attending mass in northern New Mexico--Pescador des Hombres. People were singing in Spanish, and they must have sung all four verses, because the singing continued for quite some time.

Immediately, I was taken out of St. Peter's Basilica. In my mind's eye, I was in the upper Rio Grande Valley of northern New Mexico. I saw the pure, unpolluted waters of the Rio Grande River, dappled by sunlight and teeming with trout. I saw the simple adobe churches of the villages in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Hearing that familiar and humble tune, I became aware of the long heritage of my Catholic faith in my own country. The Spanish came up the Rio Grande River from El Paso in 1598. By the early 17th century, they were farming the thin soil along the tributaries of that great river as far north as modern-day southern Colorado. They built their simple adobe churches and prayed the mass a good twenty years before the Puritans landed in Massachusetts Bay. They forted up in their churches and their homes against the Apaches and the Comanches.

As I listened to Pescador des Hombres echoing through St. Peter's Basilica, I was reminded that my faith is an ancient faith and a simple faith.  Although I was surrounded by the great splendor of Roman Catholicism--its art, its statuary, the Pieta of Michelangelo--I am sustained by the simplicity, the  humility, and the childlike faith of my Catholic ancestors.

I believe because my ancestors believed. I embrace the mystery of the Eucharist because the saints embraced this mystery and willingly died horrible deaths in defense of a mystical truth--that Christ is present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

I am proud to share in the patrimony of Catholicism--its literature, its beautiful art, the soaring architecture of its cathedrals. But when I am overcome by doubt--which I often am--my faith returns when the Holy Spirit reminds me that the Catholic faith is the faith of the poor and the humble. It is the faith of people who suffer.

Image result for painting  and "presentation of the lord" and "St. Peter's basilica"

Lord, When You Came To The Seashore/Pescador Des Hombres
by Cesareo Gabarain
Lord, when you came to the seashore you weren't seeking the wise or the wealthy, but only asking that I might follow. 
REFRAIN (English): O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing, Kindly smiling, my name you were saying; All I treasured, I have left on the sand there; Close to you, I will find other seas. 
REFRAIN (Spanish): Señor me has mirado a los ojos, sonriendo has dicho mi nombre, en la rena he dejado mi barca, junto a ti buscaré otro mar.

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