The father was away for long periods of time. After a rather difficult and sometimes violent home life he decided to no longer live at home. The mother was forced to work and that left the 12 year old with his sister to fend for himself. I was invited by the boy to come to dinner prepared by his mother.
When I visited, I cannot even remember seeing a television at home, and certainly there were no books or games laying around. The economic poverty of the home was noticeable, but the home was clean and tidy. As she cooked, the mother explained her job did not have consistent hours and she was constantly worried about having a job. That evening, she served her son’s favorite dish, chicken wrapped up with vegetables. I remember it was very good.
Encouraged by his mother, the boy found himself involved in after-school programs in our parish and elsewhere. He struggled in school, sometimes rebelling against the teachers as he tried to understand how to relate better to a world that he felt was not helping him much. Punished for his behavior, or chastised for not completing his homework in an acceptable way, he still tried to help out where he could.
One year, he decided to give back to the neighborhood. He wanted to participate in the Posadas, and asked if he could serve hot chocolate to the crowd. I imagined he would prepare this hot chocolate with his mother and serve it, like so many other families do, to the people as they passed on the street at night singing the traditional songs.
When the 60 people arrived at his house, he struggled with a heavy pot of chocolate to bring it from his home to the street in front of his apartment. He had carefully heated lots of hot water, and mixed it with the cakes of Ibarra chocolate he managed somehow to purchase from a store nearby. Pouring chocolate into each plastic cup I asked him where was his mother and family. “Working,” he replied. And I realized he had made this effort all by himself to serve chocolate to others. He was very happy. I will never forget the hospitality of this boy, his kindness, and the humility of the moment. Even as he struggled with life, he found a way to give hope to others.
We celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe tomorrow. Inspired by the Virgen’s presence, Juan Diego’s service reminds me of the boy’s story above in so many ways. The hardships of life did not prevent them from finding a way to give, to inspire and bring hope. Their stories must inspire in all of us the same desire to serve, to build a church which will give us the kind of hope that motivates us to care for others, to live justice and continue to create a spirit of family.
Thank God for the presence of Our Lady of Guadalupe – may the story of Tepeyac live in each of your families as we celebrate this feast day, and also prepare us for the coming of our Lord as we celebrate Posadas this week. God bless you!
Sincerely, Fr. Bruce Wellems, CMF Pastor