Monday, December 12, 2016
Believing Even When Believing Is Impossible—Faith.
Trust in Faith by Deb Lecos
Many people in homes of differing cultures are frightened, wondering if this year’s stories can finish with happy or at least hopeful endings. That’s because when life is a bag of coal soaked in ice water, in sub-zero temperatures, belief is hard to come by.
This is where faith comes in, along with a sprinkling of that fairy dust called trust.
I live in a mostly black and white world, a realist with a surprising twist. Under my “prove it” exterior, buried behind a load of cynicism, is a heart that has been on a life-long quest for miracles.
As a youngster hope wasn’t tossed in my breakfast cereal or found in a half-eaten box of Cracker Jacks while I indoctrinated into the American societal dictums. My upbringing lacked magic, aside from the rote expounded upon in Catholic Church on Sunday. In a pew, as a reflection of the stained glass windows twinkled back in my Patent leather shoes, I pondered hell and damnation. Heaven seemed out of reach for a girl prone to backtalk and rule testing.
By age thirty-two I was angry, heart-broken and certain there were no miracles with or without of church. In that, my sixth year of marriage, I had suffered my sixth miscarriage. Doom had settled in to take root. Then on December 12th, while in a cab touring Mexico City, I encountered other people’s faith.
The cab my husband and I are seated in slows as the street narrows with a steady stream of people walking, with some crawling on hands and knees, toward a set of ornate gates. I lean into the driver.
“Where is everyone going?”
Reverently, softly the man says, “To visit the Our Lady of Guadalupe, it is the day of the miracle.”
He proceeds to tell us about a meeting that occurred soon after the discovery of the New World.
Walking along a hillside an Aztec Indian named Juan Diego came across a young woman surrounded by a bright light, who said she was the holy mother. After a series of conversations, the woman asked Juan Diego to collect nearby Castilian roses and carry them in his cape to a local bishop as proof of her visit. After doing this, in front of the bishop, the roses spilled to the floor, leaving behind an impression of the woman on the fabric. The full story may be found here.
Centuries later that fabric is still displayed at the site where Juan Diego met the Saint de Guadalupe. The land inside the enclosure has had many structures built since 1532 in an arc on the hillside. After the driver finishes speaking, we ask him to let us off in front of the gates.
While we get our bearings, a crowd moves toward the most recently erected building for mass. Dozens of children, dressed in all white suits and gowns of organza and tulle congregate in the middle of the plaza. Many of them carry poles adorned with multi-colored flags.
Moving away from their celebration, we take a long curving set of flagstone carved into the side of the hill. It is necessary to sidestep parishioners deferentially crawling up the steps or those who are so infirm they are carried by others; some of the millions who come here seeking miracles.
When we reach the top, the air swiftly turns cooler under a dense canopy of vegetation. The plateau is small, with only a cart selling religious bric-a-brac and an old church snuggled into the stone crevice. My husband and I wander into the church’s dusky interior lit by candles behind red glass.
Slowly we shuffle deeper into the hushed chapel, with the only sound the soft echo our steps produce. Childhood teachings of Catholicism remind me what to do. I dip my fingers in holy water, crossing myself and kneeling between two strangers in front of a figure of the saint. Among the power of conviction owned by the parishioners, I throw a Hail Mary pass. Please help me find peace.
I am bemused, not knowing why I’d done what amounted to praying. My husband and I leave the church to stand on a landing jutting out over the common area. The children are now corralled in a jumbled line for Sunday Service. They look like snowflakes jostling in silence. The air is motionless. A strong breeze suddenly blows their brightly colored flags stiff.
The wind behaves erratically with swirling gusts, the little girl’s dresses puff up like fluttering wings and a flock of pigeons flies up toward the sky. My breath catches in my throat as I hear the faintest whisper.
A month later I became pregnant and two clusters of cells hung on through great difficulty. I nearly miscarried twice and both times it required great trust not to quit. One doctor said that the twins would have mental and physical deficits if I carried to term. She must have been short on faith. Today the babies are twenty-three years old and smarter and fitter than I will ever be. Yet I still need to remind myself that belief isn’t a ritual, a doctrine, a law, a rule, or even something that I can get verified on the internet.
As people all over our world struggle with the events of this moment in time, I ask that we begin to trust in our humanity. Because it is there where we will find our commonality and hope for the future. But hope is a wish unless it is combined with action that is infused with the intention of a humane existence for all life.
May we have faith in the grace of our humanity.
Blessings to you and yours through the remaining days of 2016 and as we head toward our continually unfolding story.
*Also posted on +Huffington Post