PARAGUAY, José Argüello •
A few hours after everything was over, someone found and shared a chapter of the book “Ella es mi mama”, [She is my Mother] Fr. Alexandre Awi’s great Pope Francis interview about his encounters with Mary. ”Santuarizar la cuidad” [Turn the city into a Shrine] is the title of the chapter, it is one of the greatly loved, “Bergoglisms” that verbalize an entire process of life, precisely with this touch of novelty and irritation that the Good News needs in these times of the inflated use of good words in memes. “To turn the city into a Shrine is said in relation with all the effervescence of the paradigmatic mission of the Church, or in the spirit of Aparecida, to place everything (in other words, all the ecclesial action) in missionary terms… in summary, an atmosphere of turning the city into a shrine, in the streets of the city…” Francis responded to his question during this interview: “What does it mean to turn the city into a city?” (p.111, 112). It was an atmosphere of turning the city into a shrine, in the streets of the city or where a majority of people spend their days before Christmas: at a shopping center.
The Sol Shopping Center as a large manger
The first time it was proposed during a meeting, it generated mixed comments. The pros and cons of all the pastoral initiative, away from the comfort of our Movement, and breaking paradigms, is not something that is liked at first sight.
However the Holy Spirit worked; against all predictions, all the unforeseen possibilities, and all pessimism. On 14 December Mass was celebrated in the Del Sol Shopping Center in Asunción, one of the commercial centers with the largest gathering of people in Paraguay’s capital city.
It was a joint effort at the request of the Archdiocesan Church to our Movement.
The main motivator of this initiative: Christ, who used humble instruments, to approach his children as bread of life, and on this occasion, in a special way in a place where He is many times forgotten.
Jesus wanted to celebrate with us to prepare our hearts during this time of Advent and as always, to go out to our encounter.
A shrine is: “that there be a priest confessing all day.” (Pope Francis)
Fr. Oscar González, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Asunción, celebrated Holy Mass, and Fr. Santiago Cacavelos, a Schoenstatt Father, concelebrated. A number of permanent deacons trained in the Archdiocese served as acolytes.
At 6:00 p.m., the Rosary of Brave Men began praying a Holy Rosary preceding the Eucharistic celebration, which helped us to prepare our hearts for this encounter.
Since the Mass was being held on a workday with much commercial activity, it was noted that many “customers” or visitors to the shopping center were surprised by the presence of the Mass, and they happily approached to participate. In the minutes prior to the Mass, some people who were leaving approached the priests to ask for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Holy Mass began at 7:00 p.m. and it was a real celebration. It seemed that the hustle and bustle of the shopping and noise did not exist, and we experienced the Eucharistic intimately with Jesus.
Those who served felt that the Lord wanted to bring several Movements and parishes of the Archdiocese together, to the same Eucharistic table, always considering it as a great gift of his mercy and of his love.
A Mass at a shopping center? Well yes. That is what our Church is called to do. What our Movement is called to do. To respond to what Pope Francis asks of us…to be a CHURCH REACHING OUT, TO BE SCHOENSTATT REACHING OUT. The shopping center was only the first circumstantial place to discover unlimited opportunities to help the Lord to go out to encounter others. Especially in those places where no one knows Him or they simply do not remember Him, He approaches and He gives Himself with all His love.
During this time of Advent, it is important to remember and to keep in mind what we are celebrating. Many people went shopping looking for Christmas gifts for a relative or friend, perhaps remembering the fat man in the red suit. However after this encounter and with renewed hearts, they returned to their homes with Eucharistic joy announcing the real meaning of Christmas and what truly is worth celebrating: Jesus Christ the Lord, who has come into the world to give His life for love of us.
During this Advent, may the power of the Holy Spirit, give us the strength and daring to be a SCHOENSTATT REACHING OUT throughout the beginning New Year.
Original: Spanish. Translation: Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX USA. Edited: Melissa Peña-Janknegt, Elgin, TX USA