I don’t quite know why, but Mexico speaks to my soul. It’s not because I speak the language; I limp along down there, struggling to understand the very few words I have managed to pick up, able to utter so many fewer that one would wonder how it is that I have come to know so little Spanish as many times as I have been there. It’s not because I fit in; my freckled face is in stark contrast to the soft, clear brown skin of most Mexicans. No, it’s about something else. I think it’s about soul. I think, no I believe, the country has soul and I think, no I believe, it’s the special essence of the Mexican way of life and her people that gives this country that certain balm I feel every time I visit.
This was my first time to Merida, a well kept, cleanly swept and colorful town sitting at the northern end of the Yucatan. Through the centuries, it’s seen its fair share of hurricanes and it’s been at the center of a fair amount of our continent’s human history. Mayan and Aztec ruins, some uncovered and reworked with stones hewn from 1500 years ago and some still hidden in jungle vines and rubber trees, lie all around Merida. I rarely sightsee when I travel, but this trip happened to be an exception. A combination of good friends from both sides of the Rio Grande converging on the jungle city and we found ourselves in front of pyramids. Some of these were being built when my Christ was born. Packed in the van, Spanish and English swirling in our ears, someone suggested we visit we visit a Franciscan convent, near Izamal, 50 minutes outside of Merida.
Set upon a hill the convent appears fortress-like surrounded by haciendas and businesses painted in vibrant white and yellows. We left the car and in various groups began making our access up the broad steps that led to the courtyard and then into the church. We had already shared a long and happy day in the van expressing our views and opinions; we were a mix of people in culture and faith. We entered the church as a group and then as our different hearts led, meandered or stood or left. I have visited a large number of Catholic churches over the years, I have worshipped in a few, I have burned a candle in more. In all of them I have sought that special peace I know that God can give, but mostly I never left that. It’s not to say that God wasn’t there to minister to that desire; I suspect it has more to do with my expectations and my overriding worry that I don’t really know much about Catholic worship practice. Most of my group had left and there were few other tourists around, and something about this convent made me want to linger. It was dim in the church. The stone walls and high ceilinged nave were typical of the architecture favored during the 1500’s and as I approached the transept like corridor that joined the convent to the church, I closed my eyes.
I stood there, with the intent to pray and concentrate on this house of worship. I expected to share in the silence. From a distance, rolling gently through this church, came the unmistakable cadence of chanting. It wasn’t loud, or passionate, but lingering as it meandered its way from wherever the nuns were whose voices I was hearing. Something about the moment stopped me. It was beautiful and with my eyes closed I tried to imagine the people behind the lilting voices I heard. These women, that I could not see, did not know, and who speak a different language than mine, were seeking the same God I was. Just like me, they long to share in the peace that is beyond understanding. The sound of their voices swirled around me, accompanied by the breeze that came through the jungle below and up this small hill top and into the courtyard and through the hall I now stood in. The echoes reminded that there must have been tens of generations of female voices that lifted their voice in daily prayers and petition to the Father; women who gave their whole life to our Lord. The imprint of their hearts and souls were a part of this convent, their love for God a part of the spirit of the place. I closed my yes and let the breeze that was blowing through the corridor waft over me, tendrils of sound of human voice singing praise surround me. In those moments, for the first time, the differences in worship made no difference for me. My body still, that addictive knowledge that peace is possible in an uncertain world, surrounded me and I marveled a bit in the bond that those Catholic sisters and I share. There is a peace that comes only from the people who enter the City of God, no matter what language we speak. God is universal. That is the simple truth.
So the soul of Mexico speaks to me once again and as I have come back home, I have thought about what the MI have always known, For me the soul of Mexico has always been about the gentle caring that they have shown me each time I have visited. If you talk about warm-hearted people, I certainly have met more of them from Mexico than any other place. Now I guess that could be
Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Monday..errrr.. Tuesday. Have a peaceful week.