Two miles west of the San Antonio’s downtown is
. Serving a largely
Latino population, the parish is a haven in the sun-baked streets of
this lower-income neighborhood. Its air-conditioned church sanctuary
and parish office are open all day, and local people drop in to pray
or have their holy objects blessed by the resident pastors.
adjacent buildings, an adoration chapel is open until midnight and
teams of women spend hours making rosaries in a pleasant room –
well-stocked with coffee and tasty delights – which are sent all over
the country. Not long ago, this Jesuit parish had become somewhat
derelict, but today it is evident that its devotional life is alive
One of the more dramatic outreaches by
the Jesuits here is the Sunday afternoon procession into the local
neighborhood with the Blessed Sacrament. Ladies knock on doors in the
project houses announcing “Jesus está presente!” – Jesus is
present – while a priest plays his trumpet, and another holds the
monstrance aloft, with its gilded rays glittering in the sun. Some
houses close their curtains, while others open the doors and send
their children out to kneel and pray. At times, the procession stops,
and a makeshift altar is erected for a short time of worship.
While we were always only a few blocks
from the church, most of the residents of this barrio are
non-practicing Hispanic Catholics, who have not received catechetical
formation for a generation or two. The new and much beloved
archbishop of San Antonio, Gustavo Garcia-Siller, lamented this
failure on the part of the Church when we met him at a local
community center. The work of the Jesuits at this parish, then, is a
particularly important front line work of the new evangelization.
There on the streets, the ladies teach the children the basics: the
sign of the cross, a prayer or two, and invite them to come to the
parish for Mass, offering to pick up the housebound and elderly.
The Eucharist is a particularly
effective means of brinigng hearts and minds to Jesus. There are many
scriptural associations when experiencing the neighbourhood
procession: “Let the little children come to me”, “Peter…
feed my sheep”, “Where you are, there I will also be.”, “I am
the way, the truth and the life,” and “I will gaze upon you…”
It is a reminder of the importance of our stewardship of this great
sacrament, and the power of the Eucharistic Christ to penetrate the
layers of incrustation that grow around our hearts.
I wonder how
effective this would be in the more affluent parts of North America.
Would anyone respond or would we be laughed at for our quaint
Catholic beliefs. Yet in the end, I believe only a radical – deeply
faith-rooted – response to the indifference of our age to the
living reality of Christ will be successful. As tears stream in the
streets of San Antonio, we realize it is not us who makes this
possible, but God. Yes, there are many corners of the world where
Jesus wants to walk again.