Tonight, there is misa at 6pm and I will not be attending.
La Misa (Mass) is held every Sunday morning and the first Wednesday night of every month in the community Catholic church.
…and tonight for some reason.
Well really whenever someone’s feeling like they want go to church, they’ll gather the troops and make it happen.
When I first got to Fila Naranjo, I was going to church every Sunday morning for an hour and a half. Since my community is 99.99% Catholic, I thought that it would be a good way to integrate, meet people, and develop connections for future projects in my site.
Well, that didn’t really happen. Sure I saw people that I would usually never see during the week, but after church was let out not one sad soul was interested in talking to this gringa about anything.
I was always cornering people into these one-way awkward conversations or clinging to my host mother in fear of being left standing alone without anyone to associate myself with.
Furthermore, all the kneeling and up and down during the service was getting real old. I mean, I’m young and in fairly good condition and the praying part was a nightmare for me. I was constantly trying to hoist up my weight from my forearms, pressed against the pew in front of me while my hands were clasped in prayer position…one eye cocked open just waiting for it to be over. It blew my mind seeing all the old ladies in their tights and skirts get down there. I mean, I realistically spent half of the service just thinking to myself…how do they do it?
And let’s face it, my Spanish biblical vocabulary is next to nothing (vino? Jesus Christo?) so I didn’t really understand a lick of what was going on.
So I stopped going. At first, I was nervous and wondered what people would think about me. Would the women’s group I worked with stop talking to me? Would the kids I taught at the school think I was a bad person? Would I be exiled from the community or burned at the stake?!
And that’s when I learned to stop caring about what other people think and do what’s best for me (Peace Corps lesson #237). And honestly, it didn’t seem to make a difference. No one questioned me or pushed me to attend mass. And for that I’m thankful.
Now, I get to enjoy exactly 90 minutes of pure sweet solitude and silence at home while my host family is attending la misa every Sunday morning. And Wednesday night. And anywhere in between.
Although I don’t attend church anymore, experiencing religion in a small, rural poverty-stricken place like Fila Naranjo has allowed me to appreciate the belief of worship from a different perspective. Where the community is often segregated by a lower and upper area and large, extended families that live very clustered-like (my host mom’s children are her neighbors), the church (and well, the soccer field too) serves as the only place where people come together and support the same mission. Community members give through regular donations, rotating crews of ladies that clean the church and serve food after service, and a volunteer uhhh…band if you will, that plays music during and after mass.
To the people of Fila Naranjo, religion not only signifies something bigger and greater than the hand they were dealt, it represents a common ground where community members gather to share their faith, hope for prosperity and health, and pray for a better future.