It was Holy Week the way I like it: total immersion. The day before Palm Sunday I joined a caravan of seven or eight families who volunteer with our Family Rosary Mission in Monterrey Mexico for the 11 hour drive to the parish that the Congregation serves in Tamán, in the State of San Luis Potosí. Though this Holy Week Family Mission has become a regular part of our work in Mexico, it was the first time I was able to participate. It made for a very Holy Week.
We were to be attending to one sector of the far-flung rural parish, dividing into groups for three of the local chapels, with me as the priest to serve in the area. Early Palm Sunday we got in place and had to get to work: gathering people and visiting homes to invite participation in the mission with the major events of the day being the Palm Sunday processions and Masses in each of the three chapels.
Our family missionaries came prepared to conduct sessions throughout the week with adults, teenagers and kids, to renew and educate them in the faith. It really was a family mission: little Mariana, 8 years old, had spent a lot of time the week before, working with her mother preparing activities for the kids she would be meeting! Families sharing faith with families: it was beautiful to see.
Much of that part of Mexico is mountainous: with breathtaking beauty but troubled by an intransigent poverty due to the rugged terrain. We encountered a wonderful openness in people who were so materially poor, yet so generous and spiritually sensitive. They desired to know more of their faith and to celebrate it!
Attending to the communities with confessions way beyond counting, dozens of visits to the sick, and all of the Holy Week liturgies absorbed 110% of my energy and attention. I knew that I had gotten caught up in something much bigger than my little self. I was caught up in a great mystery so that I could see that Holy Week itself is sacramental, manifesting in a very real way the saving action and grace of Christ whom it celebrates.
I was awed at the priesthood. Who am I? I had to see that in myself I am not of great significance. Yet there I was participating in and witnessing the power of God and the power of His sacraments. People who had been far from the Lord for decades returned to Him in Reconciliation. People with incredibly difficult lives were so visibly comforted by something seemingly small that I was able to say in the moment. It was grace at work.
It wasn't at all a surprise that after the Easter Vigil the songs of praise continued on long after the final blessing and that great “Alleluia” we get to sing at this time of year! We were all at home. Nobody wanted to leave.
Fr. Jim Phalan, C.S.C., is the Director of Family Rosary International, which is a part of Holy Cross Family Ministries. HCFM was founded by Servant of God Patrick Peyton, a Holy Cross priest who had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and preached that the “family that prays together, stays together.'” Fr. Phalan will be writing for the Spes Unica Blog each month to share with us the great work of Family Rosary International, yet Family Ministries is one of the creative ways that Holy Cross continues to reach across borders of every sort to spread hope. Learn more about the missionary work of Holy Cross.