Monday, 28 March 2011

From Peru: First Sunday in Lent

13th March 2011: First Sunday in Lent. This Sunday Sr Clara planned to go to the First Communion of her godson Solim from the Therapy Centre.

Solim at the Therapy Centre. Solim is seated on the right. This was on the birthday of one of the other boys. The sister in a habit is a Peruvian sister, Secundina, who belongs to a Mexican order. She helps in the Therapy Centre.

The table the children are sitting round was one of five donated by Sr Clara from her Golden Jubilee funds. She entered discussions with a local carpenter and had the tables custom made.

The Centre was set up by Michael Murphy a retired Irish engineer. He has just moved to new premises to expand. This is a picture of Michael, Clara, Brigid and Ada the Peruvian administrator outside the Centre in the crucial last days before the opening ceremony of the new centre

Sr Ann decided to take me to visit a lay community, Foyer de Charité Santa Rosa, in the mountains at Ñaña outside Lima, for Mass and a day of recollection. To get to the Foyer we needed to take two buses, one into Lima and then another to the mountains. We were very fortunate to get seats on the bus into Lima, so I was able to read Ann's booklet about Marta Robin, the French woman (born 1902 & died 1981) who inspired and founded the movement Foyers de Charité. Martha spent over fifty years confined to her bed and in dreadful pain.

Marta Robin

On our arrival in Ñaña we immediately felt the benefit of the cleaner mountain air as we stopped at a roadside shop to have a snack of bread-sticks and a yoghurt drink.

Sr Ann told me about the times she had been here on retreat in the past, sometimes with Sr Angela and at other times with Señora Domingo from our parish. In a sense we were making a memorial pilgrimage for Angela. We took a motor-taxi to the Foyer and once inside I saw my first Peruvian llamas grazing in their lovely green chacra (farm or smallholding).
llamas grazing

We went to pray quietly in the chapel until Mass, but a little humming bird distracted us. It was beating against the wall of glass behind the altar ,struggling to get out, yet unable to see the glass. Sr Ann managed to rescue the bird. When it rested she cupped it in her hands and took it to an open window at the back of the chapel. She put her hands out of the window and released the bird, but it lay still on her palms and we were afraid that it had died, maybe from fright. Then, thanks be to God, it suddenly came alive and flew away.

The statue of Our Lady and the Child Jesus in front of the Chapel

Picture of view from the Chapel

We joined the Mass of a group called Bodas de Cana (Wedding Feast of Cana) who were having a day retreat under the direction of the French priest who guides the Foyer.. The members of this group are couples who seek to emphasize the value and importance of the sacrament of Christian marriage. They went up to communion as a couple and even up to the ambo to read as a couple. After the Mass people were going up for blessings given by the priest and another man and woman. As they received their blessings many people fell down backwards and lay on the carpets spread in front of the altar. (There were people ready to catch them, so no-one was hurt.) I had not seen this before. Sr Ann said it was a charismatic phenomenon and the people were considered as resting in the spirit, or as some say, “slain in the spirit”. Ann asked if I would like to go for a blessing and I thought that I would. I went up to the woman and she asked me my name. I said, “Rosa” quite loudly and then the person put her hands on my head and began to pray. I felt the pressure of her hands and I found myself slipping down away. It was not like falling and I did not fall, but I realized I was lying on the ground and quite still. After a little I thought I would like to get up, but it seemed to me that I would not be able to move. Then I began to move and someone else helped me and she gave me a lovely smile and supported my arm and helped me to walk back towards my seat. The best way I can describe what happened is that it was like being suspended. After Mass Ann asked if I felt ready for more prayer as there is a beautiful way of the cross that zig-zags up the mountain behind the chapel. We agreed that it would be good to make the way following our own pattern. We prayed for the people of Japan and again for the recently dead especially Sr Angela.

Sr Ann in contemplation on the way of the Cross

By this time the afternoon was well on. I wanted to go on foot back down to the village as it is a lovely walk.

Sr. Rose on the Way of the Cross

Sunset from the bus window on the way to Puente Piedro.

by Sr. Rose of Lima

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Pilgrimage to Santa Rosa de Quives, 6 March 2011

Santa Rosa de Quives is a village in the mountains outside Lima. It houses the national shrine to Santa Rosa, the first canonized saint of the Americas. Rosa died at the young age of thirty-one and seven of those years – nearly a quarter – were spent in Quives where her father was sent to administer a mine for precious stones.
View of valley from Quives

Rosa's house is a small solidly-built stone house consisting of basically two rooms with a small part sectioned off at the back of one room as Rosa's prayer cell.

Rosa's house

The shrine decked with garlands from brides married in the chapel where Rosa was confirmed

The stone she used to recline on when praying

Quives can be extremely hot and is renowned for its mosquitoes, therefore, despite my eagerness to be present at Sunday Mass in the chapel where Rosa was confirmed by the second Archbishop of Lima in 1596, I felt the need to brace myself for a day of mixed trials and blessings.

There is as yet only one small road to Quives. To reach this road, it is necessary to go into the vast, sprawling suburb of Comus, an extremely poor district of Lima which is littered with piles of rubbish and is very barren and dusty. Once out of Comus, we began the long painfully slow ascent to Quives. We had allowed about four hours for the journey, but the road was so full of potholes and its surface so bumpy, that Sr Clara was obliged to drive with great caution and we began to wonder if we would arrive in time for midday Mass. In the event we made excellent time, arriving at eleven.

The mountain road, despite its shortcomings as a highway, leads through gorgeous picturesque scenes. The valley below is watered by the River Chilloñ and is quite lush.

View from Quives looking down into the valley below

The shrine occupies a large area and is enclosed by an iron pallisade put in place by Vincentian Fathers. In addition to Rosa's house and the chapel, there is a large retreat house. Sr Clara brought a group of forty young people in the past for a retreat here and said it was excellent. On the day of our visit, sadly, we were all sorry to see how neglected and poorly maintained the site is, probably because there is now no group of religious living there.

Srs Anne, Rose and Clara outside the Chapel where Rosa was confirmed.

Chica de Jora stall just outside the sanctuary - a refreshing local drink made from maize and wheat

Flowers in the village

A goat on her knees in the grounds of the sanctuary - perhaps in prayer?

The Priest who said Mass for us blessing someone's new car after the Mass

Sr Anne kindly treated us for lunch in one of the semi-open-air restaurants that serve pilgrims and visitors. I was privileged to try a Pachamanca, a Peruvian speciality prepared by burying the meats in the earth to cook on hot stones. The meats were served with potatoes cooked in their skins, corn on the cob, broad beans and finely sliced onions garnished with lemon-juice. It was a great feast. We were advised to share one between us, but even so there was so much left over that we had enough for Monday's lunch!

Brigid, Sr Clara and Sr Anne at lunch

I had anticipated a day of both great blessings and challenges. This turned out to be so, but not in the way I had thought. I expected extreme heat, but we were blessed with lovely coolish, breezy air. It was not at all hot or uncomfortable. I had expected to be plagued with mosquitoes even if we used repellent, but apart from one little bite at the beginning of the journey (Brigid), and one on arrival (Clara), we were remarkably free from insect trouble. Finally, the joy of praying in the very place where Santa Rosa lived her formative years and took the name of Rosa at confirmation outweighed any small inconveniences.

Sr Rose sitting on the wall outside the sanctuary with the view from Quives behind

by Sr. Rose of Lima