Lord, you are the Way.
Draw us after you and give us the strength to follow.
You are the Truth.
Convince us and make us humble of heart to learn.
You are the Life.
Stir us to action and to love in the service of
God and others.
I pray with Mary and the whole Church for the Pope’s intentions this month:
That indigenous peoples, whose identity and very existence are threatened, will be shown due respect.
That the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, by means of her mission to the continent, may announce the Gospel with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.
Latin Americans first heard the Gospel from priests who arrived with their conquerors in the 16th century. The invaders, no role models for new Christians, were on a hunt for gold and riches. They put the native people into servitude, killed their leaders, took their land and natural resources and broke the backs of their cultures. This experience of slavery, plunder, rape and brutality, accompanied the ‘good news’ heard by the people. Noted for their opposition to the slave-trading were St Peter Claver and Fr Bartolomeo de Las Casas.
They treated the unfortunate victims with love while bringing them the Good News.
The religious outlook of the indigenous people was already imbued with an awareness of the presence of the sacred. This was ritualised in visual, musical and dramatic symbols and in religious pageantry both in public places and on home altars, giving immediate and daily access to the sacred.
The Iberian form of the faith brought and planted by the priests was deeply symbolic. It was medieval, pre-modern and had its roots in the patristic and medieval Church from before the Reformation.
The people knew nothing of later disputes about the secular and the sacred for, as they saw it, the world of the spirit was everywhere. The style of worship brought by the priests was sacramental and the sacred could be reached through images, stories, and popular rituals in the belief that created things could convey grace.
Popular religion can bring God into the daily life of the poor and interpret the Gospel forcefully but it is limited and mediated through a culture that is sometimes distorted and in need of correction to ensure that it is conveyed with clarity and vigour.
- Henry Grant SJ, extracted from Living Prayer