Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Going to Mass

The Spanish saying “vaya con Dios” or “go with God” signifies the Latin American cultural willingness to surrender one’s life to a higher power. The readings that I did prior to my arrival taught me that religion is a central part of Puerto Rican life. The evidence of religion I’ve seen in this city make me think I’m living in a monastery; everyone has a cross-necklace, there are picture of Jesus in every shop, and the only church in town- the Catholic church- is seated high on the town square. My roommate and I spent Saturday night at a Reggaeton (Spanish hip-hop) concert where we saw several famous acts including Jowelley Randy and Franco Yewisin, I also noticed that many of the men were wearing rosary bead as necklaces. I think I remember some scripture condemning the use of Rosary beads as a fashion statement, but I thought I would ask the men what time is the church service. The men, in fact, were not religious but liked the aesthetic qualities of the rosary. I was curious as to whether all of this religious garb was just for show. At what point does religion become kitschy?

I enjoy attending Catholic mass because the services are the same regardless of where you are. I know that, regardless of the political or social beliefs of the Priest, the congregation will together recite the Lord’s Prayer while knowing that millions of Catholics around the world are also reciting that prayer. But this service was different; there was no Holy Water, no kneeling during the service, and no Apostle’s Creed. “Oh…. No… There is no Holy Water, what will we do!?!?!?” I thought to my self. “Just worship,” was the answer I came up with. Church traditions are nice but when we let ourselves get so preoccupied with whether or not the offering is collected the way that we want it to be we lose sight of what the offering is about. In my stay in Puerto Rico I will try to apply this lesson to all aspects of my experience. Life in Puerto Rico may not be exactly what I envisioned but instead of dissecting the particular things that “aren’t right” I’m going to keep in mind the bigger purpose for which I am living here.

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