Easter season as always flew by way too fast. Pentecost in Bolivia is a big event. Most notably, they hold a vigil all night from 9pm to 5am beginning and ending with mass. Here in Villa Cochabamba it was attended by all the young people 13-20. Tom and I, being oldfolk, decided not to attend and instead got a good night’s sleep and attended the masses the next day. The church was as always beautifully decorated also.
Pentecost means something more to me here in Bolivia because it is truly the gifts of the Holy Spirit that keep me going everyday. Every Sunday at mass I pray for the strength to live the next week with love, patience, and understanding. Then it dawned on me today, that what I’m really doing is continually asking for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Strength gets me through the hot days, the sick days, and the days when I don’t understand anything. I am constantly seeking the Wisdom to see what God wants of me each day and to know how to show God’s love when constantly facing material and spiritual poverty. I pray for Counsel and Knowledge to know how best to offer assistance for all the needs we’re surrounded by; how to empower people and avoid handouts; how to let children know that they’re loved and valued.
The gift of Understanding became clearer to me while I was reflecting on the Gospel this week. It had always bothered me how the disciples spoke and everyone understood in their own language, until this week, when I connected that with my own experiences communicating in other languages. It wasn’t the way the disciples said it that was the miracle, it was the way the people heard it. I have had many experiences like this in my life where I understand something but I don’t know why I can understand it. I’ve always been gifted with languages in that I can pick them up quickly and develop an ear for new accents quickly. Sometimes, I can even listen to a language I’ve never heard before and understand, which to me is clearly the work of the Holy Spirit. The other interesting thing about this understanding is that it’s not language-based. I couldn’t tell you the words the people used, I can just tell you what I heard, heard more in my heart than through my ears. I imagine it must have been like that for the people listening to the disciples also. They didn’t need to know all the words to get the message, because God speaks right to your heart.
Fear of God was never one of my favorites but Bolivia certainly puts the Fear of God into people. There is a very strong emphasis on confession here, such that people won’t go to Communion unless they’ve literally JUST confessed. I don’t think this is totally healthy but I think they do have more reminders that our time on the Earth is short. It’s not always easy to live in Bolivia but it is easy to die. In a country with practically no safety regulations, no safety nets, not so much as an ambulance to come get you if you fall in your own front yard, it’s just between you and God. If you’re still alive, it’s because of the grace of God because He’s had plenty of opportunities to end it.
I also feel like I’ve increased in Piety since beginning this journey last July. In July we lived and prayed with Salesian Sisters in New Jersey for three weeks. At first I felt the 6am prayers and daily rosary was just unnecessary, but after awhile it really grew on me. Having structured-in reflection time each day really provides an amazing amount of peace and strength. Now in Montero, though we don’t do the Liturgy of the Hours with the Sisters we occasionally join them for rosary or Adoration and always attend first-Friday mass in the Chapel. People have also started calling me “Hermanita” despite the fact that they should know I’m married. They don’t know what to make of a married person without children that lives in a convent though.