June 28, 2016
One of my favorite things about Querétaro is all of the beautiful, old churches that anchor several plazas around this large city. Tonight, I had the experience of attending Catholic worship for the first time. My host cousin invited me along with her. I was very excited to see the inside of one of the churches I have been admiring from the outside for the last week and a half. I was speechless when I saw the inside of the church and I will let you know now that the photos do no justice. These churches are truly something that you have to see for yourself through your own eyes and I hope that you may all have the opportunity to do so.
We left for the church at about 7:40pm and enjoyed the walk through the streets. I love how much Querétaro comes alive in the evenings and nights. People do not stay inside, rather they pass time in the plazas which all have the feeling of outdoor community living rooms, kitchens, and back yards where kids run and play freely.
On our way, we stopped by a market real quick and I got a juice box which is a classic in Mexico, my host cousin told me. It was Guayaba flavored and tasty. A new fruit flavor for sure. Along our walk, every time we passed a church, Diana would pause and sign a cross from her forehead to center of her torso and across her shoulders.
Once we got to the church, I recognized the outside as one that I have walked by many times. It is the Santa Clara Iglesia of Querétaro. The outside is impressive and regal, and the inside is adorned with more than I would have ever expected or imagined.
I took a few photos before worship began, but even these do not represent the walls that are so heavily adorned I wonder how they remain standing. Gold gilding coverers almost every square inch and chandeliers hang from the ceiling. There is a beautiful dome that has a mural painted of many angles looking down toward the large Jesus that is the focal point of the front of the church behind the altar.
Diana led the way to a pew about half way back. For Tuesday evening worship, there were many more people than I expected. As I looked around, I could not help but wish that my glasses were a stronger prescription as these glasses keep everything at a distance a bit blurry. I wanted to see everything as clearly as possible with my own eyes because it was so amazing.
As the instruments (acoustic guitar, multiple base guitars, piano, and a few people singing into microphones) began to play the first song, everyone else found their ways to their pews. I estimate that there were about 150 people there. I was expecting twenty or so. I am learning more and more that what I expect to experience here in Mexico is always greatly surpassed.
Everyone began to sing in unison, from memory as there were no hymn books or bulletins, the first song in Spanish. I was only able to pick out a few words now and then. But, that in no way prevented me from feeling how strong the faith in the room was and how present the Holy Spirit was. As I bowed my head and listened, tears welled in my eyes as a feeling of being completely at home and blessed came over me. I did not need to know the meaning of the words to know that there were ones that I too wanted to be singing. After a few refrains, I was able to join in, quietly and humbly with my hands raised in praise.
Ven y sopla sobre mí y llena cada espacio de mi vida, espíritu de Dios.
Ven y sopla sobre mí y llena me dé la brisa de tu amor.
~Come and blow on me and fill every space in my life, spirit of God.~
~Come and blow on me and fill me with the breeze of your love.~
The song went on for several refrains. My prayers were filled with thanks for all that I am learning and experiencing while here abroad. And thanks for having the opportunity to worship in other cultures and learn, first hand, that faith truly is a universal language.
As I opened my eyes to peak around, I blinked away the tears that had gathered. It was as if they had washed my eyes of the blurry haze I had become so accustom to. I could see every detail of the church from where I stood. I tried to squint, as I usually do absent mindedly trying to make things more clear, but there was no way to make things more clear than they already were. I truly believe that God gave me the eyes to see this place of worship clear and crisp. I could see the angles faces high above on the ceiling and count the crystals in the chandelier. I was speechless having never experienced something like this before.
As worship continued, the songs picked up pace and everyone began to clap, wave, turn around, and all jump in unison while singing beautiful melodies. Now, as for me, I did my best to play along, but I totally felt like I had shown up to a Zumba class having no idea what the next move was or what I was doing. I am sure I looked like a headless chicken flopping around. Nonetheless, the worship was amazing.
I followed my host cousin to the front of the church where we sat to continue to worship and pray while people all sang. Many others gathered at the front, some in complete posters of prayer, bowing on hands and knees before the altar. After this, the Pastor lead a few minutes of response prayers and then one last song was sang, to the Virgin Mary who there was a statue of situated on the wall at the front right of the church.
As we returned to our pews to pick up our purses, Diana introduced me to several friends on the way out. As we walked into the plaza, there were many people still out and about. The weather was cool and comfortable after a typical sticky-hot afternoon. As we stepped out of the church, I caught myself squinting across the plaza and realized that it made a difference this time, like usual. I am still very moved that I was able to see every detail of the church during the worship service and I believe that it was an answered prayer.
At the corner of the plaza, Diana treated me to ice cream. I chose two flavors: lime pie and mamey fruit. They both satisfied the ice cream craving that had been lingering since earlier in the afternoon.
I really love spending time with my host cousins. I love that Diana and I are so close in age and have a lot in common. I really appreciate Diana’s very strong faith and I am so thankful I was able to share this experience with her. Even though the worship was in a church of another denomination, in another language, in another country, the God we were praying to and rejoicing with is the same. I am very much looking forward to attending more worship services and possibly Mass with Diana and my host mother over the next few weeks.