On Wednesday Sarah didn't go to Culture Class because she wasn't feeling well. So it was just Gaby and me. We were going over the Top Ten National Holidays here in Spain and our teacher began to tell us about a holiday that happens around Easter. It's called Romería del Rocío. Here is a short explanation of the holiday found on the internet:
More than a million people and close to one hundred different brotherhoods enjoy the wonderful festive atmosphere of this pilgrimage to the village of El Rocío. The celebration combines religion and fiesta. Hundreds of thousands of people come from all over Spain, and even abroad, to make this annual pilgrimage to the Blanca Paloma Shrine in the village of El Rocío, 17 kilometres from the town of Almonte (Huelva province). Over the week before, the different Rocío brotherhoods set out from their bases in Huelva, Seville, andCadiz, amongst other provinces, in order to get to the village of El Rocío by the Saturday, and to enjoy the events which run through to the Monday. The most traditional way to do the pilgrimage is on horseback, by carriage or on foot, dressed in flamenco clothing. By day, the brotherhoods advance in festive spirits, singing flamenco, while by night they camp out and organise parties around the bonfire with singing, dancing, food and drink into the early hours. As they arrive in the village of El Rocío, pilgrims pitch their camps and await the arrival of the remaining brotherhoods. On the Saturday there is a parade where they present themselves with the simpecado (the association's standard) before the statue of the Virgin Mary, while the church bells ring. On the Sunday there are various religious acts and that night nobody sleeps, in anticipation of the weekend's most exciting moment: the “jumping the fence”, when the people of Almonte jump over the fence to bring the statue of the Virgin out of the shrine and parade it around the village on Monday morning. Once the procession is over, the brotherhoods start the return journey with their minds already on next year's pilgrimage.
After a quick explanation of the holiday we were then shown a video of the event -- the jumping of the fence -- where men grab hold of the statue in hopes of being healed or of healing a family member by clinging to this statue. The men fight for position to be near and to touch this statue. This happens every year.
I wanted to cry.
I swallowed a lump in my throat as I watched these people desperately trying touch this statue; I wondered what was going through Gaby's mind as she watched this. I wanted to leave class and find a corner to hide in and cry.
After watching this video I decided that I would try to lead the conversation a different direction and so I said to our teacher "I have a question. I'm learning more and more about Catholicism since being here in Spain. Can you explain to me how this holiday fits in with the Catholic belief/devotion to Mary?"
It wasn't her answer about all of the various virgins and saints that impacted me. As a matter of fact, I already had a pretty good idea about how it worked. But I wanted to hear what she had to say about Catholicism because I assumed she was a Catholic. It was the certainty with which she spoke that impacted me. She said "Well, Catholics believe -- WE Catholics believe in Mary -- that she was the mother of God. That she was pure and without sin. And because she is the mother of God she is the most direct way to God, right?" And then she went on to talk briefly about the virgins and saints. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus' words went flying through my mind and soul. My heart went out to my teacher. I swallowed hard again.
After class the first thing out of Gaby's mouth as we exited the building was "I just wanted to cry in class today." She said she wanted to show her in the Bible where Jesus said that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that we only get to God through Him. I said I felt the same way and we talked about heaviness of class that day. That for those of us who know the Truth -- how hard it is to watch those who are blind to it. Neither of us felt that it was the appropriate time to contradict our teacher, but we took time to pray for her and ask for wisdom on when to speak and when to be silent.
Here is a link to the video we watched. The video is only 4 minutes long, but the first minute or two you get the idea of what happens.
So, yeah, this week we had somethin' to cry about. But I guess as long as tears produce prayers and eventually other Christ followers, hand over the tissues.