I love Lent. I love singing “We Rise Again from Ashes” on Ash Wednesday. I love Stations of the Cross. I love the idea of being united to all other Catholics in sacrifice and prayer as we try to make our lives more like Christ’s. I love fish fries. I love having an excuse to incessantly listen to Jesus Christ Superstar. I think you get the picture. While I have always been invigorated by the Lenten season, being in Nicaragua and experiencing a different type of Lent has deepened my love for the Lenten traditions that I have known for the past 21 years of my life. Sure, Nicaragua is a very “Catholic” country but it seems that the Lenten traditions from the States are simply not as present here. As a result, my desire to be surrounded by what I thought were typical Lenten devotionals and sentiments (Stations of the Cross, “giving up” something, somber Church decorations, etc.) has not exactly been satiated. However, this past Friday one of my favorite Lenten traditions shook hands with my new life here in Nicaragua.
One of my community mates, Christine, works at a grade school run by a group of nuns. One of the nuns, Fabbiola, heard that there is a nearby community known as Motastepe in need of ministry. Within this community, there is not a Church, much less a priest who is willing to say Mass. Fabiola tried talking with a priest from her neighborhood to see if he would be willing to say Masses in Motastepe once a month. Unfortunately, he would not agree to do so. Fabiola took matters into her own hands and declared that she might not be able to say Mass for the people of Motastepe but what she could do was bring the Stations of the Cross to them. This week I was lucky enough to be able to go with her.
I was excited to partake in a Lenten tradition that has been absent from my time in Nicaragua but I was not really sure what to expect. On Thursday night Christine told me to wear tennis shoes and bring a water bottle. I showed up at her work on Friday afternoon as prescribed and off we went with a small crucifix, a candle, a guitar, and a Stations of the Cross book. Fabiola had arranged for different families in Motastepe to set up little altars with flowers outside their house and we brought our Stations supplies, did one station at a particular family’s house, and then invited the family to continue walking the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) with us. Our crowd grew slowly. We sang together and prayed together at each house and in between, we walked together. I felt so empowered by the people of the pueblo (village) and was honored to walk with them. The prized moments of the Via Crucis passed slowly and as we strolled by houses where women were washing clothes, kids were playing in their cloth diapers, and dogs were meandering in the yard, I was sure that Jesus was walking the stations with us. I captured those moments and that feeling in my heart and knew that any expectations that I may have had were met and then some. It was unlike any Way of the Cross that I had walked in the States.
As some of you may know, on Friday my Grandma underwent an open-heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm. Receiving the news of her surgery last weekend left me feeling lonesome, worried, and doubtful of my presence in Nicaragua. I spent the whole week thinking of my Grandma and my family and praying for the best. Thankfully, my mom called Friday evening to inform me that my Grandma was waking up from a successful surgery. I released a huge sigh of relief. She then passed to phone off to my Grandpa. I spent a few minutes chatting with him but we had to cut the conversation short due to a bad connection. As we said goodbye my Grandpa said, “Keep walking with Jesus, Andrea.” To his wish I replied, “I will.” At the moment it had been an instinctive reply but as I hung up the phone, I recalled the events of the day and knew that was exactly what I wanted to say. So, yes Grandpa, I will. I will keep walking with Jesus.