Moratinos was limping along at half speed when we arrived here. There hadn´t been a bar in town for a good 30 years, but Don Santiago showed up every Sunday morning and said a quick Mass. He´s been doing that for as long as we´ve lived here.
|San Isidro in the fields|
Moratinos knows it´s lucky. And every Sunday, just about everybody turns up for Mass. Even José, who says he doesn´t believe any of it. Or Manolo or Justi or Paddy or any of the dozen or so men who never take communion, and only go up to the altar to kiss the baby Jesus doll at Christmas, or carry a statue round the town on their shoulders, or a coffin up to the cemetery.
They come to church because they are part of a community. And church is one place where no one is excluded, not even the people you´d never let into your house. We didn´t care that Don Santiago often put his alb on inside-out, that his collar was askew -- he was always in a hurry, on his way to two or three more Masses. He sang parts of the service, and we sang the responses. (We are terrible singers.) He blessed our houses at Corpus Christi and our crops at San Isidro Day and our dead at All Saints, and we all turned out to meet him when he came to town.
Don Santiago was a farm boy, raised in a big farming family. He worked at a garden center part-time, to help make ends meet. One Sunday during planting season he ate the whole big wafer himself, and told the communicants to pick out their own disc of bread from the dish -- his fingers were too dirty, he didn´t want to touch the holy hosts.
As time went on he did not kneel so deeply. His voice was scratchy, he didn´t stay so late at the fiesta. But it seemed Don Santiago would go on forever, baptizing our babies, marrying our children, burying us when our time came.
We all knew it would happen sometime. Don Gaspar, the archpriest, came on Sunday to do the Mass. He told us Don Santiago suffered an aneurysm last week. He is in hospital in Palencia, and no one can say when he´s coming out, and home. Or if he will say Mass again. Or when we will hear Mass again at Sto. Tomas.
If we want to hear Mass we must drive to Villada or Sahagún, like the villagers in tiny, dying towns all around us.
Mass has gone on here for a thousand years. And now it is finished. We´re not so special now. Milagros was right.
We have three bars in town now, and two places to sleep, but we´ve taken a big step backward.
We have no place to pray together, no one to lead us in the ancient rites. No one to come on Sunday to make us sing so awfully together, to make our joyful noise unto the Lord.
|Corpus Christi in the plaza|