Day 4 – Help From a Saint

The day started out as the other days with prayers and Mass. Padre Martín gave the homily again, and I’ll share just one quote because I have so much other stuff to cover today: “It doesn’t matter how many rosaries or sacrifices you make if your heart is like a stone. God cannot be deceived.” This was an allusion to yesterday’s homily where he talked about how at every Mass God provides the machinery to break away the rocks in our heart. Padre mentioned to me yesterday how his morning homily’s are used to help form the men. This is not as easy as it may seem. Life in a religious community can be very stressful, and the formation includes the building of a family as well as the making of priests. It’s not easy.

Friday is typically a day of fasting, but because I am here they did not fast. I asked Padre Martín about this, and he said that even St. Benedict said you should not fast when guests are present. They have a cook that makes lunch every day except Friday, so knowing how much Padre likes Italian food I offered to be the cook and make a big pot of marinara with Italian sausage. So off we went to find the ingredients I needed, which is actually a short list. The local market is very typical of markets I’ve seen in other travels, full of small niche booths for each type of thing you might need. It was bustling and fun, and I enjoyed watching Padre Jose Maria and Br. Juan Diego interact with the locals. The two things we could not get there were canned tomatoes and the sausage, so we had to go the big supermarket in the larger town. Once we got there the only tomatoes they had were in small pouches, and there were no Italian sausages. What to do?

I threw caution to the wind and bought 30 small packets of Italian tomato sauce, and then got some kind of Peruvian sausage to flavor the sauce. I figured I’d add lots of fresh basil and hope for the best. Once we got back and I started cooking, there was a great curiosity with Br. Pio snapping pictures and those who like to cook watching how I made the sauce (in case they wanted to make it again). The sauce itself turned out very well. It was a shame we didn’t have the Italian sausages, but Br. Juan Diego (who likes to cook) gave me a great compliment when I gave him a pre-taste and he exclaimed, “Gloriosa!” All in all, it was a great success. Whew!

After lunch I interviewed Br. Domingo and discovered another fascinating story (which you can read in full here). Br. Domingo felt his calling at age five as he was watching a very famous Our Lord of the Miracles procession on TV. When the camera zoomed in on Jesus’ face, he saw Jesus open his eyes and stare at him. From that moment forward he knew he would be a priest. That’s followed by a wild story about how he met Padre Martín and ended up in the community. It’s very much worth reading. Sometimes you hear these stories and just cannot believe the way God works. But we know that, right? “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor my ways your ways.” I think it’s just unusual to see that scripture illustrated so plainly. I will also add that he has considerable musical talent and a beautiful singing voice. He sang “Here I am Lord” (the Spanish version) in Mass, and…wow…just…wow.

When the interview was complete, Padre Jose Maria and Br. Agustín took me into Lima to see the tomb of St. Martin de Porres which is in the convent of Santo Domingo. St. Martin de Porres is one of the many Patron Saints of the community. We got there just before 5:30 pm, but it was closed. I will give credit here to Br. Agustín for persistence in trying to find someone who would agree to let us in, but he was getting nowhere in his efforts. I quickly said a prayer of intercession to St. Martin de Porres begging him to intercede so I could see his tomb. About a minute later one of the priests of the convent showed up, and he let us through and into the convent. But there we found the door to the shrine room was locked. Once again I asked St. Martin de Porres to help, and Br. Agustín quickly found someone with keys and we ended up by ourselves in the room with the tomb. Of course I thanked St. Martin de Porres in my prayers for the graces we had received. The Saints are very close to us, and they want to help us. Don’t be afraid to ask.

We milled around the convent for a while, which was really beautiful with a stunning courtyard, many old paintings of various Saints, a chair that had been used by St. John Paul II, and several relics of other Saints. I was marveling the entire time that we were just sort of let loose in the convent, no doubt partly enabled by my two companions in habits.

We left the convent area and went into their Basilica to look at all the side chapel areas. It was very much like the churches and cathedrals in Europe. Br. Agustín and I were toward the front when he spotted a lady in a pew just crying her eyes out. He went over and started talking to her, and I continued my tour. After I had looked at everything, Fr. Jose Maria and I met up in the back. Br. Augustín was still talking to the lady, so we patiently waited. He spent 20-25 minutes consoling her and finally left her with a big hug. A nice moment to see. We went into a few other churches within walking distance, including the main Cathedral. While in the Cathedral, an older couple stopped Fr. Jose Maria and began talking to him (the woman doing most of the talking). Again, we sat off to the side and waited. At the end of the conversation, he blessed each of them as I quietly snapped photos with my iPhone. Again, it was very touching. Then as we made our way to the front again after more touring, two more ladies stopped Fr. Jose Maria and asked for a blessing. This seems to happen a lot.

We made our way back to the car and I thought we were on our way back to the convent. Along the way we stopped for some dinner because we were all very hungry. They chose a food court in a shopping mall, and when Br. Agustín saw the KFC sign, he got very animated and said, “We go to Kentucky? You like Kentucky?” I could tell he really wanted to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken, so that’s where we ate. I still thought we were on our way home, but Fr. Jose Maria started making strange turns and the two of them were speaking in Spanish. We stopped. We reversed. I finally asked, “Are we lost?” What they didn’t tell me was that we had to pick up some donated grocery supplies from a benefactor’s house. She lived in a residential area, and we went through three security gates to get there. Security here is a big thing, from electrical shock wires to metal spikes to broken glass, the tops of walls are always protected from thieves.

By the time we finally made it back to the convent it was after 11:00. I was exhausted from all the walking and ready to crash. But Padre Martín was still in his office so I talked with him for a bit. I went to bed thinking the 5:30 am bell awaited me, but it turns out they sleep in until 6:00 am on Saturdays and everything starts a bit later. But that’s for the Day 5 blog…