Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why do they come?

The Virgin appeared to a young boy and two young girls going to the spring for water for the school, so the story goes.  It was 1953 in rural southwestern Puerto Rico, and the three still live in the village of Sabana Grande.  You can go visit them if you want.

Unlike Guadalupe in Mexico, the Virgin of the Well does not enshrine national or ethnic identity, that honor goes to a pre-Christian goddess named Boricua.  Here, however, those who come in faith (from any tradition, it seems) are welcomed with calm, gracious openness.  You are invited to drink from the well that she blessed.  The water is sweet, surprisingly so.  But the sweetness that lingers is not in the mouth but the place and the people in it.  Those people come in twos and threes and small family groups, sometimes alone.  They range from young children to the elderly--I was surprised at the number of teens and young adults who seemed to be there of their own accord.  They come almost always for one thing.  They come for peace:  in their bodies, for healing; in their souls, for tranquility; in their spirits, for inspiration.

One older Episcopalian said he had been coming here since the aparition and he just can't stay away.  A 20's Something described the place as existing in another dimension.  His friend added that the troubles of the world just stay at the gate, and are often not there when you return.  Another was convinced that if everyone would follow this path the world would be at peace.  It's hard to argue with that.

Except some do.  One of the particular trials of this sort of place the world over is the Church.  The sanctuary has had its ups-and-downs with the local Roman Catholic hierarchy.  Currently the local parish priest allows rosaries to be said there on weekends but does not have permission from his bishop to celebrate mass there.

Just as indominable is the Puerto Rican spirit, so is indominable the spirit of this place.  Church or no church, it will always draw its faithful and win new ones.  How embarrassing to have the church be outperformed by the Spirit!

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