I did my study in Peru in downtown Lima at the Church of the Lord of Miracles. It is a beautiful colonial church just blocks off the central square. The story goes that the statue of the Virgin and Child in the church was saved miraculously from a devastating earthquake in the 19th century, and therefore the fame of the church. People filed in and out of the Nave, crossing a small stone-paved courtyard as Mass was said. To the side of the main Nave a small chapel housed a large crucifix. People kneeled and prayed in that side chapel at their own discretion.
It was harder to get people to speak to us here, big city, more reservations among the people, and finally one young couple gave voice to what was for sure a common fear: people thought we were selling something. In contrast, a group of catechists were very open and eager to participate. We finished our interviews in about 2 hours, and then I spent some time in the side chapel in prayer.
And there was where I discovered unexpected joy. The same sense of God's presence on the páramo in Ecuador flooded my being, a powerful, tangible awareness of the presence of God, spiritual tingling of the soul, silly-yeet-not-shallow joy that comes from incredibly deep gratitude, I find it hard to craft words to fit the experience, but I would recognize it anywhere and any time.
It was a totally unexpected surprisie to find in the center of a bustling city what I thought was only to be found in the wilds. I found out later that the location had been a place of spiritual pilgrimage for pre-Incan peoples more than 400 years before the Spanish. Perhaps...