...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Monday, October 24, 2005

¡Canta! ¡Sueña! ¡Vuela corazón americano!

Part Two of What We Did in Argentina is still coming (obviously, when I say ´´Check back tomorrow,´´ I really mean ´´Check back sometime next week,´´ but everything in the world happened or threatened to happen last week and I didn´t have time to write it up--sorry!) but I first I ahve to write about what happened over the weekend.

Yesterday was a very important day for Chile: the canonization of Padre Alberto Hurtado, a Jesuit priest who founded the Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ), an organization that helps street children and the poor. Ever since his death in the early 1950s, Chileans have been petitioning the Vatican to canonize Padre Hurtado (make him into a saint), but they had to wait until he performed--and the Vatican verified--two posthumous miracles, which is the requirement for sainthood. (As an aside, that´s the main reason why Mother Teresa hasn´t been canonized yet.) Padre Hurtado supposedly performed his second miracle in 1996 when a young woman miraculously recovered from a coma following a car accident, and the wheels were set into motion for his canonization, a long process that culminated Sunday morning around 4:30 in the morning Chile-time, when Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed Padre Hurtado´s acceptance into the communion of saints.

In honor of the occasion, the pastoral organization of our university sponsored a vigil Saturday night in the gymnasium of the U, and I decided to go. The vigil officially started around 11:30 pm, but I didn´t get there until about 2:30, since Mariah and I had been tango´ing at the Piedra until 2 or so. There were at least two hundered and fifty students in the gymnasium, gathered in small groups around dozens of plastic tables. The lights were off and the room was dark, lit mostly by hundreds candles which burned at the tables. Huge posters of Padre Hurtado hung from the walls and a stage had been set up at one end of the gym where a few people stood, leading the crowd in song, prayer, and devotions. Despite the late hour, everyone was in high spirits, excited about the canonization, clapping their hands and dancing to the music. One of the songs in particular caught my attention:

¡Vuela corazón americano!
Ya no habrá dolor que nos detenga
Todos somos hermanos ante Dios.

Take wing, American heart!
Soon there will be no pain to hold us back
We are all brothers before God.

When we sang it, we all joined hands and swayed back and forth, a chain of hundrds of students united by their faith and emotion and pride in this incredible man who would soon be a saint. I don´t want to get too maudlin but it was a special moment, and I know I´ll always remember it.

The canonization itself began around 4:30, broadcast live from Rome via the University of Chile television station. There were actually five priests being canonized Sunday, and huge portraits of them hung in front of St. Peter´s Cathedral. Every time the camera panned past Padre Hurtado´s portrait, a huge cheer went up from the students, who chanted several rounds of CHI CHI CHI! LE LE LE! VIVA CHILE! When at the end of the service the Pope pronounced Hurtado a saint, the vigil coordinators unfurled a huge poster with a picture of Hurtado and the words ´´San Alberto Hurtado´´ and there was even more cheering.

After that, there was a Mass officiated by a priest from a local parish who had come to the vigil, and I fell asleep for about twenty minutes and had a brief but enjoyable dream that I lived in a tree house. By the time we (my Ciencias Religiosas friends and I) left the vigil, it was seven in the morning and the sun was up. As I rode the micro back into Viña, I thought about how grateful I was to have been able to share such a special occasion with my friends and with Chile.