Chronicle: Christmas in the jungles of Figeri and Fas
Today’s Mass, even though it was very well prepared, was not solemn at all. The light was the lowest; hardly I could read. We managed to get an electronic generator but it was quite noisy. Also there were many babies crying. I lost a mark in the missal and I couldn’t find it… meanwhile everybody was waiting in silence. The singers started the songs with another’s melody, or just inventing one.
I was impatient… but with the issue of the songs I was also tempted to laugh. Finally all those things helped me more to pray and concentrate in the mystery we were celebrating. I prayed each prayer calmly, forgetting everything and cheering myself up by remembering the poverty and precariousness in which Our Lord was born.
When the Mass finished I greeted them and I told them that that night should be different… it should be of great joy. So I gave them motives to rejoice, that also helped me (I was still a little impatient because of the Mass’ problems). I told them that that night was special, that it must be full of joy, and that something should be done… but nothing else. They were not knowing what to do, so I proposed to sing some songs. But the only songs they know are the ones of the Mass, and not so well. Then, as I saw that nothing was going on, I said: “Let’s divide us into three groups: mothers, fathers and youth together with the kids. Each of them has to perform a song…” They were a little shy at the beginning. The girls made a dance they have learned for the offertory procession of the Mass. Later the fathers performed a play (also very simple and quiet similar to a comedy sketch…). It was about two groups of men: ones were praying and the others were getting drunk. That was all. But later, little by little they started to animate one another. The teacher, together with his family, presented a Christmas song. Finally the numbers were more than enough. They were all happy. The women were practicing typical songs and dances. An old lady sung in her dialect a very nice song, very simple but quite beautiful. She was pointing out up, and later down, just like moving her arm. When I asked her what was she saying she told that she was singing to the mountain that was in front, the highest in this area; all what the song says is “You Nanie, are there, I’m here”. Nanie is the mountain that separates us from the city. I said that I would make a dance of my place, so I made them hear a little Christmas Carnival. I did two nonsenses and then I danced with the boys… they were all laughing. Later we played some traditional music and I told that all the kids should go and dance; I think that this was the funniest thing. Lastly we prayed to the Virgin and I gave them the blessing. They didn’t want to leave. Two men said thanks publicly…. They were very happy.
They also enjoyed speaking. I liked that both of them highlighted the fact that I have preached strongly and clearly. I didn’t know how they had received some things, especially when I spoke about the families, the polygamy, the matrimony and the freedom of the women for marrying.
Today’s afternoon, one of the chiefs, while he was speaking in public, again thanked me and underlined that I have taught them how to live according to the Gospel, that I have indicated them that Christ wants to reign in their hearts and customs, and that it is time to leave aside the pagans (and we can add, diabolical) customs.
Later I went to the house of the teacher and there we heated some noodles and vegetables that they had prepared for me.
We did the blessing of one village’s church that was waiting for some priest to be blessed. The church and the village didn’t have name. So I spoke with them, and having the authorization of the parish priest, we put both under the patronage of Saint John Paul II. I left them a relic of his, and I told them a little about his life and that he was the only Pope visiting Papua New Guinea. They were very happy. I also told them how they should appeal to him, to his relic, in any case.
This was before the final blessing. In the homily I spoke the simplest I could about the Holy Mass, the altar’s sacrifice, that is the best offering we can give God.
After the blessing we went out and we took a picture. Later some of their chiefs said a speech and gave me some gifts: an embalmed blue bird-of-paradise (the national bird), a bear skin for using as a hut (I don’t know the specific name of the bear; it’s just very little and climbs the trees), the head of the hunted deer (they paint the horns with latex paint) and an arrow made only of wood, without iron in the tip.
In order to finish we went to eat something. They have asked me first to delay the Mass so that they might have time to cook. They cook the entire morning. They gave me meat of muruk (a domesticated ostrich that just yesterday was passing by in the streets like a dog) together with the typical saksak that they eat everyday (is like a gelatin taken from the several washings of the kaksak tree’s sawdust). Up to here everything was okay, but later they gave some noodles. They looked excellent and were very good, but there were some yellow, hard and wrinkled things that called my attention. When I asked what they were they told that they were worms!! If you leave the kaska some couples of weeks you will find some worms in it. I laughed a little, but I didn’t eat them… I tried, but I couldn’t. The food isn’t an essential part of the inculturation…
Afterwards a man in a warlock costume appeared. It was horrible… the costume were really good. He was carrying a spear. They explain me that it was for scaring the kids who don’t want to eat the kaksak. I laughed and remembered the “man of the bag” that in Argentina is used to frighten those who don’t want to eat the soup. But then wasn’t funny. They frightened too much the little kids; especially the youngest one that don’t understand that is only a costume. It wasn’t enough if they cry… The mothers or the sister left the babies at the foot of the warlock, and they also started to laugh. It was really horrible. I stopped the man and also the mothers… All this is because of the Gospel’s lacking. Another example is the way in which they treat and correct their children… they hit them until they finished laying on the floor. Everything is just like that… Even the way of eating, dressing or the total lack of hygiene, and what’s worst, the killings or murders. There are many cases in which the people die because of a curse, a witchcraft or simply because of diabolical issues. For example when one doesn’t respect the traditions at the moment of choosing a women, the family of hers will just kill you as something normal… nobody worries about that, they are used to do it. Also the family treatment is quite bad. The other day a girl came to the village, after some months of being studying in the city. She arrived and she didn’t greet her parents, not even a simple affective sign. In these cases you can see the lacking of humanness, so to speak. But I don’t blame nor despise them… I know that is because of the absence of the Gospel, of the faith, of the grace and of the Christian values that are just entering into this culture. And when I say just, is just… their grandparent were pagans.
Saint Stephen martyr… He died forgiving his murderers and because of preaching the Gospel and following Christ. What a wonderful opportunity to preach them about the Christian forgiveness and the persecution that they may suffer for despising the world and following Christ!
Later we organized the Christmas games as it was programmed in the schedule. We played a soccer match of 4 hours and under the rain. The field was totally flooded and slippery. They were very happy. Later I had to be the goalkeeper because I was really tired. They don’t play very good, but they run a lot… without getting tired. The women played volleyball. After three hours I went to the river to take a bath, I ate something and went to take a nap. When I got up, the rain stopped and the landscape totally changed. Suddenly came a great calm, as it’s usual after the big rains, and some mist clouds raised from among the mountains… It was really nice! A thick cloud, that little by little went upward, covered the surrounding mountains. I enjoyed too much while drinking some mates. I stayed alone with the teacher. His family was sleeping and those who came for playing were gone.
During the night some people from Utai came. Some of them were those who had come together with me on foot. Now they came to see me, to see how they have treated me. For coming they had to get a vehicle, travel three hours in the back of the Land Cruiser and after that to walk three more hours… and this time under the rain!! Very good people!
Fr. Martin Prado
 “The Carnavalito (English: Little Carnival) is a traditional South American dance from the altiplano and puna regions that is practiced in relation to religious festivities”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnavalito
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