San Jose de Flores
On Sunday I was one of many worshippers at the local Catholic church, the Basilica of San José de Flores. The church celebrates its 200th anniversary this year and festivities have already begun. It’s a huge, impressive church on the south west side of Plaza Flores. Most impressive for me was the size of the congregation at this the eighth and last Mass of the day. It was heartening to see people of all ages and backgrounds flooding into the church for a time of celebration, reflection, and thanksgiving.
I've just started Elizabeth Johnson’s book Friends of God and Prophets (1998). In her introduction, she suggests veneration of the saints began to fall out of fashion following the Enlightenment in those countries most affected by this movement. She notes that in other cultures, including Latin America, observation of local saints’ festival days and dedication to particular saints continued, alongside liberation theologies reclamation of saints as companions in the struggle for justice. The members of San José appear to demonstrate both these spiritual practices. I observed a couple praying together in front of a statue of one saint, each with a hand raised up to touch the statute, creating an intimate group of three, each members of the communion of saints. Johnson reminds us of the potential power of this belief, connecting living and dead, those close to God and those with far to travel.
She includes a quote from the sixth century Dorotheus of Gaza:
Imagine a circle marked out on the ground. Suppose that this circle is the world and that the centre of the circle is God. Leading from the edge to the center are a number of lines, representing ways of life. In their desire to draw near to God, the saints advance along these lines to the middle of the circle, so that the further they go, the nearer they approach to one another as well as to God. The closer they come to God, the closer they come to one another…Such is the nature of love: the nearer we draw to God in love, the more we are united together by love for our neighbor. (cited in Johnson 1998: 30)
In their jubilee year, the people of San José de Flores are seeking to draw close to God and each other through their renewal of their church as a centre of worship and mission in the neighbourhood. Already, church activities include after-school clubs, choirs and worship planning, bible study groups, and a project called Casa de Todos - Home for All – which provides health care, showers, food and advise for the homeless.
You can visit their website at
As for me, I'm having a busy time of it. Last week I finished my first month's course in Spanish and because I won't be around for all of February, I have switched the individual classes for this month. Two hours of one-on-one Spanish grammer is hard work but i hope to see improvement soon! I'll miss my classmates from the course but have been meeting up socially with several. Since February began there has been a marked increase in activity around college. Yesterday I met the Dean and we talked a little about my course and supervison. I have to do some further research into options before my initial 'caht' with the academic panel in March. Tomorrow I'm off to the immigration office to complete the process of registering my visa. I'm also still holding out for broadband to be installed in my flat - it's suppost to be happening on friday but I'll wait to see what happens...
I'm leaving for the World Council of Churches Assembly over the weekend so will be reporting from Porto Alegre next time. I'm really looking forward to the trip, the assembly and meeting up with friends from around the world who are also attending. Until then.