Saturday, January 24, 2015

Algo Hermoso

This morning, I pulled myself out of bed at 7:25am (6:25am my time, to be fair), to go buy flowers.

Yesterday, Karen told me she was going flower shopping early in the morning. She does this each week on Saturday morning, heads downtown to the market where all the trucks filled with flowers have come off the mountain to wholesale to the rest of the city. She tries to spend no more than RD$500 Dominican (around US$11), and that buys enough flowers for two arrangements of altar flowers.

Apparently, when she arrived here as a missionary with the Episcopal Church, they were just buying a simple bouquet of flowers and sticking it in the vases. She started buying more varieties of flowers and arranging them. Eventually, the cathedral housekeeper tentatively expressed interest and Karen readily agreed to teach her. For the first several arrangements, Karen would do one and the housekeeper would copy her. But she eventually got the hang of it and now has done it on her own several times.

Whenever she does the arrangement for Sunday, people tell her how beautiful they are and, apparently, she glows with pride.

Algo hermoso. Something beautiful.

My own parish back home gets our flowers from a local florist who delivers completed bouquets and puts them in vases on the reredos. You can pay the cost of the flowers for a week (about $50 for the two arrangements) as a memorial gift and very rarely—if ever—is there a week that someone has not already marked down.

And though we've talked, from time to time, about starting a flower guild and creating our own arrangements. But everyone is very busy and we've never had enough of a critical mass to head in that direction. I do still like the idea, though, of a flower guild.

Even if, like at Catedral Epifania, it is a guild of two.

When I met the housekeeper, I told her how I heard she made beautiful flowers. ("Karen diga me que cuando estas haciendo las flores, tu flores son la mas bonitas.") Sure enough, she beamed as she said, "Gracias."

Later in the day (after a nap), I went with the cathedral dean and two clergy from Colombia to visit San Marcos in Haina. This is a relatively poor city, about 12 miles from Santo Domingo. It is best known to Americans as one of the the ten most polluted cities in the world, sometimes called "Dominican Chernobyl" because of the lead contamination caused by a battery smelting company that used to operate in the area.

Make no mistake, the Cathedral I am staying at here in Santo Domingo is not in the wealthy modern part of the city. But compared with Haina... it is in a very different place. As the dean said to me when were were driving between the two, "La República Dominicana es un país de contrastes." It is a country of contrasts.

And yet, in the midst of it sits San Marcos, served by one of the very first women ordained to the priesthood in the Dominican. There is a pre-school with Dora painted on the wall. There is a basketball court filled with Pepsi logos. The church itself is lovely and above it is the "salon" (what we would call parish hall), clearly a place of joy and gathering—the presence of some empty wine bottles near the door indicate that it is clearly an Episcopal parish hall, I suppose.

I wonder somedays about the mission of the church. There are so many good things the church does, wonderful things that all seem to compete with one another for attention.

And there are some things we have done—or have failed to do—that make me avert my eyes when I think of them.

But there, in the middle of Haina, is algo hermoso—something beautiful. There is a vicar who works hard to bring algo hermoso into the lives of people who are otherwise surrounded by pollution and poverty. She is able to see algo hermoso in the lives of the people she tends, in her parroquia, her parish.

Es una profunda gracia de encontrar algo hermoso.

It is a profound grace to find something beautiful.

Es más profunda para crear algo hermoso.

It is more profound to create something beautiful.

I wonder what would happen if we saw that as central to our mission as the church?

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