At Home with the Mexicans

Last Sunday we found ourselves in Clovis, New Mexico on a cross-country road trip. We found two parishes and chose the one without “Catholic Community” in its name.

We walked into Mass right as it began, and the church was full of Mexicans.

Which wasn’t a surprise since this was a Spanish Mass and Clovis is a big cattle city. Who works in all those cattle plants now? Mexicans. They do jobs that you and I generally don’t want to do.

I grew up in south-central Texas. Katie grew up on the New Mexico border. We both know a decent bit of Spanish (pace Gerardo) and have been to more Spanish and bilingual Masses than we can count. So we didn’t feel uncomfortable, even though it was clear that we were the one gringo family in the church.

We not only felt comfortable; we felt even closer to these Mexican Catholics than we do to many other secular Americans.

Because we share the Catholic Faith with them. We worshiped together at Holy Mass in the universal Church. Most of them were first-generation Americans. They were born in Mexico. But they found their way over here, maybe legally, maybe illegally, to make a good life for themselves. And they found the jobs that they could, even in stinky cities like Clovis that smell like feedlots and concentrated manure.

And I see in them perhaps the one hope for the United States. They aren’t (yet?) contracepting away most of their children. They haven’t (yet?) abandoned their faith for secularism and relativism. It is possible, perhaps just so, to catechize, evangelize, and form them to become the most powerful force for the New Evangelization that the world has yet seen.

I don’t know how to do this. I don’t even know if it is what I’m called to do. But I know lots of people who are, people at my old parish who are pouring their lives into the formation of Mexican-American Catholics.

This is another hallmark of the Catholic Church: it’s universality. Anywhere in the world, in whatever language, we are united in full communion with the successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. So I say, bring in the Mexicans. Reform the immigration system. And may they revitalize our country with their faith.

17 thoughts on “At Home with the Mexicans”

  1. Devin,

    Tambien, hablo un poquito espanol, pero a veces es una mezcla de Latin y Espanol. I don’t know the answer to your questions. The mexican population here in Southern, KS and especially near the cattle towns of Dodge and Garden City have a tremendous population of Mexicans, in a place where the aquifer is being depleted by the Gringo farmers, and where many of them are closing up shop on farming because they are trying to grow a high water crop (corn) in a low water area. I learned a lot of spanish in seminary and grew to have a great love for our hispanic brothers and sisters, especially those from Mexico. Their faith is deep, maybe still with the memory inlaid of a not too long ago persecution.


    1. Kevin yes I don’t pretend that immigration reform has an easy solution. But like you alluded to, in the Mexican people we see an authentic culture, centered around their Catholic Faith. They have stronger family and extended family ties as well. I hope they can infuse our dying culture with an injection of a living one.

  2. I love the church’s universality and the strong faith and traditions of Mexican families. thanks for a great reflection on the beauty of our church.

  3. If you want a great article, one of the top of 2011, read this from then newly instated Archbishop of LA, Jose Gomez:

    Of course, some are suggesting the Mexican ‘invasion’ is God’s Providential way of having the Catholic faith reconquer paganism a la Deuteronomy 9:4. Of course, with Mexicans being the largest minority (about 15%, Blacks are only at about 12%), and over 50% of all children born in California today are Mexican, there surely is a shift.

  4. Hey Devin–the first week after I returned to the Church in 2005, I still had many questions and doubts, the Eucharst being not the least of these. I had not been to any type of Eucharistic Adoration since I was a child, and so, at age 49, I sat transfixed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and watched as a beautiful group of Latino/Hispanic folks came forward, fell prostate before Him, and worshipped. It was unbelievably beautiful. Although I could not explain it doctrinally at that point, I knew what was happening was more real than anything I had seen or experienced in 35 years of many types of Christianity, and that the Jesus they worshipped in the Monstrance was real and alive. And we never spoke a word to one another. I doubt that they even saw me sitting there in fact.

    Recently, within the last 10 years or so, there has been an influx of Latino people in my urban neighborhood (where I have lived for over 20 years) as well. I personally am so very glad to see the colorful revitalization brought with them, particularly to the Church. One particular parish, just blocks from me, was literally saved from extinction due to this population, after all of the suburban “white liberals” left to form their own “Catholic Community,” complete with something called “priestless liturgies.” Ouch.

    What you share about these cultures and their love for our universal Faith is true and humbling. How truly much we need to learn from one another.

  5. I’ve served in a predominantly Mexican Parish on the Central Coast of California (Santa Maria) and feel the same way. It was one of the best experiences of my life. It was a ton of work, there were long hours, I had to work hard to understand Parish Council meetings and other fast moving conversations. But there were hundreds of Confessions every Saturday night and thousands of people went to Mass, some of them having to stand outside in the cold because the Church would fill up (even though it was designed to seat 1400). The only problem I had was that these people made me gain weight! (grin)

    The Church is alive and well in the Mexican Community.

    1. Fr. John,

      That is really awesome and hopeful. I commend you for being able to follow the fast Spanish conversations, too. I have not yet achieved that skill. 🙂

  6. So I nearly choked when I read your first sentence about stopping in Clovis. It is the city of my birth, we left before I could have any memories of it. I get your point though growing up in southern New Mexico (Las Cruces) it was always the Mexican American community of Catholics that truly maintained their devotion to the faith….

  7. I feel the same. I feel we’re lucky to have our Mexican population, and at the same time, having lived in some small villages in Mexico, I feel we should send them home anyway because one, we’ll ruin them here, and two, you don’t know how hard it is in those villages with all the men gone.

    A tip: If you want to learn Spanish, go pray the rosary in Spanish with the ladies in the afternoon. I’ll bet there’s a parish in your area where they pray it. There are in Chicago. You’ll be rattling away like a native in no time, because keeping up with the ladies really trains the disobedient tongue. Your accent will be flawless. People will listen to you and go, ‘What the hey! Who is this?’

    A complaint: there are no traditional spiritual books left in Spanish. The good traditional parishes in Mexico are using the attics and garage sales to get any of St. Alphonsus. All that is being printed is –well, I don’t know this site and don’t want to hurt feelings, stumbled in here, but might as well say–Vatican II stuff. I take TAN books around the bus stops here in Chicago and have tried and tried to find things like St. Theresa’s bio or something about the angels, very popular, and so forth (one man asked for Augustine’s City of God) but there are so very very few things. And they’re untaught in the Faith, and they want to know more. Please pray for it and if you get rich and love the Mexican people, what an apostolate, to publish the old books! (I mean cheap!)

  8. Living in a vibrant and multicultural part of the U.S., I find that ALL Catholic immigrants (whether they are Hispanic or not) hold on to values and principles that most in mainstream America have lost in large part to secularization and media. This is true not only of Mexicans, but of Haitian, Polish or Cuban populations alike.

    Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who himself is a second-generation American, stated that “Hispanic immigrants give witness to a ‘theology of giving’ that is profoundly Catholic, not only because of the labor they contribute in this country, but because so many come here not to seek ‘personal fulfillment’ but to be able to send remittances and provide for their families back home. ‘Hispanics’ greatest potential contribution — and the greatest opportunity for America — is the contribution of their traditional values to the renewal of our culture.'”

    He also said that the U.S. is ailed by secularism, greed, selfishness that comes from materialism, but the antidote to this, faith and hope, can be imparted by Catholic immigrants. And so, as Catholics, we should not treat refugees like societal lepers and go “before those who want to let themselves be carried away by fear — and so build up walls of racism and lack of understanding — to be witnesses of a God Love, a compassionate God, a God who is Father of all — whether they ‘have papers’ or not,”

  9. Interesting article. Perhaps we could take it a bit further though. Imagine walking into any Church in the world and all of the prayers and reading were in Latin. Then truly we would be worshiping the Holy Mass in the universal Church as one community. I think that would be really cool. I guess the only we would not understand would be the homily but at least we would be able to understand everything else matter what language you spoke.

    1. *I guess the only thing we would not understand would be the homily but at least we would be able to understand everything else no matter what language you spoke.

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