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Queretaro Diary #2 – Rejoicing in Faith

queretaroI’ve written previously about an experience I had in the Mexican city of Queretaro.  It’s starting to seem like every time I go there, I have some kind of experience that increases my understanding of myself, my Lord, and His gospel, ergo – Queretaro Diary.  On my last visit, we were downtown again, and we walked past the cathedral that I had passed 2 or 3 times before.  Previously, the doors had been closed, but today they were open, and I followed my co-worker Debbie, who is Catholic, into the building.  This baroque-style cathedral was built in the late 18th century, prior to the Mexican revolution, and has a very colonial look to it.  It is much smaller than many cathedrals I’ve been in (Diana and I worked within a 5 minute walk of Notre Dame de Paris when we were serving our mission), but it is nevertheless very charming and very beautiful  – a marvelous testimony to the faith of those who built it.  As I walked in the door, I was forced to the left or right by a massive, darkly-stained wooden wall that apparently served as a light and sound barrier against the busy street only a few feet outside the door.

I worked my way to the left and positioned myself on the inside of the wall, where I could see the sanctuary.  Unlike the cathedrals of Europe, which are adorned with gold and stained glass, the adornment of this cathedral was mostly rich wood and colorful paint – much of which was showing signs of fading.  Nevertheless, it exhibited the love and sacrifice that always amazes me when I visit a church like this.  In my mind, such monuments are not so much symbols of Christ or even His church, but much like Notre Dame or the Salt Lake Temple, they are manifestations of the great love and sacrifice of the people – especially the common people, who typically had so little but gave so much.  The chapels which classically surround the nave and which, in the European cathedrals are often wonders in themselves – with priceless artwork, altars, sarcophagi, etc. – were largely symbolic in this more humble church.  Crucifixes, some of them life-sized, were prominent throughout; none more than the one that greeted visitors as soon as they passed the sound wall.

As I stood quietly and reverently observing the architecture and decoration, I saw a middle-aged man walk in.  He was dressed nicely but humbly in dark slacks and a light-beige jacket.   He moved over to the large crucifix and hesitantly reached up to about eye-level and touched the feet of the crucifix – almost as if he were touching the feet of the Savior Himself.  There was something in the way he hesitated, in his manner, that suggested he was troubled, and was truly reaching out for comfort.  Shortly after this, I saw a more elderly man stand up from one of the back pews.  He had obviously been praying.  Then, as I was leaving, exiting around the other side of the sound wall, I surprised a young woman who was giving the sign of the cross before entering herself.  She saw me and stopped – I had obviously interrupted what to her was a very sacred act.  Our eyes met briefly before I retraced my steps until I was out of her view, after which she apparently finished, and proceeded inside.  As we passed each other, she looked at me appreciatively and said simply, “Gracias”. crucifix2

On this trip, our group of co-workers was staying at a hotel that was built on the grounds of an old mission.  The mission chapel was preserved and remained open to any who wished to enter.  I had arrived early for breakfast and by chance encountered Debbie again, and we walked around the grounds in the crisp, misty light of the early dawn.  We came across the chapel and walked in, taking in the feeling of the crucifix hanging high above the little altar.  I was prompted to tell her about what I had observed in the Cathedral the night before.  As I told her of the man’s obvious faith and humility, I began to feel choked up and I could see tears welling up in her eyes, too.  We both felt the spirit testifying of the sacred beauty of these things – the cathedral and the sacrifice that built it, the small mission chapel, and the people who exhibited such child-like faith.  It was a special moment shared between the two of us and the Holy Spirit – totally unexpected, but, for me at least, never to be forgotten.

Switch now to a small Mexican restaurant in Paso Robles, CA.  I was having dinner with a new friend who is a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I had asked him to join me because I wanted to get to know him better and because I wanted to know more about the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  It turns out that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, like Mormons and Catholics, have a lot more in common doctrinally than most members realize, but that’s not the point of this story.  As we talked, and as he began to share with me very personal stories of struggles, triumphs and joys in his life, it became obvious to me that his man was (and is, of course) a very good man – a man I could, should, and do admire and learn from.  He is wonderfully dedicated to his family, his church, and his God.  He had overcome trials that could easily have caused me to choose a destructive path in life, yet he had remained resolute through them all.  Toward the end of our dinner I said, “Don, you are a good man”.  He, of course, sheepishly said, “Well, I don’t know about that.”  Then I said, “Well, I do…and God does…and he wants you to know that…and sometimes, if we’re not willing to listen to His voice, he’ll send another to deliver his message.  I feel like I’m delivering that message.”  He just kind of looked at me, unsure what to think, but unwilling to deny crucifix1that, in this moment, I was delivering a very personal message from his Heavenly Father.

So, why am I sharing these stories?  I’m sharing them because I have a testimony that:

The people, rich and poor, who built the cathedrals, humble and great…

The middle-aged man seeking much needed comfort by touching Christ’s feet…

The older man praying in the pew…

The young lady offering the sign of the cross – grateful for the small token of shared reverence – and…

My new Jehovah’s Witness friend…

are all people of great faith.  They love their God and their Savior.  I don’t know how they struggle in their day to day lives, or what their sin of choice might be, but I know that at the moment I saw them they were exhibiting sincere faith in Jesus Christ, and He spoke to my heart telling me that He loves them.

I don’t want to point the finger at anyone in particular – except perhaps at myself – but I have observed that many of us Mormons tend to think just a bit that we have a monopoly on faith, or at least on true doctrine.  We would likely each deny it if confronted, but I’m sure that if we looked closely into our hearts, we would realize that we all do this, even if to only a small degree.  I testify at this time that angels rejoice at every manifestation of Faith in Jesus Christ, no matter how small, no matter how infrequent.  It’s like when that man touched the foot of the crucifix, a little spark of love arced across space between him and the heavens.  I know that this happens millions of times a day, in millions of ways, and every occurrence is sacred.  I see it every week in the jail, when hardened men soften their hearts, even if just for an hour, and reach out to the Savior.  Their plea is every bit as sacred to the Lord as was Alma’s when he was crying out for salvation during his 3 days of cleansing.

May we learn to rejoice in all manifestations of faith, and may we learn to cherish our Savior’s love as it is poured out on all who will accept it.  I rejoice in the love that he proffers all of us so readily.  Thank you, Jesus, for loving each and every one of us.

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2 comments on “Queretaro Diary #2 – Rejoicing in Faith

  1. I love reading an article that can make people think.

    Also, many thanks for allowing me to comment!

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