Fishers of Men and Fishermen …
I thought I would add a post on going to church in a city named “Peace”.
La Paz is a very catholic place in a very Catholic country. The harbor was first visited in 1535 by Cortez who named it Holy Cross harbor.
The most imposing building in town, in my opinion, is the church called Santuario Nuestra Señora de la Paz. Most people call it only the Santuario. It has been under construction for decades and shows no near-term end in sight. It is a ‘work in progress’ in the finest sense of that phrase.
Built by the hands and hearts of ordinary people, it dominates La Paz when viewed from the waters of the bay.
This picture says a lot about the relationship between the sea, the fishermen, the international boating community, and the spiritual community of La Paz.
There are actually two huge Roman Catholic churches in La Paz: Santuario and the Cathedral Nuestra Señora de la Paz, the older more historical edifice.
These two curches meet the worship needs of a community of approximately 200,000. Recently, a small synagogue opened (very small) and, to my best knowledge, there is also a small interdenominational Protestant, English speaking, interfaith congregation that also meets in a home.
Carolyn and I are Episcopalians (American Episcopalians). If you are not familiar with that … hmmm … it is the American branch of the Church of England, which broke from the Roman Catholic Church, during the Reformation and the reign of England’s King Henry VIII (1509-1547). While it kept many of the medieval Roman Catholic liturgical traditions and customs–such as Baptism and Holy Communion–the Episcopal Church of England adopted a basically Reformation Protestant theology. Members of the Episcopal Church do not accept the Roman Catholic doctrine of Papal infallibility. (And my wife is gonna kill me for this next bit…..) So, I feel that we are basically Catholics without a pope and, our priests can also be women, and our clergy can get married.
We attend services at Sanctuario because their liturgy of the Mass is basically identical to those we are familiar with. Our Spanish is coming along and that is coupled with familiarity with a Roman Catholic Latin Mass which is very similar to the language and actual Spanish words of the local Mass.
We also use a bilingual Missal which has the Mass and services in both English and Spanish side-by-side. I have posted it above the picture. It is a PDF file, if you wish to look at it. The link to the original is http://www.misas.org/sta.tic/descarga/missa_es_en.pdf
The other church or cathedral was started (as in cornerstone laid) in 1861 as we in the United Stated began the Civil War.
There is some special relationship that I cannot adequately describe between a community of fishermen like that of La Paz and the Church.
The ocean feeds, provides work, water, transport, and recreation. The big things move in the deep and not so deep parts of the Sea of Cortez. Whale Sharks bigger than our sailboats are not at all uncommon.
Jesus was a carpenter’s son who hung out with fishermen, Peter was cast in the role of a “fisher of men.” Fish fed those who listened to the Sermon on the Mount; the loaves and fishes played an important and symbolic part of his lessons.
The symbol of the early Church is the outline of a fish. The hills behind La Paz are marked by a huge outline in white stones of a fish.
Images of fish abound in La Paz. Life and business revolve around them.
Bread and fishes feed our bodies. Faith feeds the soul. And sometimes, you just need to say the words out loud. This I believe!
An important part of the liturgy is the “Paz de Señor ” or “Peace of the Lord” in a city named “La Paz” or peace.
It is no accident that our boat is called “Spiritus.” Probably, it is no accident that the nearest island to visit and sail to are “Espiritu Santos”.
We chose the name because in Latin, it had connotations of the breath of God moving on the water … sounded like wind on the waves to us.
The word Spiritus also echos of the human spirit, bravery, freedom, and the desire to be more than just flesh as a boat is more than just a hull.