Celebrating San Juan the Baptist

by Olivia Martin
olivia.martin@theleaven.org

Infrequently do I get the chance to write from a first-person perspective. Really, it’s just when it’s my turn to blog for The Leaven’s blog, The Walking Deadline, so it’s always a treat when it’s my turn.

There are so many stories and events that I report on that I wish I could add a bit of my personal experience to, and often I forget those experiences when it comes time for me to blog. But not this time!

I spent half of a day with the Prayer and Action team at Blessed Sacrament Parish a few weeks ago, conducting interviews for my job and distracting everyone else from theirs as I tend to do with enjoyment.

I was able to go to Mass with them, speak with the team, chaperones, students, and a homeowner.

One of my favorite moments of the day was speaking with the Sisters of the Poor of Jesus Christ, whose convent is across the parking lot from the church.

Their joy and zany humor was absolutely contagious, and we immediately became friends. At the end of our conversation, Sister Mariana invited me to come to the San Juan festival at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Kansas City, Missouri, which was June 23.

San Juan festivals occur on the eve of the feast of St. John the Baptist and are especially popular in Latin countries.

I remembered the San Juan festival from when I lived in Oviedo, Spain, and was so excited that the same celebration was happening in my own city. I spread the word to some friends and we went without knowing anyone beyond each other and Sister Mariana.

It was like being welcomed home.

The festival was filled with dances, boasted food from Brazil, Vietnam, Paraguay and Mexico, and everyone was happy to be together celebrating under yards of colorful “papel picado.”

What struck me the most was the simplicity of everyone’s openness and joy at being together.

The Brothers and Sisters of the Poor of Jesus led the crowd in prayer and in many of the evenings activities, including a demonstration of a traditional Paraguayan dance.

From the man who welcomed us to the fiesta, to the ladies who served our food, to meeting unexpected friends, I was bowled over by a true sense of community at the fiesta.

And the real beauty of it all was that no one of us was responsible for it — our being together was completely a gift impossible other than by the generative power of the Holy Spirit.

The next day at Mass on the true feast day of Saint John the Baptist, I was present in a different, more attentive way because of the gift of community I experienced the night before.

And that is certainly something to be grateful for.

 

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