Accompanying a Saint

Yesterday, Cecilia and I hopped an early morning bus (6:15) to head to San Salvador to buy coffee bags for the Don Justo Coffee with Dignity project.  We needed to decide on a color based upon what is readily available.  We had to make a color decision and I knew that Cecilia could communicate with our coffee coordinator (Betty) via Facebook messenger so she could have input.  In reality, we didn’t have too many choices!

It was a successful trip.  We got to San Salvador in about 2 and a half hours in a bus that had their a/c super cold.  I was sitting next to a young woman in a hoodie and was able to subtly squeeze my right arm under her left arm which helped me stay a bit warmer.  I used my purse as a ‘blanket’ for my left arm.   Brrrr.  And I dozed much of the way to town.

We took a taxi to the bag supply store and were in and out of there in about 45 minutes.  We bought 2000 dark red bags and 100 white 5# bags.  We had to leave a 50% deposit for the order.  We could have taken them with us, but we needed air valves installed and that takes time.  They will call us when they are ready.  If we are lucky, they will be done in time to be picked up when my last delegation arrives.

We took a taxi back to the eastern bus terminal and hopped a bus – this one older and without a/c – which could be either a good thing or not.

After about 10 minutes, the fun started!  There was a TON of traffic.  It took over two hours to go about 15 kilometers.  Turns out that we were caught up in the pilgrimage from the National Cathedral to Monseñor Oscar Romero’s birthplace; Ciudad Barrios.  It is a several-day journey for the pilgrims.  It started at the National Cathedral and the first stop was San Rafael Cedros.  On Friday they are going from there to Caserio Rio Frio, then to the Cuscatlan bridge (which crosses the Rio Lempa). From there they will end at Canton El Jocotillo in Mercedes Umana.  On Saturday,  they will walk from there to Chapeltique (San Miguel) and end with a mass at 9 p.m.

At each day’s stopping point they celebrate a special mass.  Pilgrims will sleep where they can – the street, the part, at friends or family’s homes and the church is open.

Link to read a little about Oscar Romero and his beatification in May of 2015:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/oscar-romero-salvadoran-prelate-assassinated-in-1980-beatified-1.3085329

From today’s paper:

“The country is following this march towards the peace that we all want and yearn for, and this generates hope. People start walking from their homes, with their hearts open to a different future which is what we all want. There are people who go because they want to thank God for a miracle, others to ask Romero for forgiveness, because they did not understand him in his time, but we all realized in time the great saint that God has given us.”   (Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez)

When we finally caught up with the front of the pilgrimage, we were able to see the large glass-enclosed statue of Oscar Romero leading the way.  At this point, there were several long tables positioned on the highway divide area with volunteers handing out food and water to the pilgrims.  Once we passed this, our bus was able to continue on – at a faster than normal rate to make up time.  We left San Salvador about 10 a.m. and didn’t get back to the Pastoral House till about 2 p.m.

Fortunately, on buses there are people hopping on and off to sell things – from medicine, towels, books, hot food, drinks and snacks.  We had a lunch of yucca chips, candy coated peanuts and water.

Hours of hot, tiring and boring bus ride, yes.  But how cool to be accompanied by a saint!

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When we could finally get on the other side of the highway (rather than behind the people walking) we saw the small bunches of people.  By this time it was high noon and very hot!  We were about 15 kilometers from the National Cathedral
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Police and Ambulances protecting people from traffic and or heath issues due to the heat.
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A large police presence especially at the major cross roads
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Horrible photo – a moving bus and heat wilted women!
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 Young and old and everyone in between!  The paper interviewed a 72 year old woman who left her house at 4 a.m. to join the procession.
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Priests, nuns, lay-people; the faithful. 
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Always a good spot for a selfie!  (This was a lucky catch as I had my phone out the window snapping photos as we moved along!)
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Some people walked, some rode.  Some did both.
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And even some entertainment!  Clown jugglers!
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And always vendors.  Selling fruit, water, hats … those were the ones I saw.
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Sponsored by a church committee  from the Parish of San Jose El Espino.  This was the first ‘rest’ for the pilgrims.  It was wonderful to see.  Food, water and soda were handed out to all the pilgrims
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This is at the crossroads of San Rafael Cedros – at least 23 kilometers from the National Cathedral – a shady place to eat and regain strength.  From the newspaper: “There was a climate of much joy, much hope and much encouragement, and also a lot of weariness!”
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Today’s newspaper:  Headline: Pilgrims walk to the home of Beatified Romero.  Synopsis: Hundreds of pilgrims heading to Ciudad Barrios.  Started at 6 a.m. from the National Cathedral – upon arrival, there will be a Holy Mass presided over by Monsenor Jose Luis Escobar (archbishop).  The walk’s motto: “Walking with Saint Romero to construct peace.” People will reach Ciudad Barrios on August 4th.  3 days in all.
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Some photos from today’s paper (Aug. 3, 2018).  Looks like most people started out together – which is why we were not able to pass till we got to the wider Pan-American Highway!  
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