The Pastoral Dimension &
Religion of the People

On Monday evenings, 6 to 7 p.m., CIRIMEX offers special cultural/pastoral seminars for all students who wish to participate. Designed to help students process what they are learning and experiencing, the seminars offer special readings, lectures, small group discussions and general sharing. The information and insights gleaned from classes, homes, tours and other experiences are examined and probed for meaning -- for what they reveal not only about the Mexican people but also about the student. Students are encouraged to reflect upon their own experience in living as a stranger in a strange land, and about what they are learning and how they are responding to the experience.

The total immersion experience in Guadalajara is a quasi-simulation of the immigrant's experience in the United States. The student is away from home, friends and family, from all that is familiar, comfortable and supportive -- without his car, television, computer, language, currency, family, living patterns -- from all that he regards as normal, routine, and familiar. This walk-a-mile-in-my shoes experience, similar in many respects to what the immigrants in the U.S. are working through, helps to generate a better understanding of all immigrants and their pastoral needs.

CIRIMEX also offers students opportunities to experience in person popular expressions of piety. Understanding of ethnic groups useful to a pastor includes an appreciation of the ethnics' culture and their experience of Church in their homeland. Students may attend, at least in part, a fiesta, vigorously celebrated in every pueblo and paraje marking the name's day of the town's patron saint. These fiestas can last several days -- up to a week. Those who have left home make every effort to return for the occasion -- even if they are undocumented workers in the U.S. In the minds of Mexicans, especially young people, these commemorations merit a return home -- even at the risk of another dangerous border crossing.

One such fiesta takes place in the parish of San Juan Bautista on May 23rd in the pueblo of Tupan, Jalisco, a mountain town about two hours south of Guadalajara.

Such celebrations usually include special masses, rosaries, adoration, holy hours, etc. There are also carnival rides in the plaza and streets, parades, food fairs, perhaps rodeos, and bullfights, charros, street vendors, food treats, mariachi music, ethnic dancers, fireworks, and of course, much visiting, social dancing, partying, etc. The fiesta is typically a do-it-yourself event. Adults and children alike enjoy dressing up in costumes indigenous to the pueblo or costumes for a particular dance to take part in the parades and other special events. Special food is prepared. Recognizing that there are certain ancestral roles and positions, everyone pitches in to plan and execute the celebration, whether it is making special food and costumes, manning the bazaars, dancing, marching in the parades, or towing the heavy statues through the streets. One notes the presence and enthusiastic participation of teenagers and young adults.

On the 18th of every month in Zapopan students may attend a similar commemorative celebration of the return of the Virgin of Zapopan on October 12th. The Virgin travels every year to every parish in the archdiocese. Her return to Zapopan on October 12th at the end of each end of each season occasions a major regional celebration attended by several million pilgrims and devotees, most of whom accompany her on foot in the ten-mile procession from the Cathedral in Guadalajara to the Basilica in the village of Zapopan.

The Monday seminars also offer the experience and insights of specialists in various fields and the opportunity for questions and dialog with each other and the specialists. 

The Religion of The  People

CIRIMEX provides opportunities for students to meet with each other, to exchange ideas, to discuss contemporary issues and to learn from each other. They also have the chance to focus on the specialized language of their professional fields and when possible to meet and talk with Mexican professionals in their field.

Ordained clergy and students studying for the ministry have an opportunity on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. to celebrate and/or attend liturgies in Spanish at CIRIMEX and every day at the many nearby parish churches. CIRIMEX has a beautiful out-of-doors garden chapel where the liturgies, with students presiding, are held in fair weather. During the rainy season, the liturgies are usually held in the north dining/conference room.

Depending upon their clerical status and interest, students have the opportunity to participate in the pastoral work of local parishes and institutions. At special holydays, such as Christmas and Easter, students may participate, often as celebrants, for special celebrations in local parishes and those in outlying barrios. On a hill overlooking Guadalajara, the annual Palm Sunday and Good Friday out-of-door devotions are always especially meaningful.

Unlike the U.S. church which tends to be an incarnational/resurrection people, Mexicans tend to live their lives in the shadow of the cross. Moreover, they are a people often directly and immediately confronted with needs that can't be met with personal or family resources in a socio-political fabric that has little to offer in the way of assistance. They know from whence their help must come. They NEED a miracle. These factors generate a humble and prayerful people. Together with the long standing socio-political system they reinforce the perception that one needs an ad advocate -- an intercessor. Such a spiritual posture maximizes the role of the saints and the Blessed Mother in church life. They also generate a grateful people. Small tokens of gratitude can be found pinned up by the statue of the saint who is believed to have graciously responded to a special need. These little "Thank-You Notes" are called milagritos.

For the clergy a special effort is made to help students to acquaint themselves with Mexican spirituality and culture-based religious expression. Student examine the place religion holds in the lives of Mexican people and the pervasive influence of Our Lady of Guadalupe in all things Mexican.

In addition to rituals in Spanish for the sacraments, they (the students) acquaint themselves with other rites and devotions that are especially meaningful and sustaining for the Mexican spiritual and cultural life. These include visiting shrines of special saints and patrons, celebrating name days, pilgrimages, devotional processions, cultural tradition, local color, music, dance and fireworks. An example of these specialized devotions can be observed in the cathedral. On Wednesdays between 10 and 10:30 a.m. people looking for work or in need of financial assistance gather in front of the statue of St. Cayetano. At this time students observe empty wallets, purses and change purses lying at the feet of the saint, while those in the semi-circle around him, pray earnestly to this milagrosisimo saint for their special needs.

Students also learn about the special cultural-based emphases, adaptations and add-ons for special holy days and celebrations of the universal church such as The Day of the Dead, the posadas at Christmas time, the rosca de reyes -- i.e., the Epiphany bread -- Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Students also note the special culture-based customs related to common rites such as penance, first communion, weddings, and god parenting together with the religious emphasis given to other culture-based practices such as the use of the milagritos, piƱatas and quinceaneras.

Many of these practices and special rites are holdovers from the ancient national Spanish liturgy, THE MOZARABIC RITE, succeeded in the early sixteenth century by the CASTELLANI LIBER, in midcentury by THE MANUAL SACRAMENTORUM, better known as THE MEXICANENSIS, part of which later became a portion of the TRENTINE ROMAN RITUAL.