By Mark Matthews Today I celebrate the Eucharist at the corralon in south Texas. The corralon is the Immigration Detention Center, the equivalent of jail. Several women, representing various Latin American countries, celebrate with me. Behind every face there is sadness and worry. They have not seen their children in months and they suffer indignities daily in the corralon. Many have been the victims of crime. These women bear a loneliness that is tangible.
Our makeshift altar is adorned with Guatemalan cloth and a Mexican crucifix. As we reflect on the bread and wine placed on it, we begin to see that this Communion wafer and wine are offered today in El Salvador, Honduras, and Argentina. If we look closely, we see our children, our parents, and our friends in the grains of the bread and in the drops of wine. We see our village church back home in Mexico where we went frequently as children with our mother. When we celebrate Eucharist, we are close to those we love, both living and dead. My friends cry tears of relief as they see their town, church, and families in our small plate of bread and cup of wine. Standing in a circle around our altar, holding hands, smiling, we nourish the best elements in each other. For the first time in a long time, my sisters feel connected to each other and to the world outside. The healing elements of mindfulness transform some of their sorrow.
I still carry these women in my heart. I know they are a part of me, as they were even before I met them. I am more conscious now of what my role must be in a country that bashes immigrants. It is easy to dismiss people when you sit behind a television or read the newspaper. Looking into the eyes of real people and hearing the stories of what they live through, it is harder to exclude them. People are not statistics.
When I taste mindfully of the Eucharist, I see the bombed churches, the murdered family members. When I feel the pain, I know I have a part to play. Christ is still being broken and poured out.
Mark Matthews is a Catholic priest who works developing Christian Base Communities in La Joya, Texas. He is interested in corresponding with others who practice mindfulness in the Christian tradition.