Learning about Holy Week Faith Traditions in Mexico

Editor’s note: Leslie Hawthorne Klingler is the new editor of Rejoice! (see bottom for more info) devotional magazine, working this year from Mexico. Her experiences there help educate all of us on how traditions for Easter and other Christian holidays differ around the world.Hawthorne Klingler 2014 Semana Santa 2 copy

My family is currently living in Querétaro, Mexico, while my husband directs a study program here. Having lived in Spanish and Latin American contexts before, I knew that my Easter celebration this year would be different than our typical celebration in the States.

As expected, the Evangelical congregation we are attending emphasized on Resurrection Sunday the fact that we are people of life and therefore no longer adulate death “as do others in these days.” To create distance from congregants’ pre-conversion lives, non-Catholic Christians rarely mark Easter with anything special. I have heard from the pulpit that “every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday” and is celebrated as such, eliminating the need to make an idol out of the Easter holiday.

Hawthorne Klingler 2014 Semana Santa 3 copyNonetheless, Catholic observances dominate Querétaro during Holy Week, and I am glad I got to witness them. The silent procession we attended in no way glorified death* but rather reminded participants of the sorrow of it. As I watched cloaked penitents silently wind their way through Querétaro’s narrow streets and observed them carrying their crosses and heavy images of the weeping Virgin and her suffering Son, I cried with them over our sin and loss. Yes, I knew that Sunday was coming, but I also realized that on Good Friday it was so very dark.

Hawthorne Klingler 2014 Semana Santa 4 copyOn the real Good Friday of Jesus’ death, anyone sustaining any form of hope was nursing a pipe dream, wanting something impossible to take place. As the disciples faced the unbearable fact that their Messiah was dead, only the unimaginable could make a real difference. They couldn’t fathom it until after it happened.

Holy Week in Mexico vividly reminded me that as we carry on what many consider a pipe dream—anticipation of a Kingdom in its fullness–only the shattered darkness of Good Friday gives us real hope. (Check the MennoMedia Facebook page for a video of one somber procession.)

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* The “exploding Judas” tradition may perhaps be considered an exception to the somber Lenten portrayal of death. During Holy Week, paper mache effigies of Judas (or, what I preferred to tell my kids, the devil that overtook Judas) are sold in the streets, and on the night of Holy Saturday they are burned like fireworks. Much to the delight of my children, the “exploding Judas” certainly made a statement!

Rejoice! is a daily devotional magazine offering encouragement for individuals, families, and groups. Each day’s entry includes a Bible reading, a short inspirational message, and a prayer of response. Order from MennoMedia/Herald Press

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Leslie Hawthorne Klingler, of Wheaton, Illinois, began January 1, 2014, as part-time editor for Rejoice! devotioHawthorneKlinger-Leslienal magazine serving both Mennonite and Mennonite Brethren readers (Kindred Press is copublisher). Klingler has an MA in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has worked as communications manager for Christian nonprofit Lifewater International, and runs her own Wordkiln, a creative media business. She and her husband, Tim, have three school-age children.  She replaced editor J Janzen.

I get paid to read! (And how you’ll grow from these stories too)

CarolDuerskenTreePurposeEven as an adult, Carol loves reading in a tree.

By Carol Duerksen, Editor of Purpose magazine for MennoMedia

As I child, I loved to read. I read everywhere. At the supper table, until my parents told me to “put the book away”. In the car. In a tree, sitting on a board, leaning against a strong branch. I loved to read, but I never dreamed that someday I might get paid to read. That I might actually have a career … reading!

But I do! And I have a Purpose in life that is so rewarding, inspirational, and spiritually uplifting.

For example, this year, as part of my life’s Purpose and just in time for New Year’s resolutions, I read an article by 89-year-old author Katie Funk Wiebe on what she would have done differently in her life journey. As someone who is celebrating 60 years of life this year, I just wanted to soak up Katie’s wisdom and carry it with me.

Then, quite recently, I read stories from young adults Travis Duerksen, about volunteering at a homeless shelter, and from Esther Harder, about working in a library. They confessed to not always having the heart of Christ in those settings. They realized their opportunities to see Jesus in everyone. And I gained insights for my Purpose in life.

Being an animal lover, when I read the story of Angel the beagle who “decided to take a walkabout” and was gone for 18 days, my heart ached. I cried with the family when she “climbed the creek bank and fell exhausted into my son’s arms.” And because God’s spirit spoke through the storyteller Jennifer Stultz, I learned more about my life’s Purpose.

Editing this powerful little Anabaptist magazine called Purpose has blessed me beyond measure. I get to read stories, poems, and reflections on our monthly themes. I get to laugh and cry, smile and celebrate the God-moments in people’s lives before those stories are shared with the readers of Purpose. I get to witness writers sharing faith stories that span the generations and communicate inspirational lessons to readers of all ages.

How lucky can a woman be?

No. It’s not called luck in the Kingdom of God. It’s called “Thanks be to God.”

MennoBytesBlogPostBuilding 020Thanks be to God, there are at least 5400 other people who have a Purpose in their life too. And there’s room for more. There’s room on the subscription list for more readers who want to read for the sheer joy of it, and for insights and inspiration.

There’s room for writers and stories too. If you have a story to tell, or would like a writing assignment, let’s talk.

In the meantime, it’s spring. We have a tree house for children that visit our farm, but today it’s calling my name.Time for a good read.

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Let us know if you’d like a free sample of Purpose, for yourself or several to share! Several online articles available here.

Purpose is a monthly inspirational magazine with moving and informational stories, poems, regular columns and a guide to the newest resources from MennoMedia and the broader church. You can subscribe as a church, group, or individual. Check out how to do it, or call for current prices, around $23 or $25 a year depending on whether you can order bulk subscriptions of five or more.

DuerksenCarolCarol Duerksen, Editor

For a beautiful true story about an amazing donkey from Carol’s own farm read by Carol, listen to a special edition of the former Shaping Families Christmas radio program here. (You can read a transcript or listen to podcast.)

Living Thoughtfully Dying Well by Steve Carpenter

In early April I had the privilege of helping my Mom celebrate her 92nd birthday.

Steve & Chris with Elsie Carpenter, a young 92.

Steve, his mother Elsie (a young 92), and his wife, Chris.

My wife, three brothers, and their spouses all gathered in Rhode Island, my home state, at a very nice Italian restaurant close to North Bay Manor, my mother’s assisted living facility, for a lovely evening together. Mom is doing remarkably well. She’s doing even better than she was two years ago when my brothers and I last gathered around her on her 90th birthday. About two years ago her medicines were adjusted and she seems to be much more alert. She doesn’t get out much anymore but still manages with a walker and a bit of help at the curbs and when getting in and out of a car. It was a joy to be with her, and the rest of my family, to celebrate this happy occasion.

Carpenters2014

Elsie Carpenter, center, celebrates her 92nd birthday with her four sons and their wives.

In addition to the usual cake and candles, my brother Bill and I, with some help from our wives, wrote Mom a song to the tune of the 1920s jazz classic, “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?” However, rather than extolling her “five foot two, eyes of blue” we sang:

Born in England in ‘22
Sailed across the ocean blue
Now she’s almost 92
Has anybody seen my Mom?

Married George in World War II
Had four boys, two by two
Now she’s almost 92
Has anybody seen my Mom?

Loves her family through and through
All the boys and in-laws, too
Her apartment has a view
Has anybody seen my Mom?

Now she eats off a menu
Breakfast, lunch and supper too
There’s almost naught for her to do
Has anybody seen my Mom?

At North Bay a big to-do
When they go in search of you
She must be hiding in the loo.*
Has anybody seen my Mom?

Has anybody seen my Mom?

*In England a bathroom or water closet is sometimes called a “loo.”

Reflecting on Mom’s long life, I would say it has been well lived.

Herald Press author Dr. Glen Miller, in his new book Living Thoughtfully, Dying Well, challenges us to reflect on our own lives and make preparations for a “good death.” By that he means a death that comes while resting comfortably at home, surrounded by family and loved ones, not while lying in a hospital bed surrounded by machines with tubes coming out your nose. His premise is that everyone deserves a good death and that takes planning. The book contains many personal reflections including a heart attack which nearly killed him while he was giving a Power Point presentation to a group of clergy and medical professionals, about the high cost of health care in America.

 Living Thoughtfully

In addition to providing the expected check list of needed things, such as a living will and an advanced medical directive, Dr. Miller recounts stories where the patient’s wishes, clearly expressed in those documents, is ignored until the doctors decide there is nothing else they can do. Through stories and role-playing he demonstrates the decision points where the family (sometimes inadvertently) give control back to the doctors, even when it goes against the patient’s expressed wishes.

This book is especially helpful for those who are caring for aging parents or who have recently retired and are making important life and end-of-life decisions. Following Dr. Miller’s advice will help avoid “futile care” performed on the grievously ill while planning for a measure of dignity and privacy in death.

For those who prefer video stories or would like to supplement Dr. Miller’s book, in 2007 Mennonite Media produced a DVD resource on this topic which aired on national television, called Embracing Aging: Families Facing ChangeWe also produced a website with much helpful information, stories and links. Find the website here.

Embracing Aging***

How have you addressed end of life issues with your aging parents?
Do you have a story to share of a good dying or one which was not so good?
It is a difficult fact we sometimes ignore—we will all die. In light of that fact, how do you want to go?
Have you communicated your wishes to those who will care for you?

SteveCSteve Carpenter, Director of Development