Two years ago, I was in El Paso, Texas, spending what was to be my last night in Texas before going home after spending ten days in the Lone Star State visiting Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park (and climbing Guadalupe Peak--the highest mountain in Texas). It had been a long but very worthwhile vacation. Now, in El Paso, I was contemplating the journey's end and struggling with feelings of emptiness and depression which had always accompanied the end of my vacations.
I was struggling with a lot of personal demons. I had had one romantic relationship end months before and I was dealing with the emotional turmoil generated by my family. (I realize now that the reason why I was experiencing post vacation depression was the fact that I had to return to the hatred and contempt directed at me by my parents and brothers. There was no escaping it. Ever since I've divorced my parents and brothers, I haven't had these depressive spells--which should suggest something there).
I wanted to attend Mass before I left for home the next day so I made my way to the Catholic Church nearest my hotel--St. Pius X located at 1050 North Clark St.
I went early because I also wanted to do confession (which I don't do at home. I only do confession when I'm on the road. I open up better that way).
I remember speaking to one of the priests at the parish. I told him my feelings of anger and resentment about my brothers and my in-laws. I remember the priest was very kind and understanding. I knew my anger was wrong but at the same time I couldn't tolerate the hatred that was directed at me by my brothers and in-laws.
I received absolution and said the prayers the priest directed me to say. Soon afterwards it was time for Mass to begin and the rest of the night would never be the same.
Little did I know that I would soon encounter an extraordinary man--Monsignor Arturo Banuelas who ran this parish. The Mass he celebrated that evening will live forever in my memory. It was the vigil of Christ the King and Advent was right around the corner. The church was packed with people and the church itself was quite vast in size. There was a festive joy in the congregation and that joy was fueled by the passion of the lectors, the members of the choir, and by Monsignor Arturo himself. Little did I know that St. Pius X was listed by the Vatican as being one of the finest parishes in America in terms of serving it parishioners and helping the poor and disadvantaged in the community.
When Monsignor Arturo spoke I knew then I was in the presence of a man of God. He spoke with fire, passion, duty, devotion, committment, and most supreme of all: love; lots of love; enormous amounts of love. It was cold outside the church but everyone inside was warmed by the expressions of love pouring forth from Monsignor Arturo.
He reminded us of our Christian duty not only to love one another but to help the poor. He spoke about building hope, promoting literacy, feeding and clothing the poor, and cried out for peace and an end to war. It was liberation theology and it lit a fire in me.
Before I had felt cold and sorry for myself but listening to Monsignor Arturo woke me up. He lit a fire inside of me. I felt healed, purged, and renewed. When it was over, I shook Monsignor Arturo' hand vigorously and praised his homily. I had a lovely dinner and relaxed in my hotel but couldn't sleep because Monsignor Arturo's sermon was echoing inside of my head. I remember waking up at 3:00AM to write a song based on what he had preached that night.
I went home later that morning and the first thing I did was to donate all the excess clothing in my wardrobe to charity and then I mailed a $100 donation (along with a letter of thanks to Monsignore Banuelas) to St. Pius X in order to help that parish continue the good work it does for the people of El Paso, Texas.
This coming Christmas will mark my third annual donation to the Colonia and Parral missions of St. Pius X. These two missions are devoted to ending illiteracy among children and helping the poor in the city of El Paso.
If anyone reading this wants to help further, you can contact the parish at the following address:
St. Pius X
1050 North Clark
El Paso, TX, 79905
You can make a difference like Monsignor Arturo Banuelas does.
Amen and thank you.