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291: Santa Maria de Guadalupe, Manzanillo, Mexico
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Santa Maria de Guadalupe, Manzanillo, Mexico
Mystery Worshipper: El Gringo.
The church: Santa Maria de Guadalupe, Manzanillo, Mexico.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: Pretty, plain white concrete structure on the outside. Inside it is quite attractive and has a nice open-air feel (which is good considering the weather – about 30C when I visited in February). I could hear birds singing in the church. Behind the altar are four stained-glass panels depicting (I think) appearances of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. The statuary includes Jesus in a glass coffin, crown of thorns at his side, with Mary above him on the wall.
The neighbourhood: Manzanillo is a city of about 125,000 spread out along a beautiful bay on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It's not as hot a tourist spot as Mazatlan or Acapulco, but there's a lot of development going on. The Dudley Moore / Bo Derek comedy "10" was filmed at nearby Las Hadas resort. The church is tucked between two side streets in the downtown area, one block from the Jardin, or central plaza. After the service, while I was on the bus going back to my hotel, a man sat down next to me with a live chicken. "Pollo bonito," I said to him ("nice-looking chicken"). He told me it was a fighting rooster. For cockfights. Lovely.
The cast: I didn't get the priest's name. The acolytes were all men who wore white sashes saying "Corte de Honor, Los Caballeros de Sta. Maria de Guadalupe" (Court of Honor, the Knights of St Mary of Guadalupe).
What was the name of the service?
Sunday Mass, 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (last Sunday before Lent).

How full was the building?
Standing room only. Probably about 500 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. I arrived about 15 minutes before the service.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pew – yes. The kneeler – no. Both were uncushioned wood.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, with the exception of the birds. There was some conversation as more people arrived, some coming from an adult class in the parish hall.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"El Senor es mi protector; el me libro de las manos de mis enemigos y me salvo, porque me ama." – "The Lord is my protector; he has freed me from the hands of my enemies and saved me, because he loves me."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Four-page leaflet with the lessons, congregational parts of the liturgy, and a short commentary on the day's Gospel. Unfortunately, when I arrived I picked one up off a pew and it turned out to be last week's leaflet, so I had a hard time following some of the service as my Spanish is less than fluent.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. A cantor led the singing but didn't overpower the congregation.

Did anything distract you?
Between my leaflet trouble, my imperfect Spanish, the echo from the sound system and some noise from children, I had trouble following the lessons and sermon.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Not quite happy-clappy, but certainly joyful. Lots of incense; I think the caballero in charge of the thurible had it going the whole time.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – I didn't catch everything he said, but based on what I did understand and his delivery, which seemed clear and conversational, I'll give him ocho (8).

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Today's Gospel, "Every tree is known by its fruits" (Luke 6:39-45). A heart that is pure and is open to God will produce "frutos maravillosos" – "marvellous fruits".

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Being able to participate in the liturgy in another language. The Kyrie in particular; it was sung responsively so I was able to sing it with everybody else. The experience deepened my sense of the universality of the Church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The closest thing was that I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb. During the intercessions I got up to look for the right service leaflet, but with no luck.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nobody spoke to me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none as far as I could tell.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – If I were a Mexican, 10. As a gringo I felt a bit out of place. I've felt more welcome, but on the whole I've found Mexicans to be very friendly people, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say 6.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Singing the Kyrie in Spanish. And Jesus under glass.
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