Situation of Yaqui children better again!

They had celebrated Inventio Crucis (which St. Nicolas de Chardonnet had not, or not on the noon Mass).

The day St. Helen found the Cross--yes, that day. We celebrate much forgotten by other communities.

Please pray for us in the matter of Richie School. About a century ago, Thelma Richie founded this school to minister to the special needs of Yaqui children, scheduling the school year around our ceremonial year. Then the government took it over, and changed it over to the same schedule as other schoools, but promised us that they would still serve the needs of Yaquis. And so teachers, familiar with the culture, would understand the many absences that Yaqui children now have to make to observe the ceremonies, and will assign them extra homework to catch up with their classmants.

But now the government says that they will close down our school altogether, since it serves only a small number of children. And they will scatter our children to other schools where teachers don't know the culture, and will get angry about absences for worship. And the children will have no cultural support for being themselves.

And they don't understand when we protest that we consider the Ceremonies a very important part of our children's education! That book knowledge is wonderful, but one thing must come before all else for us, and that is God. And if they do not learn to respect their own culture and make it a priority, they will go into this world in adulthood weak and foundationless.

Already we have a growing problem with alcoholism and drug addiction due to spiritual and cultural weakening. It will get still worse if the pressure mounts further on our children to turn their backs on God and tribe.

One possible solution is that, with casino money, the tribe hopes to buy Richie School and make it once again ours entirely. Yet we also want to make it available to the Mexicans, Blacks, Asians, and White people who have moved into Pascua, most of them poor people, unable to afford tuition. But if we do get our school back, we can schedule the classes around the ceremonial year and kids won't have to miss any school. We are trying to figure out what's best for everybody in our community.

A custom related to Inventio Crucis feast:

I loved making the willow-cross for our home--weaving the pliant twigs in and out so that it could hold together on its own material. You listen to the willow-wands. The tropos harvest them from a tree that wants to participate. The wands want to be a cross. If you take heed, every twig will tell you where it wants to go, where to bend it, where to weave it in. It follows the example of Jesus, and sets one for us, of sacrificial love.

I comment: "The wands want to be a cross."

Seems "Old Man Willow" has nicer younger relatives ...

Ah yes, Hans--the desert willow is very different from the grumpy willows from England, although no less marvelous. The Yaquis say that before we learned the name of Jesus or built any churches, we used to worship God in willow-bowers. We did not yet know any name for God, so we called Him The Man in the Willows. Hunters especially would pray under willow trees, and always found the game that they prayed for.

So when the Talking Tree told us the name of Jesus we said, "Now we know who we've been worshiping!" And when we learned of the Cross, we started making willow-wand crosses with which to protect our homes. One God throughout all time.

Update, from Pope Pius XI:

8. Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community -- however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things -- whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.

Source: Mit brennender Sorge (where this was brought home as concerning Hitler's Germany, but the principle is formulated as general).

More from my Yaqui correspondent

I've had an extraordinary Lent and Easter with the Yaqui community, which I could never have enjoyed had I not reconnected with my mother's people. It was physically trying, and I'm still recuperating, but well worth it, every step of the way.

Yaquis totally immerse into a sort of multi-layered passion-play, to the point of stopping everything else during the last half of Easter Week. People take time off from work, which is a bigger deal in the USA than in Europe, because we don't get as many vacation-days as you Europeans do, and this means using vacation-time for something exhausting rather than restful. Yaqui-owned businesses close down, including the casinos. When the schools don't cooperate, parents take their kids out of school for those days, but this year we won a landmark boon in persuading the school district to hold "spring break" during Easter week--pressing them with guilt over taking away our school.

From Wednesday on through Easter the Ceremonies pretty much go around the clock. People catch sleep where they can. I couldn't do all of it, because I just plain don't have the physical constitution, but everybody understood that, and didn't imply the least bit of criticism.

I also found that I couldn't physically complete the processions where I helped to carry a bier bearing a statue of Our Lady. At first it embarrassed me a great deal, when I overheard the altar-ladies discussing who would take over when I reached my limit. In the eyes of the outside world, I would have been branded as the one who couldn't finish. But in the Yaqui viewpoint, I was the one who always started anyway. They also accounted for the fact that because I needed a cane, I couldn't switch sides along the way to even out the burden. As soon as they saw me start to visibly struggle, they'd tap me on the shoulder, do a quick ritual of transferring the headdress to another woman, and let her take over to finish the job. In the outside world, somebody would have pulled me aside and said, "Listen, Dolores, you're just not cut out for this. We want you to step down in favor of stronger women." But in this community they always smiled and said, "See you next time!" and made sure that I knew I was welcome so long as I was willing.

Because they didn't see my chronic pain issues as a barrier to me contributing--they saw it as the very thing that I can contribute! The ceremonies get painful for everyone, because we take seriously the message to take up our cross and follow Jesus. We offer up our sufferings during the Ceremonies for the entire world. Wherever, anywhere, there's somebody on the verge of giving up--a suicidal teenager, a man tempted to leave his sick wife, a reformed drunkard with grievous news on the verge of returning to the bottle, a missionary wondering how he can face another day, a mother overwhelmed by caring for a disabled child, exhausted people on the verge of cracking in the face of rebuilding after disaster, an addict terrified of facing withdrawal, you name it--we shoulder a little of their pain so that they can feel just a moment of refreshment, just what they need to keep on going in God's way. I was not, in this company, someone with less to give, but someone with more.

Physical pain is only half of the suffering associated with chronic disability. The other half is feeling worthless. The Yaqui Ceremonies gifted me with a renewed sense of worth. And for that I feel profoundly grateful!

Above was sent me in response to an Easter Greeting!

Update, 20-IV-2012:

The Yaqui tribe finally worked out a deal with the government and got Richie School Back! Prayers answered!

Congratulations, and thank God!