Good Friday

Holy Cross Church, Back of the Yards, Chicago, Illinois

Good Friday always reminds of many things. I know, I know, it’s Saturday. I’m not late. I’m running on Mexican Time. I once saw that on a T-shirt.

If you ever have a party and invite some Mexicans, make accommodations for Mexican Time. If you want everyone at your house by four, tell them the party’s at three. Well, because 3:00 o’clock lasts until 3:59! 3:59 is still 3:00 in the mind of a Mexican. Say 3:59 out loud. Go ahead. Did you hear all three digits? If you did, you’re not Mexican. A Mexican will only hear the initial digit “3” and then block out the rest of the digits. That’s just how Mexicans process time.

Anyway, I forgot all about Good Friday until late last night when Jay Leno mentioned that is was Good Friday. And then I felt guilty. Because I’m a lapsed Catholic who suffers from constant guilt. It’s kind of like being Mexican. You never stop being Catholic–or feeling guilty about something. Well, during the day yesterday, I actually remembered that it was Good Friday. I thought I should celebrate it in my own lapsed-Catholic fashion to ease some guilt for forgetting about not going to church on Good Friday. So I had decided to write a blog entry about Good Friday. But then I forgot all about it. Or, perhaps, I blocked it out. And now I feel extremely guilty. That’s why I’m writing this while Good Friday is less than twenty-four hours over. I actually feel a little less guilt now.

Toluca, México

As Mexican Catholics, we attended a Lithuanian Catholic church in the Back of the Yards. Holy Cross Church was our parish. I also attended Holy Cross School from kindergarten through eighth grade. There was no separation between church and school. We were taught lessons in church and we prayed in school. In church, we were taught by Lithuanian priests and in school we had Lithuanian nuns, with the occasional visit by the pastor who would give us holy cards if we answered his catechism questions correctly. We never forgot about religious holidays because we were in school five days a week and in church six days a week. We would be reminded for weeks in advance of an upcoming holy day. Holy Week was one of the most important times of the year for us. It began on Palm Sunday and ended on Easter Sunday.

Mexicans in Chicago commemorate many of these events by reenacting them. I’ve been to reenactments of the Last Supper, Jesus Christ’s procession to Golgotha, and the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This always seemed to strike many people, who were of the non-Mexican persuasion, as sacrilegious.

To this day, the holy day that I remember the most is Good Friday. That was the day that Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins. And we should never forget that!

We attended school on Good Friday until it was time to go next door to church for the Good Friday service at 3:00 p.m. sharp. All the students sat with their classmates and nuns who were their teachers. We would get to church early so we could pray until the service began. We were supposed to recall all the events of Jesus Christ’s life and how he died for our sins.

I remember when I was about eight years old, the nun told us in school that Jesus Christ died at three p.m. and that every Good Friday it rains at that time for Jesus Christ. I was just boy and I believed absolutely everything I was taught. During the Good Friday service, the bright sunny church interior suddenly dimmed and then darkened. Just as the priest told of how the Romans were nailing Jesus Christ to the cross, the church became as dark as night. Someone turned some lights on. Then, we saw lightning flashes and a moment later we heard deafening thunder. The church trembled and the lights flickered. The thunderstorm, lightening, and thunder continued for several minutes. The priest stopped to genuflect and bless himself. That was a defining moment in my development as a young Catholic. I became a true believer at that precise moment. From then on, I always believed everything that the priests and nuns told me.


South Side, Chicago, Illinois.

Once, while traveling in the country, Mark Twain saw a sign that read, “Junk bought, antiques sold.”

To my mother, junk wasn’t merely just junk. To this day, I realize that there’s junk, and then there’s Mexican junk–there is no Spanish word for junk, although I did see a sign that read “Yonke” in my travels through Mexico). My mother managed to salvage just about everything she found in the alley. No chair was so splintered, no dresser was missing too many handles or drawers, no bed frame was so rusty or bent that they could not be repaired, refurbished, or rehabilitated with a little paint, elbow grease, and TLC. If my mother found something that was too heavy or bulky for her to bring home, she would come home to get me and between the two of us we would put it into the back of her red Volkswagon Squareback station wagon.

My mother always knew some Mexican or an entire Mexican family who had just come from Mexico and needed furniture. She would help them set up a home by giving them whatever furniture she had found. She genuinely loved to help people and she would never ask for any money in return. Occasionally, someone would offer money, but she would refuse it saying that they could repay her when they were settled down. People would come from Mexico and look for my mother because they knew that she would help them.

When I bought my four-flat house in Bridgeport, I attempted to help Mexicans on a smaller scale than my mother. I only helped my Mexican tenants and a few of their friends. When my brother lived in one of my apartments, he wanted to get rid of his living room set, but didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know anyone who needed furniture at the moment, so I told him to put it out in the alley only he didn’t want to throw it away. I explained to him that if we put it in the alley early Sunday morning, the Mexicans going to church would see it and take it home with them. Sure enough, all his furniture was gone within an hour.

When I got divorced and I needed to refurnish my new house, I got most of my furniture from my brother and sister. Sometimes I feel so Mexican!