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Easter Celebrations

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Editor’s note: Missioner Maggie Van Roekel reflects on how the missing of Easter mass opened her to renewed solidarity with the Bolivian people and a deeper awareness of privilege.

The Easter season is one of my favorite times of the year. I love celebrating the mystery of the Resurrection. Attending mass during Holy Week has always been a really moving and cherished experience for me. I look forward to the singing of the Alleluia, the feeling of a new beginning, and the wonderful mystery of the Resurrection.

This Easter weekend, I was in La Paz—a large city a couple hours from Carmen Pampa—staying with the family of one of the students. On the morning of Easter Sunday, I woke up early, excited to attend the Easter mass.

Before the 10 o’clock mass, we ran a few errands in the market and, at 9:45, we headed to the church.

As we neared the church, we noticed many people standing around the front gates. People were slowly filing out. We asked a man selling palm branch crosses what was going on.

“The mass just ended.”

My heart sank. I had never missed Easter mass before, and I had really been looking forward to the service. Unfortunately, our day after that was full, and we didn’t have time to attend another mass.

I stewed in my disappointment for a while and then I began to look around. It started with the garbage collectors on the street, picking up trash. I was baffled that they were working on Easter Sunday! Then I started to think about the bus drivers in La Paz who had been driving us all morning, the women in the market who sold us produce, and the woman who had served us our breakfast. Life was going on as usual, as though this wasn’t the day we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.

I reflected on this for a little bit until I was hit with a wave of understanding. I was suddenly very aware of the fact that the way my family has always celebrated Easter is from a place of privilege. We have the ability to have the entire day off work to celebrate and go to mass and are still able to put food on the table (and, for Easter Sunday, the food is usually in large quantities). We tend to relax all day and celebrate with candies and special treats.

The Christian population in Bolivia is quite high, but many people don’t have the option of taking time off to go to Easter morning mass. Being able to have a big, full day of celebration—let alone a morning to attend a long Easter mass—is such a privilege.How is it that I hadn’t ever thought about this before now?

Christ, after His Resurrection, came to the disciples while they were out on the water working, and He joined them in their fishing, and their tremendous catch was in itself a kind of celebration of the Resurrection.

I have to remember that Christ comes to us. He meets us where we are. We have the power to make each moment of every day a celebration of the life and resurrection of Christ.

While I still felt a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to attend one of my favorite masses of the year, my eyes were opened in that moment to a little situation that is part of a much larger point of privilege.

Reflection question: how are you privileged in your own life? How can you be grateful for those blessings but also give to someone who doesn’t share them?

Through listening the stories of our marginalized brothers and sisters, Maggie seeks to gain new perspectives on joy and hope across different backgrounds. Her passion for disability social justice grew out of numerous experiences working with individuals with disabilities, including three summers at an Easter Seals camp. Maggie grew up in Iowa and studied health science at the University of Iowa.