In the House of a Saint

This will be a long post but it contains the story of a modern day saint.

Another long bus ride today to the suburbs to visit an orphanage. Its amazing that we can drive for an hour and a half and still be in Mexico City.

“Butch” warned us that this stop would be totally unexpected and a place of miracles. And yep. Was not expecting a garden in the courtyard.

This is the home of Mother Inez, a Dominican sister who is the Mexican version of Mother Theresa. She taught at a wealthy school until she found a boy living on the street  and she brought him to the convent. A boy brought a sister…and then another kid…and another…

She was then told by the sisters that they were unable to care for these kids so Mother Inez left with the kids and lived on the streets with them, begging for them. She eventually got a house and now has 230 kids: all with closed head injuries, autism, or other mental disabilities thrown out to the streets. We celebrated Mass in their courtyard.

It felt like being either in the Garden of Eden or near Tepeyac when Juan Diego first met Our Lady of Guadalupe by hearing bird song.

Mother Inez is 93 years old and yet still commands the house. Many volunteers and friends come and help her  or seek her prayers. Her devotion at Mass and her joy was infectious. She stressed so much that what she does is not something she does, but something that her “niños” (children) do for her.

She insisted we go to her chapel and see her treasures: a pair of gloves that Padre Pio wore and the zucchetto (white cap) of Saint John Paul II who came and visited her when he came to Mexico.

Then we met her children. Oh. My. Goodness. Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of the day with “her children.” As soon as we arrived, hands stretched out to summon us over to them and smiles greeted us. We brought coloring books and crayons.

Her “kids” are of all ages even into their 40s and 50s since their disabilities prevent them from living outside of the community.

We also went upstairs to the room where the kids with severe autism or crippling disabilities stay. As soon as we entered, a boy who could not speak, had twisted legs, and several scars on his head who was sitting on the floor gave a “squeal” of greeting and stretched out his hand to us. There were a variety of kids: blind, bedridden, mute, and crippled. We went through the room and the joy was overwhelming. One bedridden boy pulled me to sit by him and all we did was hold hands. Another two sat on their beds dancing to music. Another who was a “leader” of sorts who could walk was making sure the room was picked up and that the others were being cared for. They had a language of their own and words cannot capture the beauty of this place.

“Butch” told us the story of a man he knew who was diagnosed with stage four cancer. He was wealthy and decided to “score points” by donating to Mother’s work. He visited and went to the room where the paralyzed kids were. One caught his eye and reached out his hand. This man was shook, but sat on the bed and held hands with the boy who just kept his penetrating stare. After ten minutes, the man left and went home deeply moved. The next day he woke up feeling deeply content and feeling better.  This went on for a few days so he went back to his doctor and was found to be completely cancer free. He went back to see the boy again, but found he had died two days after he met him.

The above painting (somewhat blocked by the cross) was commissioned to express the belief of Mother Inez about her work. It depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe handing children to Mother Inez. Mother Inez believes that the kids in her orphanage only know their world and appear to be unable to contribute to anything. Some are so paralyzed and in such pain, she thinks that God asks them if they want to be with Him now, or stay and help by their suffering for the salvation of souls here. She believes those there have chosen to stay.

(Above: Mother Inez prays over Scott Padernos of Duluth)

It may sound strange or “oh, that’s a nice pious way to put it,” but its hard to deny that God is at work here. These kids know how to love without conditions and although they don’t know who we are or why we are there, they see us as friends. They are abandoned, rejected, and will never know life outside a house or a room in a house or just a bed in a house, yet they love. At our sharing of graces of the day, we all agreed we were moved by this day and how these kids touched us. We need to let ourselves be touched by others and not be “macho” or “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” We learn to love in a community and it is in that that we encounter the Love of the Father in a deeper way.

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