It seems like just days ago that I sat down to write my first post since being in country, and now I am nearly a month in!!!! One of my directors cleverly said that the says go by slow, but the months fly by quick and I am feeling that right now! Yet as I get to sit and look back at the last month, I am in awe at how much I have learned and how much I have adjusted. Spanish being yelled through the streets and rice for breakfast has become a norm for me, even while the breathtaking mountains and crazy rain are still a surprise every day. Another surprise that I have found daily is all of the ways that God is present and moving in this country, and how evident it is in the people around me.
As a Protestant (okay, Episcopalian… its a little in between…) in a majority Catholic country, I had my excitements and fears about beginning my service. I was so excited about all of the ways in which I would get to connect to the people through our faith, albeit a little different, and how this would help my grow in my own faith. Yet I was also apprehensive… how different would Catholicism be for me? Would I find it difficult to adjust? These worries were put to rest after my first mass, my first connection with my family, and finally, my first Día de La Negrita.
In Costa Rica, the people recognize La Virgen de Los Angeles, lovingly referred to as La Negrita, as their patron saint. She is a depiction of the the Virgin Mary that appeared centuries ago in the form of a small black statue, reappearing at her place in Cartago after many tried to take her home with them. Being declared a miracle, she soon became the patron saint and has a beautiful Basilica dedicated to her in that very same place. And while this story is a wonderful piece of history for this country, it is even more enlightening to see just how this country turns to humility, prayer, and sacrifice around August 2nd, her patron saint day. For the week leading up to this day, thousands of devout Catholics will walk from their homes or from San Jose (at least a 22km walk) to see La Negrita, pray, and ask her for miracles of healing, peace, and much more. This year, despite the fact that I had class on this day, I saw a country pause for one day to rest and pray. Most noticeably, Costa Ricans asked the Virgin for peace and safety for their neighbor, Nicaragua.
I know, you may be reading this and thinking “alright Katie…. that’s great but we want to read your blog to know how you’re doing, not about some holiday!” My answer? I am inspired. I am in awe of the strength and powerful faith of this nation that puts aside its prejudices and prays for their neighbor. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn more about how the people of this country live and love this pura vida everyday.