Mario Lleonart, 27 November 2016 — What is happening to the poor people of the island – as the also deceased former president of El Salvador, Salvador Flores, might have once told Fidel Castro to his face — is utterly intolerable. It is as though the authorities want to impose, almost by decree, a period of mourning that very few Cubans want to observe. They have already had to endure so much suffering during the lifetime of the deceased. And to top it off, they are now expected to endure public expressions of grief when it is more likely, judging from history, that they have more than enough reasons to celebrate, as their brothers and sisters in Miami have been doing in an atmosphere of freedom. That is what multitudes of people on the island would really like to be doing.
It is not just that alcohol sales have been suspended during the period of national mourning, presumably in an effort to make sure no one who has had a few too many dares to give full reign to his repressed desires. Popular festivities such as the celebration in the town of Taguayabon have also been cancelled, an action which led its residents to express their displeasure. It is not as though the tyrant had not already disappeared from their lives back in 2006 when he transferred power to Raul.
In the realm of religion, what is happening far and wide throughout of the island today is unprecedented, making what those of faith had to endure from the early 1960s until the present seem small by comparison. Many churches are self-censoring, foregoing the routine use of music in religious services out of fear. Congregations which have not done this “voluntarily” are receiving official reprimands of one sort or another.
Several pastors related stories like the one below, though I prefer not to reveal their identities out of concerns for their safety:
Things remain complicated here, my friend. Today, I received news that many churches have suspended adoration and prayer services and that others are singing without accompaniment out of “respect for national mourning.” Just as Daniel prayed three times a day with the window open in the manner to which he was accustomed,* so we celebrate our Sundays as usual, though we now only use a piano and play it softly so as not to seem disrepectful of those who “feel the loss.”
The president of the local Ministry of Justice and one of her officials showed up between Sunday school and Mass, asking to speak to me. They told me that they were bringing me orders to cancel Mass that day and suspend all other services we had scheduled through December 9 because of the country is in mourning. Can you imagine? You know what I told her?”
“You can go fetch the police or anyone else you want but I am not going to suspend any masses and we are not going to stop singing. We sing and hold adorations even when one of our own dies. That does not show a lack of respect. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar and unto God what is God’s. Kill me, jail me, but we are not going to suspend Holy Mass.”
We talked a bit more, they softened their tone and she finally said, “Well, at least tone it down.”
I quickly told the everyone in the church about it (some 200 of us). I told them my response and added that, if anyone wanted to leave Mass, they could go home. Everyone replied “Amen” to everything I said and no one left. IT WAS A GLORIOUS SERVICE, LIKE IN THE EARLY CHURCH.” Praise be to God!!! Keep praying for us. Blessings and hugs.
*Translators note: A reference to the biblical passage, Daniel 6:10. “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”