Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Fighting Mummy


The Fighting Mummy

The day was hot and muggy. University students and old men sat languidly in the shade of the main plaza of a little town in the coastal desert of Peru. The Cathedral bells rang twelve noon.
Santos, a swaggering, tough 13-year-old shoeshine boy was giving some advice to “The Mummy.” Mummy was his skinny, coughing, barefoot nine-year-old friend. Suddenly, Santos whispered, “Quick! Here he comes!”
The two boys scurried in different directions. They clutched their boxes of equipment tightly so nothing would fall out.
A fat, angry, plaza guard, waving a stick, chased after them. The guard chased after one, and then the other. But the boys were too quick. Breathless, sweating, and fuming,the guard gave up.
The boys, laughing and puffing, soon found one another again and sat down to rest. “That’s the third time this morning,” Mummy gasped. A fit of coughing prevented him from further conversation.
Santos begged a glass of water from the woman at a nearby fruit stand. He offered it to Mummy. “Here, take it easy. We got away, didn’t we?”
Mummy said nothing. He had been shining shoes for two years, ever since he was seven. He had learned a lot of things and now he sat with his elbows resting on his knees, his chin almost touching his knees, almost like the ancient Peruvian mummies. He had been sitting like that the day the boys gave him his nickname.
Just then, a big man in an expensive grey suit came along. Mummy called out, “Shine, sir.” The man stopped, looked at his shoes and then put one foot on Mummy’s box.
Business-like the boy set to work. First, he brushed off the dust; then he carefully applied a little polish. Mummy protected the man’s sock by running his little finger along the top edge of the shoe as he put the polish on.
Next he splashed a few drops of water from a little bottle. The drops rolled around on the shoe and Mummy massaged them into the polish with his fingers.
Then came the shine with the special rag his mother had made him from his father’s old trousers. Mummy seemed to be attached to some source of electric power as his arms moved the rag over the shoe like a continually reversing conveyor belt. At last, the shoes shone like new mirrors. Mummy slapped the tow of on shoe and held out a polish smudged hand for hit tip.
Santos had a customer too, so Mummy waited and survey the world through two pensive brown eyes.
For two months the battle had been on. It had all started with the Mayor’s Clean Up Campaign. The plaza guards had been ordered to chase the shoeshine boys out of the Plaza. They might hurt the tourist trade.
Santos finished and rejoined Mummy. “Let’s get something to eat,” he said.
“If I eat, I won’t have much to take home,” Mummy said.
“Well, you have got to eat something,” Santos ordered. “That’s why your cough hangs on. You didn’t eat anything yesterday. C’mon, Doña Rosa will give us a saucer of seviche for five soles. We will split it.”
The boys shared the seviche (a popular Peruvian dish of raw fish marinated in a sauce of lemon juice, onions, and hot pepper). Santos continued to counsel Mummy. “We have to fight the Mayor. The good guys want to change things. Before, the Mayor could live in town and go out, when he felt like it, to collect from the guys who worked his farm. Now absentee landlords are having trouble. He afraid he will lose the farm, so he is trying to get an edge on the tourist trade.
“My dad says we have got to stay in the Plaza. Nowadays, poor people have rights, too, but we have to fight for them.”
Mummy counted his earnings. He held out his hand for Santos to see how little it was.
Santos insisted, “Yeah, I know. We are losing the fight, but just the same, we have got to fight.”
Mummy handed back the plate to Doña Rosa, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and rubbed his hands on his trousers. Suddenly, he darted across the street and pounced on a boy his own size. Soon the two were down on the pavement, locked in a vicious struggle. Mummy was searching the other boy’s pockets. The victim pushed and kicked trying to escape, but Mummy was on top and would not let him go.
Santos caught up and tried to reason with Mummy. “Mummy, what did the kid do to you?”
“He borrowed ten soles a week ago. I have asked him for it three times,’ gasped Mummy.
The boy on the ground blinked back tears as he said, “As soon as I get it, I’ll give it to you.”
“Aw, let him go, Mum. He hasn’t got it,” ruled Santos.
Mummy’s eyes showed a moment of indecision, but with one last punch, he said, “Okay, but tomorrow.” The debtor, after a grateful look at Santos, scampered off.
Mummy poked his friend in the ribs. “Santos,” he said. How come you want me to fight for the plaza, but now for my ten soles?”
“Listen. All us shoeshine kids have to stick together. The bad guys like it when we fight one another. It means we are not fighting them,” Santos explained. “The plaza belongs to everybody.”
Mummy thought about this as he always did anything that Santos said.
When night came, the two boys went their separate ways. Mummy dragged his feet because the day had brought only fifty soles. What can Ma do with that,’ he asked himself.
As he walked home, he wished with all his heart that Papa was still with them, but it had been two years since that night when he stopped coughing for ever. Since then, Ma sold fruit in the market. Elvira, Mummy’s eleven-year-old sister, watched the house and took care of their baby brother.
At last, Mummy reached the dark narrow alley and found his way to the piece of corrugated zinc that served as a door to the one room that was home. As his eyes got used to the candlelight, he saw Ma at the wooden table mending an old shirt.
Mummy placed his earnings on the tableas Elvira brought him the dish of rice she had saved from dinner.

As Ma gathered the soles, she said, “You look all tuckered out. You are working too hard.” Ma made made you feel proud of whatever you did.
When it was time for bed, she unrolled the lambskins and the boys settled down for the night under one blanket on one side of the room, Ma and Elvira on the other. For a few minutes Santos and his baby brother wrestled one another. Soon all were quiet.

Mummy awakened early the next morning. He stole out before the others wakened. He wanted to get to the plaza and do a few shines before it was time to go to school.
For five months he had struggled to earn a little every day. His cough got worse and worse. Ma took him to the government clinic. The doctor gave him medicine and told Ma to see that he got lots of milk and meat.
As the days went by Mummy got less able to run from the plaza guard, but Santos looked for him when it was time to eat. Often they split a saucer of seviche.
Then, one day Mummy fainted and a policeman took him to the hospital. The doctor told Ma that he was very sick. Santos visited him every day. On the third day, Santos saw that Mummy was trying to say something.
Mummy was very weak, his voice was a hoarse whisper, his hospital gown was damp with perspiration, but he struggled to sit up.Just before he fell back on the pillow, Santos heard him say, “Shine, sir.”

© 2009 Photo and story Elizabeth V. Roach - This story is adapted from a story Sister Elizabeth published in CATHOLIC FIRESIDE, in Britain in 1975. It was based on the life of Augusto Berrocal who died of tuberculosis at the age of fourteen in Ica, Peru.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Great General and The Little Girl

(based on 2 Kings, 5: 1-15)

Naaman was a great General. He won a great battle for his king, the King of Aram.
In the battle, Naaman’s soldiers took many treasures.
The soldiers took cows and chickens, sheep and horses, and gold and swords and chariots. When they got near home, in among all their treasures, they found something else. They found a little girl from Israel.
The soldiers showed Naaman, the General, the cows and chickens, the sheep and horses, the gold, the swords, and the chariots. Then, they showed him the little girl.
Naaman, the General, divided the treasures - many for his King, some for himself, and some for his soldiers.
Then, Naaman, the General, said, “I will give the little girl to my wife. She can be her slave girl.”
When Naaman’s wife looked at the little girl, she said, “How pretty! You can serve my tea. You can comb my hair. And you can sing me a song when I am tired.”
The little slave girl remembered her mother, her father, and her brothers and sisters. They had called her by her name, but now she was only called, “Slave girl.” She was far from her land and her family, but she remembered them and how they prayed to the only true God.
Every day, the little slave girl served her mistress, Naaman’s wife. She served her mistress tea. She combed her mistress’ long, beautiful hair, And sometimes she sang her a song.
Then, one day, when the little slave girl, went to serve her mistress, the mistress was very sad.
It’s dangerous for a slave girl, when her mistress is sad. The mistress could get angry. She could ask Naaman, the General, to bring his sword and cut off the head of the slave girl.
The mistress was sad because Naaman, the General, was sick. He had a terrible disease called leprosy. It was eating away at him.

The slave girl served her mistress tea. She combed her mistress’ long, beautiful hair. She sang her mistress a song. But the mistress remained very sad. She lay on her bed and cried and cried.
Then, the little slave girl did a brave thing. Very quietly she said, “If only the master would present himself to the prophet of the only true God, he would cure him of his leprosy.”
The mistress sat up on her bed. She looked at the little slave girl. All her attendants looked at the little slave girl.
When Naaman, the General heard what the little slave girl said, he went and stood before the King of Aram. “My Lord, King,” he said. “The slave girl says there is a prophet of the only true God, who can cure my illness.”

The prophet’s name was Elisha, and he lived in Samaria.
“Go,” said the King of Aram. “I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” Naaman set out with the letter, taking along ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces and ten festal garments.
The little slave girl prayed by her bed that night as she did every night!
Naaman traveled through the desert and the mountains and the valleys to the King of Israel.

When the King of Israel read the letter from the King of Aram, he tore his garments and shouted. “Who does he think I am? I can’t cure his leprosy. It’s a trick.”
When Elisha, the great prophet, heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, Elisha sent word to the king of Israel: “Now why have you done that? Send that General to me. Let him find out that the only, true God is with us.”
So the King of Israel sent Naaman, the General, to the house of Elisha, the prophet. Naaman and all his soldiers drove the horses and the chariots to the door of Elisha’s house. Naaman wanted to see and talk to the prophet, but the prophet wouldn’t come out of his house.
Instead, the prophet sent out a message, “Go, take seven baths in the River Jordan. And you will be cured.”
Naaman, the General, got very angry. He probably thought that little slave girl at home had played a trick on him. The River Jordan is a muddy river. The Rivers in his own land were fed by mountain springs.

Naaman, the General said, “The rivers in my land are clean and beautiful, better than all the rivers of Israel”
After all, Naaman, the General, had come with a letter from the King of Aram. A letter from a king is important. Naaman thought the prophet should have come out of his house and put his hand on his wound and healed him.

Naaman, the General, was angry. Most of his servants were afraid. One brave servant said, “But Master, why not wash in the Jordan? If the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, you would have done it.”
Naaman, the General, thought about this. Then he went down to the River Jordan and he splashed in and out seven times.
When he came out the seventh time, he was all clean and his leprosy was gone.
Then Naaman, the General, with all his servants and soldiers and horses and chariots returned to Elisha, the man of God.

Naaman, the General, said, “Now I know there is no God in all the earth, except your God.”
When the little slave girl learned of Naaman’s cure, she praised God with all her heart.
I hope Naaman, the General, sent her back to her own country to be with her mother, and father, and brothers and sisters. She was a brave little girl, who knew that the God of her people was the only true God. And she wasn’t afraid to say so!

© All rights reserved. Elizabeth V. Roach,2008 all stories and photos on this blog

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Toribio, The Good Judge

Toribio, The Good Judge
Toribio was born on the plains in Spain in the town of Mallorca in a village called Mogrovejo in 1538. When he grew up, he became a lawyer. It was a time when many harsh people were in power, both in government and even in the church. Men and women were imprisoned, tortured and even burned alive. It was called the time of the Inquisition.
Everybody was glad when Toribio, the lawyer, was appointed a judge, because he was known as just, and fair, and merciful.
Then, one day, King Philip II, Prince of the Asturias, ruler of all Spain in Europe and in the Americas, needed a fair person in his colonies. He asked the Pope to make Toribio a bishop. Soon, Toribio was named Archbishop of Lima, Peru and of all the King’s colonies from Ecuador to Argentina.
Toribio had to cross the Atlantic Ocean, travel overland to cross the continent, then sail again in the Pacific Ocean. When, at last, he arrived, all the King’s agents welcomed him. Everyone wanted to be near Toribio, a friend of the King and the Pope.
Some were afraid, because Toribio had served as a judge of the terrifying Inquisition, but Toribio had been a good inquisitor who saved many people from unjust treatment.
The viceroy, the King’s number one man, expected Toribio to settle all his difficulties. Toribio did what he could for the Viceroy, but he remembered that the Pope had made him archbishop of all the people from Ecuador to Argentina.
Toribio set out to visit everyone. He climbed mountains. He walked up and down valleys. He crossed rivers and rode horses. He rode mules, and he also walked and walked and walked. He visited all the King’s Colonies. He visited what we now call Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. He may have passed through Paraguay, too. He visited, not once, but twice in many places.
Spanish military, church and civil authorities who were unjust, greedy, or cruel, trembled when Toribio visited their towns and villages. They were afraid, because Toribio talked to everyone and went everywhere. And Toribio did see that, in many places, the native peoples were treated badly by the Spaniards.
Toribio thought about the way people were treated. It made him sad, and he decided to do something about it. First, he ordered his priests to treat everyone with respect, Spaniards and Native Peoples alike. He ordered them to show special kindness, and to share whatever they had with the poor. He insisted that priests were to live holy lives according to the teachings of Jesus.
To make certain the priests understood, he called them all to a great meeing, called The Second Synod of Lima where he spoke to them about all the things they were to do. People didn’t have two cars those days, but some had two mules. Toribio said if a priest needed a mule, he was to have only one. If he had two, he was to give it away or sell it to help the poor.
Toribio founded a seminary to train priests the way he wanted them to be. Almost 450 years later, he is still remembered. The Seminary in Lima, Peru is named for him.
Toribio was not satisfied with telling the priests to be kind. He wanted the people to know what Jesus taught. In those days to print anything, it was necessary to have permission from the King. The King was far away in Spain. Toribio knew the law, but he didn’t wait for any permission. He printed the first catechism in the New World. And he printed it in three languages, Spanish, Quechua and Aymara. The latter are two of the languages of the Native Peoples of Peru.
Toribio insisted so much on the rights of native peoples that he became known as the Defender of The Indigenous. Indigenous means native. Indigenous people are the people native to an area or a country, the first people to live there. Toribio was so good and kind, that the Catholic Church calls him a Saint. So, if you are every treated unfairly, remember Toribio, the good lawyer, and insist on fair treatment for yourself and everyone else.

The feast of St. Toribio is celebrated on March 23.
Toribio is his Spanish name.
In Latin, his name is Turibius
© All rights reserved for stories and photos, Elizabeth V. Roach 2008