Monday, February 18, 2013

chapter 4 who will pray for me?

Enrique was nine years old when he knew something was seriously wrong. “The Lord gives each of us a sense of authority", said Enrique, “We also know when there is abuse of that authority.” One of those abuses is when those in authority teach as truth what even a child can see is foolishness. 
His family had moved into a home in the suburbs and Enrique and his brothers were sent to the Catholic Parish School. When Kennedy got shot, the nuns were weeping. The next day at school each of the students received indulgence cards with Kennedy’s face on one side and an image of the Virgin Mary on the other. The cards' instructions said something to the effect that if one prayed 10 “Hail Marys” and 10 “Our Fathers” it would take 200 years off purgatory for Kennedy. From everything he had heard at the school, President Kennedy was a saint. The nuns had talked with great pride about their first Catholic president. “At school I heard what a good man he was,” said Henry. “But I knew I was not good. And I knew that all over the world people were praying for President Kennedy. And I thought, ‘Who will pray for me?’”
Enrique was taught that Purgatory was for all those who would one day enter heaven. Hell was reserved for the utterly wicked, not for the majority of the people who basically tried to do the right thing. But though the suffering in Purgatory was the same as the suffering in Hell, the suffering was not eternal. It was for the punishment needed to cleanse and purge the soul. Things did not add up for Enrique: Why would God sentence a great, wonderful person like Kennedy to thousands upon thousands of years in Purgatory? How could it be that even school children could so dramatically reduce this sentence? And if such a good man like Kennedy needed hundreds of years off of his time, how long would he have to be in Purgatory?
Adding to Enrique’s questioning was that within the Cuban community, Kennedy’s assassination was seen as not necessarily a bad thing. Kennedy's politics seemed to make it less likely they would soon return to their homeland. And they hated communism. (It had made many of them paupers and refugees.) They could not understand how a United States president could allow a communist regime only 90 miles from the border. Surely the next US president would do better.
Every day the Cuban community was looking to when they could return to Cuba, so when at home Enrique understood he should speak Spanish and not English. He was encouraged to keep with his Cuban culture, for he was a Cuban and not an American.Soon their trials would all be over for they would be back home again.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis everyone in America was scared. A nuclear holocaust was one push of the button away. Like school students all across America, Enrique’s school added air raid drills to their fire drills. For fire drills, all the students practiced leaving the school building as fast as possible. That made sense. One needs to get away from a building that was on fire. But for air raid drills, the students were instructed to crouch underneath their little school desks. And just as this made no sense to every student all across America, it made no sense to Enrique either. But Enrique lived less than 100 miles from where the Russian nuclear missiles would be launched. 
Two and a half months after the Kennedy assassination, the Beatles came to America. They played on the Ed Sullivan Show and were seen by 73 million viewers. At that time it was the largest television audience on record. On the radio station, it seemed every third song was a Beatle song. At school the music teacher, a priest, railed against the Beatles. “It’s not music. It’s just banging. Just hitting guitars,” he said. But Enrique thought it was the nicest music he had ever heard. The priest explained the popularity of the Beatles with their having made a pact with the Devil. “The Devil is real,” said the Priest. “Like many others, the Beatles have sold their soul to the Devil for popularity, and for wealth, and for power.” 
Nightmares and day terrors plunged Enrique into desperation. Would he make such a pact? His family was in such pain. They lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood now. But his father was always working, always fretting about bills. At night his mother was up until 3 a.m. studying to be an American teacher. Then she would be up at 6 to go to her day job. Enrique knew they could not afford to buy him new clothes, so Enrique stole a shirt. He took money out of the poor box at his church. "I'm poor," he reasoned.  He started stealing other things he needed, and things that he wanted.

Enrique wondered, could he be loyal to God, or would he end up making the Devil’s pact? His grandmother had come from Cuba and was there every day. He talked with her about everything, but this was not something he could talk to anyone about.

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