Manage episode 221276324 series 2435104
Deacon Chris Gutiérrez shares how the Posadas tradition is celebrated in Mexico and the U.S. and how it can help us prepare spiritually for Christmas.
Photos of costumes
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Greetings Gente Puente! In today’s program, my husband, Deacon Chris Gutiérrez shares how the Posadas tradition is celebrated in Mexico and the U.S. and how it can help us prepare spiritually for Christmas.
Si prefieres español, puedes leer un resumen del episodio en las notas del programa en patticc.com/s11. El Diácono Cristóbal Gutiérrez comparte sobre la tradición de las Posadas y como nos ayudan a prepararnos para la Navidad.
I’m Patti Gutierrez from Patti’s Catholic Corner. Our team strives to serve ministries like yours from behind the scenes. We provide best practices & encouragement with this podcast and our Facebook group, as well as Spanish translation services from a team experienced in Catholic ministry.
You can find all the resources mentioned in today’s episode and a summary of the episode in English and Spanish, in the show notes found at patticc.com/11.
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As I said, today we are going to hear from my husband, Deacon Chris Gutiérrez. I’m so happy to introduce him to you, our listeners. I’ve mentioned a few things about him in previous episodes, but I’m glad you’ll get to hear some from him today. Chris has been working with Hispanic immigrants here in Western Kentucky since 2005 when he came as a candidate with Glenmary Home Missioners. A year and a half later when he discerned out of priestly formation, he began leading Hispanic Ministry at a parish here in Owensboro and after 8 years there become the Diocesan Director of Hispanic Ministry. He was ordained a permanent deacon in September 2017. Before coming back to the U.S. in 2005, he was in seminary for the Diocese of San Juan de los Lagos in Jalisco, Mexico for about 8 years. Today he shares about his experience celebrating the Posadas in his hometown, as well as in ministry here in the U.S. He also shares how this tradition can help us to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ arrival on Christmas.
Now let’s listen to my conversation with my husband Chris.
Welcome Chris I’m so glad that you are able to be on the Gente Puente podcast.
Hello, good morning, good evening.
Opening prayer. Thank you for joining us and making your debut here on the Gente Puente podcast. I’m excited for you to share with us today about the Posadas but first can you tell the people listening a little about you, your background, your vocation and what your ministry is?
Hello everyone. Thank you. My name is Deacon Chris Gutierrez and I’m really happy to be with you all today. I was born in Los Angeles, California, but I grew up in Mexico pretty much from when I was very young, about the age of four. Most of my life I’ve lived in central Mexico, in the state of Jalisco. I’ve been in the States for a while, since about 2005. My father is from Mexico and my mother was American. I come from come from a background that is very diverse but I’m glad to be here. Thank you.
Thank you. What do you do now, what is your ministry?
I am the Director of Hispanic ministry for the Diocese of Owensboro here in Kentucky since 2014. Before that I served for almost eight years at the at the parish that coordinates to Hispanic ministry in the city Sts. Joseph and Paul. I should back up a little bit: I have three beautiful children, Gabriel, Isaac and Isabel our baby girl and you my beautiful wife.
Thank you. Can you explain to us that what Posadas are?
Yes. Posadas are basically a reenactment of Mary and Joseph looking for place to stay, looking for room in the inn, when they were in Bethlehem.
So that word posadas can mean either the place that they stay like the inn or the hotel or it can also be letting people come in and stay, giving people a place to stay.
Can you explain what the tradition of the Posadas is and where it came from? The basics about what people do for the tradition?
Posadas is something that the missionaries in the 16th century developed little by little when they arrived in Mexico. At the time of the of the conquest as Spanish missionaries came and wanted a way to introduce the Christian faith to the natives and Catholicism, they started celebrating different masses for nine days before Christmas. It would outside of the churches where they had an opportunity to create some fellowship with the indigenous at the time and introduce little by little who Joseph and Mary and Jesus were to the native people. So that’s the origins from the very beginning of Posadas. Over the centuries it has developed more and has expanded throughout Mexico primarily but also into some other Central American countries and in other parts of America.
You didn’t really go into a lot of detail about what your life was like before you came back to the U.S., but you were raised in a little small farm town with no electricity in a very Catholic area of Jalisco, Mexico. Then you were in seminary for about eight years off and on and during seminary you’ve told me that you were also sent out on missions to different places over seasons like Advent and Lent. Can you share with us what celebrating Posadas was like in Mexico either in your hometown or in other areas?
Sure. I’ll start with the farm where I grew up. The farm where my grandparents and I lived and some of my uncles more before they migrated to the U.S. was named Pastores which translates as shepherds. So there is even something in the name that’s linked to the celebration. One of things that we used to do every night starting on the on the 16th of December is that a little boy, me or another of the many boys, would dress up as Joseph and then a little girl would dress up as Mary with a little blue veil on her head. Joseph had something on his head – there was green or yellow – green and yellow are the colors for Joseph. Then we would actually have an real donkey where the little girl was placed on the donkey’s back and we would process around in front of the chapel singing the different hymns, different Villancicos, which are Christmas carols. When we got to the front of the small chapel we would start the actual celebration of the Posadas. Then as a seminarian it was basically the same thing – we could reenact the Posadas with actual children or we could also have a statue of Joseph and Mary which was held by two people. In the city it could be a little different. Normally people block off the street so that the entire neighborhood can come together and celebrate. You have chosen home were the actual Posada will be. So it differs a little bit from the rural area to the city or the town.
Thank you. So when you get to the house that’s going to host the Posada, what do you do?
So when you get to the house, normally the group splits into two – half of the group stays outside and they hold candles and Mary and Joseph are outside. Normally the owners of the house are inside the house and half of the group goes inside with them. We close the door or the curtain and then that’s when the singing starts back and forth.
We will link to the text of the traditional song and it has a translation on there so you can see it in English and Spanish, but can you explain this to the general message of this traditional song?
The general message of the song sung at the door is basically a back-and-forth about Joseph and Mary asking to be allowed to come spend the night, to stay in the inn. It goes back and forth – this is my wife Mary, she’s the queen of heaven, she’s going to be the mother of the Divine Savior. And the inside group says you can go away already, don’t bother us because I’ll get upset. There’s basically a dialogue back and forth. The symbolism behind the dialogue is will this household allow Jesus in, the even deeper meaning in the symbolism of this hymn, the theological meaning is will I allow Jesus to come ino my heart this Christmas. So the Posada wants to be that reminder to the soul of every Christian, of every Catholic, of thinking “am I going to let Jesus in my heart?”
Now let’s move to once you started ministry in United States. Back in 2005 you came to the U.S. with Glenmary so since then you were already living around Hispanic communities and celebrating traditions with them. Then in ministry in a parish in 2007, and then the past three years in the diocese. Tell us a little bit about how you have celebrated the Posadas here in the parishes and as diocesan director.
In every parish and in every state it could very different. These are the practical steps to take in order to organize a celebration: you put out the list and normally people sign up and take a night starting from the 16th. You let everyone know where to go. Then when we get there we do the same thing. Me as the organizer, I would bring with me a bunch of candles, I would bring with me a bunch of copies of the hymn. Not only of Posadas song, but also the Villancicos, the Christmas carols, that are sung later on in the evening inside the house. As an organizer you split the group up and if you have somebody with a guitar that person can stay outside. Try to split up the voices of those that can sing well. Then you sing the song to ask for Posada. It is beautiful, it’s absolutely amazing because you can sense going back more than two thousand years, a little bit about what Joseph and Mary went through. Here in the central United States and the state of Kentucky it’s really cold, not as much as in other places but cold. Not like when I was in Mexico. I will tell people just imagine what Joseph and Mary were feeling, what they were going through. At the end of the hymn basically the host says okay, come on in. Actually the host is really happy. We come in and we all sit down. In some instances, you pray the rosary, in some places you can just move on to a passage from one of the Gospels and do a small reflection. You can also choose one of the symbols of the Nativity, one of the people for instance one night the reflection can be on Joseph geared towards fathers, then the second night it can be directed toward reflecting on the role of the mother in the family, then the star, then the shepherds. You know all those different pieces have meaning and symbolism. You can make it as long as you want to or what people would like. Then we go into the Christmas carols and drinking hot chocolate, the buñuelos, the candy and the piñata.
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Now we continue with the conversation with my husband Chris.
Something that I know the community here in Owensboro really appreciated is that you would make an extra effort to help them get there. In Mexico many places do this as a neighborhood and then you just walk house to house and like you said the weather cooperated a little more than here in Kentucky. But here, especially in Owensboro that’s a pretty big city, the Hispanic community is spread out all over. You would actually pick up the church bus and drive around to the Hispanic neighborhoods to pick up people or people would follow you in their cars to get to the address where the Posadas was held that night. I know that really helped increase participation because people are kind of nervous about getting there or they’re nervous about driving. We will also put a link in the Show Notes to the booklet you used to use with the reflections for each night and some other ideas of topics for reflection. And we’ll put a picture or a few pictures of the simple costumes that we would carry with us so people can see what we used to do here. Why do you think that it’s important for parishes or parish ministers to continue this tradition?
What I found is that it’s so important to continue this tradition and encourage Latinos to celebrate because especially when in our current reality or culture, so much is about consumption – the presents, Santa Claus and all sorts of things, about buying and buying. We would keep the focus really on the actual birthday of the one we’re celebrating which is Jesus Christ. I think it’s crucial and it’s an amazing event of evangelization with the community and keeping Christmas what it really is – that meditation on the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It’s countercultural. It’s so important culturally, something that we need to safeguard and promote and to promote fellowship, building of trust especially within the community. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere where there is food, laughter, sharing. It’s in the periphery as well, something that Pope Francis is always challenging us to do.
Do you have any particular stories or ways that you saw that celebrating Posadas?
In different towns and cities here in the U.S., speaking for our own diocese, but I’m sure it’s probably similar in other places, we don’t know always who the newcomers are who have just arrived from Latin America. Sometimes there is a family or individual who has just arrived from Mexico or from any other country and when they when hear of the Posadas, us going out into the streets, meeting in a home for this celebration. Word gets out and then they get to know where the church is because on Christmas Eve, the 24th, the last Posada is at church. It was one way of introducing the actual parish or the school building to the folks who come. So that was very successful in just going out and bringing people towards the church.
As diocesan director I know that you have continued the tradition of holding a Posada for Hispanic ministers. Can you share a little bit about what you do?
Yes. The last few years we get together the Hispanic ministers, that is basically hired staff for Hispanic ministry from various parishes across the diocese. We come together and normally we get together of right after the celebration of Guadalupe. You get three days between Guadalupe and Posadas. We get together and one of the parishes host. We divide up what to bring – the piñata, the hot cocoa, the tamales. I’m in charge of the bringing copies of the hymn and the Christmas carols. Whoever is there dresses up like Joseph and one of the women as Mary. Then we do the same thing that we’re about to do on the 16th with our communities. I just love it that we can do that so I highly recommend that if you can come together first to meditate on the festivity to do that.
I should mention that you gather us – and this has been going on for a while but you made it every three months – that all the Hispanic ministers get together, priests that work with Hispanics in the parishes or like you say sisters or laypeople or even the main volunteers of that parish can join, and we get together four times a year for planning, pastoral de conjunto, working together across the parishes on bigger events that we all participate in. So we already have a sense of working together but then I’ve noticed that celebrating the Posadas like you said earlier, it’s a low-key laid-back atmosphere and spiritual reflection of course. And with the fun afterwards, it always creates a sense of community that helps us throughout the rest of the year.
It has really been helpful to reconnect amongst ourselves and encourage one another. Some of us are just starting in Hispanic ministry so I really want to make sure that everybody’s getting comfortable. That they allow themselves to be vulnerable with the community to celebrate, to sing, to cry with, to meditate on Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. Also coming together and encouraging one another.
Thank you. Lastly, about the Posadas, not everybody knows how to sing the Posadas song and so we will put some links to YouTube of different groups and at the end of the podcast we will have that as our closing song in case you’re not sure how the song goes. I want to close up the interview with some comments about ministry in general. You’ve been in ministry for a long time, here in the U.S. for many years, but also back home in seminary and being sent out on mission. I want to ask you to share something that you learned from ministry, about leading ministry, about how to balance ministry with other aspects of your life.
What I have learned in ministry in general is that when we allow and facilitate and learn from the different traditions in the popular devotion of our people from Latin America, it facilitates the overall ministry in the parish. The ministry flourishes because people, our brothers and sisters from Latin America here in the U.S., feel taken into account. That they don’t have to bury and hide these noble traditions. I would encourage everyone to not be afraid of encouraging the continuation of these traditions because the more that we facilitate them, the more success and the more involvement we will have in other ministries and even in mass attendance. The other thing I would say is that our Latino communities are very diverse, not everybody’s from Mexico, not everybody is from a particular country. So we need to learn from different traditions and different devotions, even at this time of Christmas, it’s so beautiful because it becomes very inclusive in its diversity. It can also enrich the rest of the parish. There are so many of brothers and sisters that have been part of the celebrations whose lives have been transformed because they’ve been invited to be part of it and to learn from it and to enjoy of it.
Thank you. Could you end with some words of encouragement for the people listening? Maybe they are in ministry but they’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated or going through a difficult time. Can you give them some encouragement?
Yes. At the beginning when we start a ministry it’s not easy. You might feel alone. You might feel discouraged at times because of the many factors and challenges, but I want to inject hope into each one of us. I want us to know and I want you do know that things get better, the more we lean on the community to help us through the difficulties. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in ministry. That’s the whole thing about intimacy, you know into me see. It’s okay for each one of us in ministry to not feel that we are perfect, that we got it all together, that we have to be perfect leaders. If we allow ourselves to walk with the Latino community, they will grab our hand and they will help us through the difficulties. Don’t be afraid if you’re Spanish is not perfect. Don’t worry. I’ve often told people just come smile and enjoy yourself. Allow yourself to be able to learn, be open and the Latinos are very forgiving. It’s not about languages, it’s about presence, it’s about showing up, sitting at the table and eating, sharing a broken conversation in Spanglish. It doesn’t matter. It’s a lot of fun actually, so don’t be afraid of showing up, of coming and always trying to do different things. Cherish and promote the of different traditions and popular devotions of the peoples.
Thank you. Can you close with a prayer?
Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for the gift of allowing us to minister to, but also being ministered to by our brothers and sisters from Latin America, the gift of them present in our lives. Thank you for the gift of their devotion and their spirituality that is shared with us in our parishes. Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to walk with them, our brothers and sisters that can teach us so much and can especially keep us grounded in the mysteries of the incarnation at this time. Thank you for the many blessings and thank you for all that you give us, all that you provide for us. We ask you to be with those, especially at this time of the year, who are suffering loneliness, homelessness, or not feeling loved, that we may be people that go to them, go into the peripheries of our cities and towns, not only in search of the immigrant, but also of those who hurt, those who are most in need of your presence, of you Jesus being born in their hearts. In Jesus’ name, we pray, amen.
Amen. Thank you for taking time to share today from your experience
Wasn’t he great? I hope you enjoyed hearing about his experiences too! Here are some key takeaways along with some of my experiences and suggested resources:
1. The tradition of Posadas brought to Mexico by Spanish missionaries in the 16th century continues to be great way to prepare ourselves for Christmas. Here in the U.S. it’s also a great community building activity. At St. Michael’s where I worked, I saw that our Hispanic community grew closer and closer as we celebrated the Guadalupe Novena I talked about in the last episode and the 9 days of Posadas. Since immigrants have come from all different countries and cultures, traditions like this help to build a united faith community. It’s also a fun activity to involve non-Hispanics in to get to know the local Hispanic community.
2. There are lots of great resources out there to help you celebrate the Posadas, I’ve included lots of them in the Show Notes. There is the little booklet Chris recommends that gives a reflection for each day based on a different character (Mary, Joseph, shepherds, etc.). It also includes an explanation in English for celebrating the Posadas, but the reflections are in Spanish. If you’re looking for a bilingual booklet, I would recommend a program by OCP called Las Posadas that has bilingual prayer services with reflections and songs with guitar chords. Besides the book you can buy a CD or MP3 or eBook. I’ve also included links to some of the files I’ve created for handouts and my YouTube playlist of villancicos.
3. It doesn’t have to be complicated. The main thing is to gather together, remember what Mary & Joseph went through, reflect & pray and build community. In the Show Notes are some photos of the simple costumes we would use each night to dress children up as Mary & Joseph. If you have a lot of children who get excited about dressing up you could also have some shepherds and angels accompany them. If you want information about celebrating the Posadas in a school setting check out Episode 2 where Susana Solorza shares what she’s done. I’ve also linked to some statues of Mary & Joseph that you could use during Posadas. At St. Michael’s we would leave the statues in each home overnight and the family would bring them to the next Posada, or we would all walk in procession with them if the weather wasn’t too bad.
4. Don’t forget to include traditions from the countries where your parishioners are from. Chris and I speak from our own perspectives – his from living in Mexico and mine from ministry mainly with Mexican & Guatemalan immigrants. In the Christmas carols, for example, our Guatemalan parishioners always loved hearing the Marimba songs and all the kids loved finishing up with Feliz Navidad and they all chimed in during the English part! But there are many aspects that can be adapted depending on people’s traditions. For example, there is a video in the Show Notes where you can see a town in Guatemala where the tradition is for each house or neighborhood to create a sort of mini-float to carry in the local Posada and during the last Posada they bring them all in procession to the Church.
5. Don’t be afraid! If you don’t know Spanish or you’ve never participated in something like Posadas before, give it a try! Maybe you can find a group nearby that celebrates them to see what its like & then give it a try in your parish, school or diocese. It’s a perfect celebration to accompany our spiritual preparation for Christmas during Advent.
I hope this interview also encouraged you to get involved in Posadas in your area or to start them in your parish or diocesan ministry. If you aren’t sure how to sing the Posadas song there a couple videos linked in the show notes or stay tuned at the end of the podcast to hear Chris sing it acapella with his tambourine.
You can find links to all the resources mentioned in this episode at patticc.com/11.
In the next episode we will continue talking about Hispanic/Latin traditions in December. If you would like to be interviewed for an episode in the future you can find more information at patticc.com/gentepuente. You don’t have to be an expert, you can simply share from your experience something concrete that other Hispanic ministers can use in their ministries. We don’t want to waste our time re-inventing the wheel! Let’s help each other. Or if you prefer, you can share through our Facebook group. There we would love to hear how you celebrate in your community during the month of December and also see your photos of these beautiful traditions. You can find us at www.facebook.com/groups/gentepuente or simply look for Gente Puente on Facebook.
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Thanks for listening today. May God bless you and your ministry as gente puente!
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