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Come with me to Spanish Mass

While most of the Lower Mainland was enjoying the long weekend, going on Easter Egg hunts and consuming more chocolate than the human endocrine system is equipped to cope with, Christians all across Vancouver were going to church to celebrate the resurrection of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Now, being Hispanic (equal parts Ecuadoran and Chilean), I was raised a Roman Catholic, and there are certain times of the year where the good old-fashioned Catholic guilt kicks in. Then the compulsion to sit in a room with strangers for an hour begins to look attractive, or rather, more attractive than feeling bad for not going.

You see, I look at being Catholic like my Jewish friends look at being Jewish. You're usually born into it, and even if you don't really follow the dogma, you're still part of the club. (See: Lapsed Catholic).

I wouldn't go as so far as to say that I'm a lapsed-Catholic. More like an ECRC (that's Easter/Christmas Roman Catholic) in reference to the only times I go to church. When Calgary was still my home and I lived with my mother, we would bundle up to catch the Midnight Mass at Saint Mary's Cathedral every Christmas.

In fact, that last time any church saw me in attendance for worship was back in cow-town almost a year and a half ago when my girlfriend and I were visiting family during the holiday season.

We found a teen romance novel in the pew next to the hymnal called Kiss and Blog. After about five minutes of snickering at the adolescent prose with my older brother and his girlfriend, my mother took that book away from us and we never saw it again. But I digress.

It was Easter Sunday and my mother told me on the phone that she would be going to the afternoon service before heading out to dinner with long-time family friends. My older brother let me know via text message that he went for his "hour of power" the day before.

So if I were to impress my mother in any way this Easter, I'd have to do more than just "go" to church. It would have to be something a little more special than that.

Then it hit me: Spanish Mass. The Holy Rosary Cathedral offered Spanish Mass , and what better sign of respect to my family than to attend worship in the language of our ancestors?

So later that day, I donned my Sunday best and headed out to streets to greet my people. Hispanics are probably the most devout Catholics this side of the Vatican.

I've often heard people say that it's not so much about the values and morals of the Catholic Church, but rather the culture that goes with it. No matter where you are in the world, away from homeland, family and friends, the community and culture of the church will always be the same. Also there's something about having done it for so long, it only makes sense to keep on doing it. Kind of like voting Liberal.

I arrived just after six so that I could get a seat. The weather had cleared from the rainy skies of the afternoon to an early evening calm that saw warm sunshine drench the streets of downtown in a golden glow. A neighbour complained the other day that the rest of the long weekend was going to be crappy. I joked that the sun had gone away on Friday, but would be sure to return on Easter Sunday. She didn't get it. It was a pun.

As I walked up to the cathedral I heard two Mexican guys in front of me worry aloud whether or not the church would be full. It was easy to tell that they were Mexican because of the way they spoke Spanish. Their accent made them add the word "way" after every sentence in a similar unconscious manner that Canadians say "eh" to add emphasis. "Esta relleno, way?"

Their worries were unfounded as we entered the castle-like building on the corner of Dunsmuir and Richards. Although impressive, I've seen cathedrals and basilicas in Latin American that would put this one to shame. The room had yet to fill as I sat down in a pew at the back, close to the door.

At first I only shared my row with a concerned looking woman who had covered her hair with a scarf out of what I can only assume is respect for the Almighty. As the room began to populate with swarthy people that looked like they could be my relatives (on my father's side), I started to notice some differences between this crowd and the ones I grew up with.

For one, the members of the congregation here are much more casually dressed than I would have expected. Jeans and sneakers seemed to be the dress code and I even saw someone talking on his cellphone before mass started. A man with a 7-11 bag filled with potato chips sat two pews ahead of me. A little boy wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt ran up and down the centre aisle. When I was a boy, I'd have to wear patent leather shoes and slacks to church.

Soon the cross-shaped room was stuffed to capacity with dozens of people standing at the back. The priest made his way to the front and began his sermon. About forty-five per cent of what he was understood. I really should have done some homework before I got here. My Spanish isn't all that great.

I only got a C in Intermediate Spanish 2 in college. How do you say "Happy Easter?" I haven't been to a Mass like this since I was a seven-year-old boy in Guayaquil, Ecuador. My nervous mind raced. Surely, I was going to be found out as an impostor and infiltrator. I'd be run out on a rail.

But my anxieties didn't come to fruition. It was more or less the same experience I'd had hundreds of times before: sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, shake hands, eat, kneel, stand. Oh, and some singing and praying, but I didn't know any of the words. Overall, it was nice to experience the culture of my people in a way I hadn't before.

I felt closer to my family. And that felt good.

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