Catholicism on a corncob

Saturday, 29 June 2013


ANCASH - PERU

We crossed the valley with the orphan boys and hiked up to the village of Llanlla, where Padre Johan would guide them through confession. The kids lined up outside the village church, and were given a check-list of sins to tick off whilst the Padre explained all of the possible variations and definitions of each sin.
"Using bad words - that's a sin." he explained. "Thinking bad words - that's a sin. Looking at girls - that's a sin. Imagining girls - that's also a sin."

The boys stared at their feet as he spoke. Rain clouds began to form over the mountains. A congregation of girls were led out of church by another Padre with hairy nostrils, prompting the boys to break out into a gratuitous bout of play-fighting.

"Eh basta!" yelled Padre Johan. "Es un peccato!"

The boys were led into the church single file, as an elderly Peruvian lady with leathery skin came out of an adjacent hut. She walked over to a number of tarpaulin sheets which had been fanned out along the ground. Dotted all over the tarps were hundreds and thousands of corn kernels that had been drying in the sun. Slowly, whilst shooting worried glances at the darkening sky, the woman began to gather the kernels into large heaps before scooping them into straw sacks.

The hairy-nostrilled priest sat and watched the lady from under a nearby tree.

The lady tried to hoist one of the sacks onto her shoulders, but buckled under the weight of the corn. She dropped the sack onto the floor and briefly glanced around, looking for help. All of the young men were busy in the church, however, learning how to recite magic words in the right order. The older and stouter men were in the workshop, using their strong hands to make huge wooden statues of Jesus on the cross. And the man of the cloth was busy using his heightened senses of priestly perception to enjoy the floral smell that was emerging in the humid air.

The woman allowed half of the corn to spill out of her sack onto the dusty ground, before hoisting the remainder back onto her shoulder and staggering away in the direction of the mud hut that was her home. The priest with the hairy nostrils smiled in a sagely manner, marveling at how life always finds a way. The elderly lady came back to crouch stiffly on her hands and knees, and begin collecting the spilled corn.

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