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Jesus the Worker in ‘Misa Campesina’

Plough Music Series

Colin Fields

  • Ovie Cross

    I choose to ascribe God glory in all I do.

  • E. Griffin

    The music is beautiful; I heard a recording of it performed by the youth of Batahola Norte. Most poignant.

In the beginning of time, God ordained that man must work(Genesis 3:19). Anyone who has worked as best they can on a difficult task knows that, through grace, what was established as a punishment for sin can become a means of redemption or an opportunity for love. Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his reflections on the Institutes of Ignatius Loyola, describes this well:

Turn then, brethren, now and give God glory.

You do say grace at meals and thank and praise God for your daily bread, so far so good, but give thanks and praise him now for everything. When a man is in God’s grace and free from mortal sin, then everything that he does, so long as there is no sin in it, gives God glory and what does not give him glory has some, however little, sin in it.

It is  not only prayer that gives God glory, but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a sloppail, give him glory too.

He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should. So then my brethren live.

The dignity of honest work is a theme of International Worker’s Day, which has been marked on May 1 for over 100 years. It is likewise a theme of Carlos Mejía Godoy’s  Misa Campesina Nicaragüense (“Nicaraguan Peasants’ Mass”). This Spanish-language mass, first performed in 1975, broadly follows the form of a traditional mass, but uses Nicaraguan folk-music and homely references as a reminder that the Gospel message is a reality for the poor and the laborers.

The unpolished sound quality on this anonymous Nicaraguan recording is made up for by the exuberant performance:

Vos sos el Dios de los pobres,
el Dios humano y sencillo,
el Dios que suda en la calle,
el Dios de rostro curtido,
por eso es que te hablo yo así como habla mi pueblo,
porque sos el Dios obrero, el Cristo trabajador.

Vos vas de la mano con mi gente,
luchas en el campo y la ciudad
haces fila allá en el campamento para que te paguen tu jornal.

Vos comés raspado allá en el parque
con Eusebio, Pancho y Juan José,
y hasta protestás por el sirope
cuando no te le echan mucha miel.

Vos sos el Dios de los pobres...

Yo te he visto en una pulpería
instalado en un caramanchel,
te he visto vendiendo lotería sin que te avergüence ese papel.

Yo te he visto en las gasolineras chequeando
las llantas de un camión,
y hasta petroleando carreteras con guantes de cuero y overol

Vos sos el Dios de los pobres...

You are the God of the poor,
the God who is human and humble,
the God who sweats in the street,
the God with a rough face.
That’s why I’m speaking to you, and my people too –
You’re the God who labors, Christ the worker.

You go hand in hand with my people,
you fight on in the fields and in the city,
you queue up in the laborers’ camp to get your day’s wages.

You eat snow cones in the park
with Eusebio, Pancho and Juan José,
you even demand more syrup
when they don’t put enough on the first time.

You are the God of the poor…

I’ve seen you in a corner store,
doing business in a street vendor’s stand,
and I’ve seen you selling lottery tickets
without being ashamed of it.

I’ve seen you in the gas station
checking the tires of a truck,
and even asphalting highways
wearing leather gloves and overalls.

You are the God of the poor…

fernandez_vidacampesina Detail from “Vida Campesina” by Fernando Fernandez Bolanos.
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