Sunday thoughts: February

By Monsignor John Devine

Julio looked about 90. He was probably in his late 70s but people age more quickly in Peru. There is a Julio figure in every parish, one who is always around the church. Opening up and closing; putting out the vestments; changing the altar candles; refilling the votive light stands; turning off the lights. But Julio took things to another dimension. He lived in the church and slept in the choir loft.

Julio had fallen out with his family. He had plenty of money but didn't trust his family to give him a decent funeral. So he had already bought his coffin. And where did he keep it? In the choir loft. And he slept in it each night.

One day he told me where he wanted to be buried. I asked him to take me to the spot. It was right in the middle of the sanctuary. It was never good to say 'no' in Peru. It always caused offence. And so I agreed to think about it and do my best to carry out his wishes when the time came. Julio died a couple of years after I left the mountains of Peru. I'm sure his final wish wasn't granted.

At the beginning of February we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. Simeon's last wish is fulfilled. He lived to see the salvation that had been prepared for all the nations. Then he was ready to die. I think of Julio when I read about Simeon. Most churches have an Anna as well. They are the soul of our churches. They can be eccentric, but if I ever get to heaven it will be on the back of their endless rosaries.