November 17, 2012

San Roque on Tour

Our neighborhood is celebrating the birthday of the saint it's named for today.  Roque González de Santa Cruz was a priest born here in the 1500's who founded many of the Jesuit reductions.  He worked extensively with the native tribes.  He was martyred by a chief, and if you're so inclined, you can visit his heart and the murder weapon in the Chapel of the Martyrs in Asuncion.

Paraguay has a town named for him, he's the patron saint of several cities (including Encarnacion), and, as I said, our neighborhood carries his name--Barrio San Roque--and boasts a beautiful cathedral and a high school also named for him. The pope recognized him in 1988, making him the first Paraguayan-born saint.
Iglesia San Roque Gonzalez
San Roque Cathedral, about a block from our house.

San Roque in life-size statue form made his processional tour through the streets of our little corner of the world a few days ago, flanked by a few of his friends.
San Roque leading the pack, followed by a photo of the priest, and Mary with Baby Jesus in her arms.

Some extra saints that neither I nor the neighborhood kids at my side, recognized.

I was sure this was the statue of an eagle, but the kids with us insisted it was the Archangel Michael.

We'd seen this procession before, when we lived in Barrio San Jose.  (Jose--That's Joseph, earthly father of Jesus, for those of you who aren't up on the translation of Biblical names.)  They walked our guy through the dirt streets atop a pole, followed by singers and well-wishers.

At the far right of the photo, half-way down, you see San Jose standing on a bed of flowers. The folks following him were singing--sometimes called a "processional chant".
The parade takes place after the saint visits several homes throughout the neighborhood for a night or two at a time.  This is called the Pilgrimage of the Saints.  At each stop, the statue is given a prominent place in the front of the house, atop a table with flowers and sometimes fruit.  The people of that home and those nearby have a special time of reciting prayers each evening, then pass Jose on to the next place.  On the actual birthday, the walking parade gathers participants, who end at the chapel for a special mass.

We're a little more "uptown" here, so San Roque went to the city government building this week instead of individual homes, along with the other saints pictured above.  Folks visited him there, and then about 30 cars paraded him and his friends through the streets, as singers and musicians in the backs of trucks announced his presence. This morning, a special mass was held in his honor.

SIDENOTE:  Many times, babies born on a particular saint's day will be named for that saint.  For example, a boy born on November 17 may be named Roque, and a girl, Raquel.

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