Russell Schulz-Widmar, associate professor emeritus of Church Music at Seminary of the Southwest, asked my permission several years ago to include a meditation that I had written on the hymn, Profetiza, as part of his book, Praises Abound, published in 2012. Russell’s book is a compendium of reflections and meditations written by his students and based on hymns of their selection while enrolled in the seminary. I wrote my meditation based on the hymn, Prophesy! composed by Rose Martha Zárate, which is part of El Himnario (page 265).
This meditation comes to mind as we are about to enter into Hispanic Heritage Month at Southwest, which has had a historic and prophetic role in the field of Latino ministry and related studies. The seminary is called to this ministry because of its geographical location and because it has always been at the forefront of Latino studies. And for me as a proponent and advocate of the church needing to adjust itself to a new paradigm of Latino and Hispanic ministry, the words of Profetiza are so apropos.
Actually, my original meditation came unexpectedly during a seldom and rare mystical moment as I was reflecting and meditating on the words of Prophesy! It was in the wee hours of the morning when I was tackling my assignment. I was meditating on the key parts of the hymn, which say:
“Prophesy, my people, prophesy one more time, that your voice may be the echo of all people in oppression. Prophesy, Hispanic people, prophesy one more time, announcing to the poor a new society. Prophet, I consecrate you. Let there be no doubt or fear as you journey to your mission.”
Unexpectedly my exegetical meditation took the form of a dialogue with that mysterious commanding Voice that seems to dominate the center stage of Profetiza. I wrote: “It is a timeless Voice that has the full sweep of history at its command. The Voice sounds like it has raised up prophets before.” Suddenly as I am writing the words, I find myself enveloped in the presence of the Voice. The feeling was one of peace and awe and of a profound feeling of weightlessness. No longer am I meditating on the words of Profetiza and hermeneutically analyzing its content. It is a raptured feeling of union with that Sacred Voice that speaks without speaking. I rarely have had those profound feelings of reaching into my finite and innermost center where the Infinite resides.
I also heard my mind saying, “Identify yourself. Aren’t you that tortuous and nagging Voice that brought me kicking and screaming to seminary? I am beginning to see who you are. I am beginning to recognize your graceful footprints! You keep jolting me out of my lethargy. And you keep repeating the words, ‘I consecrate you. Be true to your mission.’”
During this annual commemoration of the Latino/Hispanic culture and its contributions to the eclectic and evolving reality of our multi-cultural country, the words of Profetiza remind us of the prophetic role that Latinos have in enhancing, enriching and salvaging the Episcopal Church in many areas of the country. The first-generation Latinos in the U.S. have tangentially added a colorful, joyful and lively liturgy and music to a largely American, Anglicized church. On the other hand, the acculturated second and third-generation Latinos have the potential of bringing a bicultural richness and much needed injection of Espíritu y Gracia to the Episcopal Church that needs its prophetic and historic role as a global, missionary church restored.
The words of Profetiza keep nagging us to action, “I consecrate you, be true to your Mission,” but we can ask ourselves the questions:
Does the church have the humble ears to listen to the Voice?
And if we do listen, do we know where to start?
Al Rodriguez is a 1996 graduate of Seminary of the Southwest and served primarily in parish ministry culminating with his fifteen years as rector of St John’s Episcopal Church in Austin. Al is interim director of the Hispanic Church Studies and is part of the adjunct faculty at Southwest focusing on ministry among multi-generational, U.S born Latinos.