The Ecuador Chronicles - 2009-001
San Marcos Church;
And a Friend of the Pope
by Ray Almand
San Marcos is one of the oldest areas of Quito, with the beautiful old church at its center:
San Marcos Church - Beautiful and Historic
I had occasion to visit the church in October 2008 for the Christening of little Francois, the newly born son of my partner Matt and his wife Amparo. The church was constructed between 1597 and 1684 - one of the oldest in Quito. About 30 or 40 people had gathered for the occasion. We were all standing in the center aisle talking as the ceremony was about to begin. I ended up seated at the end of a pew by myself - there were some people a few seats down, and an older couple right behind me.
Inside the church - Alter; Christening Area is to the Left
The Priest, the alter boy, the parents, little Francois and the godparents were all gathered around the christening area in front of the alter to the left. A little while into the service a large, white dog came out from a side entrance and began to prance around the alter area - he would lie down like asleep, then roll over, then prance around some more; people were starting to snicker - the dog was stealing the show. I thought the Priest would send the alter boy to shoo the dog away - but no; the dog continued to have his fun.
It was all just too much for me. I glanced up at the white dog and then leaned back toward the older couple behind me and, refering to the dog I said: "Espiritu Santo" - it means "Holy Ghost". The poor lady looked horrified. Across the aisle my friend Juan and some others had heard me, and laughed - a little too loud; the Priest gave them a harsh look. These weird thoughts that go through my mind - sometimes I should just keep them to myself!
At the end of the service as we were all leaving, Espiritu Santo ran out ahead and began playing in the pretty little park in front of the church.
The Park at San Marcos Church
After the service we all went to Matt's newly restored home a few blocks away. Matt made a nice, welcoming speech from the balcony overlooking the courtyard and invited everyone to eat. It was a four course meal, wine, champagne - great service, a wonderful afternoon. But every now and then I would hear someone say "Espiritu Santo" quietly, and there would be laughter, or someone would look at me and whisper it laughing - but it left me feeling uncomfortable. I was thinking: "Time to get over it" - but at that point I had no idea what I had done; I did not know the whole story - I would not find out for a few months.
And Now, as Paul Harvey Might Have said:
The Rest of the Story
I was back in Quito a few months later in January, 2009 with my wife, Dalynda and my mother-in-law, Lilly. We were having dinner with Matt and his family, and Juan, at Pizza, SA - a great pizza place on Calle Espejo, a pedestrian street a couple of blocks off Plaza Grande. We were having great conversation, a kind of strange mixture of sometimes Spanish, sometimes English that we often get into. The story of "Espiritu Santo" came up; Matt and Amparo did not know about it - they had, of course, been at the front of the church the whole time. They had noticed the white dog.
Matt and Amparo thought it was funny, but then Juan dropped the bombshell. He said: "Matt, do you know who Ray said that to - the people who were behind him?" Matt asked who it was, and Juan said a name (which I don't remember). Suddenly Matt - A Serious Catholic - had a Worried and Serious look on his face. He looked at me and said: "Ray!!" - and then just as suddenly he began to laugh - I mean really laugh like nothing I have ever seen before; he could hardly stay in his chair. Tears were rolling down his face - he pulled out a handkerchief to wipe his eyes. Every now had then he would say: "Ray!!!" , but that was all he could get out. We were all laughing, without even knowing why. Amparo said she had never seen Matt like this.
Finally he got it out: "Ray, do you know who that was behind you?"
"That gentleman was the Ecuador Ambassador to Rome - to the Vatican - he is best friends with the Pope!!"
I stopped laughing - now I was the one with the Worried and Serious look.
Matt, of course, tried to reassure me: "Ray, he probably went straight home, called the Pope, and told him whole story; don't worry - I'll make sure he gets your name!"
As Walter Cronkite might have said:
"That's the way it was in Quito, Ecuador - January, 2009"
Later I went back to the San Marcos Church to take pictures; I ran into Espiritu Santo - he, of course, declined to be interviewed - but I did get some photos:
Espiritu Santo - Taking a Break
Alert, Ready when Duty Calls
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