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Swear to God

10 July 2010

Mark Lacey had an article — and a video that I can’t embed — in the New York Times looking at Father Frederick Loos and his unusual preaching style at Mexico City’s Iglesía San Hipolite.  I wrote about San Hipolite — which has a long, long, long tradition of serving the city’s more recalcitrant souls (starting out as the world’s first alcohol rehab back in the early 16th century) back in 2004.  Lacey focuses on U.S. born Father Loos’ potty-mouthed prayers (“God, I fucked up!”), but the Clarentians who have served San Hipolite since about the 1920s, have always seen their mission as serving the religious needs of the poor and outcast.  And, being the world’s champion swearers, preaching unto the nations in Mexico sometimes requires a slightly less prissy use of the tongue of Cervantes.

One thing worth noting.  Drug addicts in Mexico are not the same as drug addicts in the United States.  Narcotics use is not much tolerated (even marijuana smoking is considered declasé) and the addicts in the video are mostly glue sniffers, not cocaine or heroin users.

The congregation is drawn from a very large metropolitan area.  It’s not as if the area around Metro Hidalgo is a narcotics bazaar, although it is a good place to pick up a nice San Judas statue.  You get a crowd on Saturday nights for early Mass, but the only reason to bypass the church is that San Hipolite isn’t JUST for junkies, but — as a shrine to San Judas Tadeo (the patron of both “hopeless causes” and as the friend of the friendless, something of a “mainstream” Catholic counterweight to Santa Muerte) — attracts other congregants like prostitutes, petty thieves and … policemen.  I’ve always thought of it as the Church of Cops and Robbers, and admit, I’ve been reluctant to tour the shrine, although it has some of the more colorful fiestas in all of the “real Mexico”.

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