Tribute to dear Monsignor Jaime, who helped me value faith

By: Sergio Lázaro Cabarrouy Fernández-Fontecha

Cardenal Jaime ortega
Cardenal Jaime Ortega
Cardenal Jaime Ortega

–Mommy, can’t we talk to Monsignor Jaime to change the time of Mass? I can never see the dolls.
I remember my father’s stingy smile and my mother’s quick departure: “Ask for it yourself.”
On Saturday, the Bishop of Pinar del Río arrived a few minutes late for Mass for seven parishioners in San Diego de los Baños: “The dam was growing and we had to turn around. Let’s start the celebration.”
At the end, as was customary, the small community met with the bishop-parish priest to talk and have a juice, which Msgr. Jaime always found very sweet. That day, neither short nor lazy I waited for my “reasonable” request. To which he, in a solemn tone and looking me straight in the eye, replied: “It is good that you have to give up the dolls for coming to Mass. You will have to give up more important things than that in your life because of the cause of Jesus Christ.”
I was stoned and for months I returned to those words, I was not very convinced, until, when I was appointed Archbishop James as Archbishop of Havana, I went to the rematch with the next parish priest, who was also the bishop, and received the same answer.
Life more than demonstrated to me the validity of the words of these men of God, and I thanked him for the Most High to have given me lucidity and strength to renounce the cartoons (my father would never have allowed me to go to obligatory Mass), because certainly, the follow-up of Jesus Christ provided greater trials, and that was a first training.
I remember how the homilies of Msgr. Jaime managed to start the fear of more than one sandieguero, who first sat in the park facing the temple, then at the door, then on the last bench, and finally, on the second or third. I also remember how I was trying to engage with teachers and managers at my elementary school who were trying to get me to abandon my “dark practices, scourges of the past.”
The life of Cardinal Jaime Ortega has been that of a solicitous pastor, who has opted for dialogue with those of all the banks, and has tried the difficult task of serving as a bridge, which, in his own words, is made with the same materials as a wall, but serves to unite separate banks, rather than rise to separate realities. The bridge is made to be stepped on, in contrast to the wall, to stand above people. It is the only dynamic that allows you, years after those “struggles” of the seventies, to approach the same teacher, whose daughter was in the same maternity ward as my wife and say, “I have prayed for Yuly and the baby”, and discover with joy that she says, “How much I thank you!
A Cuban bishop recounted that he had never seen his brother the cardinal as happy as in the days he was in his rural diocese, shortly before his retirement, and accompanied him to communities recently founded in remote places and traditional neglect. “That’s what Jaime was born for!” he said, “to be simply among the faithful, to tell them stories, and to preach. I was happy as a child!”
He has been a close priest, a man of dialogue, a cultivator of the unity of the Church, and a fervent Cuban bent on providing the contribution of the Christian faith to society. In all this he made mistakes, for some, almost as great as his achievements, but he never stopped, as one who perseveres with sailing “sea inland” (Lk 5:4).
Boldness led him to unthinkable things at the time, such as founding periodicals at the beginning of the “Special Period”, mediating in the harsh Cuba-U.S. to restore diplomatic relations, or founding a Center for Superio-res Studies to continue the educational work that Father Varela founded in the same building.
The Lord, in his infinite Mercy, now receives the thug who was born in Jagey Grande on 18 October 1936, son of Adela and Arsenius, who answered God’s call to be a priest, to whom he was en charged with high responsibilities, and for whom, knowing himself as insufficient ultimately, he chose as his motto: “My grace is sufficient” (2 Cor 12.9).

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