In 2004 I won an award in the VII Journalism Contest “Anniversary of New Word”, in the genre article, with my work entitled “My friend the priest”, which was published in one of the issues of the magazine of the same year. How can I think of that moment that today would take up the subject because that priest, the central figure of the article, would no longer accompany me? I would feel debtor, if I did not dedicate these lines to you in the same Catholic outreach body where those words I wrote – without desire for prize – are preserved, for Cuban ecclesial historical memory, but derived from my desire to witness to our enduring friendship.
This time, my encouragement to write is very different. I write saddened, very saddened. I’ve lost my friend Mario, my brother Mario, the priest Mario, Mario. His death surprised us, surprised me, lacered me deeply; I still can’t believe it, I even keep on my cell phone his last message sent the day before the terrible accident and where he announced his arrival home for the usual visit, which allowed us to enjoy his presence, while we remembered our childhood and adolescence experiences. Unfortunately, the visit was not made and will no longer be repeated. I synthetically translate my feelings, evoking the bitter verses of the Spanish poet Miguel Hernández: “So much pain is grouped on my side, / that by hurting my breath.”1
On the day of his death, I remained accompanying his immobile body in the early morning, sitting on a church bench in Alquízar, far from the capital and with parishioners and faithful friends, those he sowed with his priesthood years, with his sometimes exultant personality and in others well-off. On that fateful day, he had officiated Mass in the morning and was traveling to the capital when he suffered the car accident, the deastrous accident that snatched him forever. I saw him born—next to my burrow house—and I never imagined I’d see him die from that surprise death that moved him to the Father’s house.
During the ceremony at the Cemetery of Columbus, the words of Cardinal Jaime Ortega were well felt, simple, full of love and recognition of his thirty-eight years of uninterrupted priesthood. Also, before his open grave, the words expressed by Msgr. Ramón Suárez Polcari about his personal characteristics and priestly performance were very sincere and emotional, and the prayers, psalms and prayers that surrounded the moment of his descent to earth were very sincere and emotional.
I loved him for being a human person, loyal, honest, helpful, frank, selfless, without burdening us with complaints and regrets, without displeasure, without asking for anything. I remember how fondly and warmly homely we celebrated at home on her birthday, however, in her innate generosity, she always showed up with a gift for the hostesses.
I have no doubt that this moment of sadness will disappear over time, because I know that from its height it will help us, and we will have your permanent company. No matter what those people think about it, as Church Doctor Edith Stein put it: “they have no organ to perceive the spiritual values of the soul.”2 Requiescat in pace my friend Mario, my brother Mario, the priest Mario, for me and for my family, simply Mario.
I conclude this sincere post-tum tribute, with the textual transcription of these words printed on a Chinese invoice ornament and which I keep as one of your precious gifts:
What friendship is
Is… a door that opens,
an outstretched hand,
a smile that encourages you,
a look that understands you,
a word that encourages you
a review that improves you.
Is… a hug,
a round of applause that rejoices you,
a favor without reward,
an un demanded give,
an uns calculating delivery,
a wait… without tiredness. Ω
1 Miguel Hernández: “Elegía”, in Poetry, Havana, Editorial Art and Literature, 1976, p. 225.
2 Edith Stein: Epistolar Selection 1917-1942, Madrid, Editorial of Spirituality, 1976.