Perú was dodging us, making it very difficult to find what we were looking for. It is said that after an arduous search a big reward is achieved, this is what we were aiming at. Slowly, after many coincidences, we reached Father David, a “good” crazy guy, who is also a priest, 51 years old with over 15 living in Perú. It’s been almost a year that he has been visiting the countryside and the small settlements surrounding the Titicaca Lake, close to a little town named Chucuito, located 3,800 meters up high in the mountains. But this is only his headquarters, given the fact that he crosses the countryside many kilometres every day, whether it is cold, hot, blowing strong winds, raining or even snowing. Useless are the suggestions from local people who wouldn’t leave without their hat or coat; he only has one objective in his head and it is to reach the sick people to assist them during their last days.
The old people are his weakness, and are those who need his assistance the most; this is why for many years, in another Peruvian city he used to do the same: he would get to the main park of the city with his car and ask where he could find the sick and senior citizens. Like a condor that flies over and finds its prey, this is his thirst to find souls who needs to be healed before being taken by death. He reminds us: “Assisting an old person, giving him/her the last sacraments so he/she may have a good death, pleases God more than any other activity I may accomplish, because this person can really be saved”.
This is how he became known around the town, seeing him going through the countryside, crossing the shepherds and his sheep, not caring how the weather was (hard and rainy winters, sunny and hot summers), bringing bread and juice for the old people. After the ‘Good morning’, he would show his cross and ask right away “Do you want to have the Confession?”, insisting upon it. They would look at him strangely while they took care of their sheep or clean their little farm. But he doesn’t waste time going around the bushes. His mission is crystal clear and he doesn’t care what they may say about him. His objective is no less than Saintliness, and he works day and night for it. His feet are his way of transportation and his Rosary his propelling force. He doesn’t need anything else.
Father David never thinks about his own needs, there is always someone before him; that’s why he has so many Guardian Angels. The deacon Aurelio makes sure that he eats and doesn’t go so much under the cold and rain; nevertheless David gets away with it and goes out to visit a sick person far away and during the night. His other Guardian Angel is the Rosary group, 12 women who apart from saying the rosary, they visit the nursing home. They inform him of the sick people in the community and go with him during his visits to the old people. Berta, Nieves and Cristina, three members of the Rosary group, admit he has an extraordinary strength, “He goes by without eating, walks at night, under cold weather, he is the only one who walks like that, and we never had a priest like him! He doesn’t think about himself, and when we tell him to be careful going out by night he answers back: But I’m not alone, I’m with the Lord, nothing will happen to me”. They tell us admired that once they saw Father David praying at the door of a house. Later they found out that he was praying because they wouldn’t let him inside the house to visit Ms. Rufina, who was very ill. Soon after, she passed away and when they were carrying her coffin to the Parrish of the Assumption, a strong storm unleashed and with no available keys to enter the Parrish everybody run away looking for shelter. Father David was the only one left next to the coffin, he was praying while everybody was looking at him like he was crazy, until the rain stopped. He wouldn’t even use an umbrella; he wanted to be in the same condition as the others who didn’t carry one. He explains naturally: “When one mixes prayers and sacrifice, then God will listen to you and it stops raining”.
Of course, many believe him to be crazy, because he honestly thinks the way he lives, lives the way he thinks and is really faithful to what he thinks, something impossible to most of us. He doesn’t waste his time, when his greeting is dismissed or the doors are closed at his face. He is peaceful, he just prays, doesn’t keep any hard feelings, because he knows that the harder it is, the more worthwhile it is; “The bigger the cross, the bigger the merit.” This is how he lives, placing all his trust in God, letting him be guided by God in rains or thunders. In summer it rains almost every day, and if he is told that he is getting wet, he says: “Well, it is going to get evaporated!”.
David tells us about his childhood, born in a traditional family of Burgos, Spain. He was the eldest of five brothers and he would receive most of the spanking from his father, which made him think of not getting too attached to this world and see beyond it. He found a book at the library of his house that started to transform his life little by little, softening him and making him cry at the sweetness and compassion of the Virgin Mary in a very old edition of ‘The glories of Mary’ by San Alfonso Ma. De Ligorio, year 1932. “It struck me hard; I started to get filled by God, each time more and more.” He studied Physics Sciences by paternal demand until he realized that his true passion was somewhere else; then he entered the military service until he was asked to leave, and then he couldn’t help but follow his vocation even when it was totally against his father’s wishes. He chose a congregation of Jesuit lines, very strict, traditional and demanding to become a priest, feeling that it was his place in the world. He learned the true sense of obedience until he completely assimilated and lived it with natural dedication. The day of his ordination he asked for: “the grace to be always faithful, because that is Saintliness. I live in the presence of Virgin Mary, I’m his slave, I ask her what to do, I offer myself to her and through her to Jesus. I want to be always faithful in the small things, reaching for perfection, being in constant presence of God.”
He admits that it is hard for him to live in this world, that’s why he tries to get away as far as possible: “The Saint is radical, God doesn’t want half-hearted actions, Esther you are cold or hot, either you fall in love with God or you fall in love with the world”. His radicalism is such, that once he had gone to Laraquire to celebrate the Eucharist the following morning. When the night fell, he remembered that he hadn’t brought his prayers book and not having access to internet, he traveled to Puno, the closest city, hitchhiking and searched all around the city in need of a computer to be able to pray. Many places were already closed because it was very late, while others would treat him like if he were crazy. He just wanted to pray before one in the morning. He finally found a computer with internet and was able to make his prayers. He still had to go back 40 kms, which was harder as it was even later in the night and not many people were traveling that road. Around 4am, he knocked the door at a house asking for a blanket; he was invited inside the house and still he would talk about Jesus and encourage them to formalize their union in front of God. He was able to sleep one hour and went out again on the road without so much success, until he finally saw the minivan that makes that journey on a daily basis and didn’t mind being squeezed in so he could go back to the town. He really strives for perfection, imitating the Saints to an extreme, “denying nothing to God, looking for perfection, even if it is crucifying, always for the Love of God, if not, there is no sense in so much sacrifice.”
Some may call him wild or even a sorcerer (the people over there are very superstitious), but we really feel in the presence of a “good-crazy” guy. One who doesn’t think about “what they will say” but in “what He will say”. There were so many “good-crazy” guys who had lived in this world, so many saints who were branded as lunatics that we wouldn’t be able to name them all. St. Francis of Assisi gave up everything and walked across the countryside preaching the Gospel of Christ living only on charity: a madman. The Wise Men left their lands, abandoning everything they had to follow a star for over a week, asking everywhere where was Jesus born, even facing Herod who had killed families: more madmen. St. Joseph taking Mary as her wife, while she was pregnant: Madman!
We went with Father David during his visits and met Juana and Mariano, an old couple who were very old, weak and humble but despite all, were getting married that Sunday. They were happy and we shared breakfast with them. Juana spoke Aymara and a little Spanish and she could make herself understood with hand gestures and her “iuspagara” (Thank you) at our humble gift of tuna, cookies and candies. “A gesture is worth more than a thousand words” and her wrinkled hands wouldn’t let ours go. Mariano wouldn’t stop thanking, with teary eyes, to Father David for helping them get married, and Father David would answer him with no filter whatsoever: ‘Mariano, please don’t die before Sunday!’.
Father David sums it up easily: “Life is like a big stage play, one plays the role of the King, another one the role of the cook and another of the page; whoever plays it to perfection will receive the applauses in Heaven, why would it matter if you are peeling potatoes all day if you are doing God’s will? What better happiness than fulfilling it till it is perfect?!” So being faithful to his words, we helped Father David with his ant’s work, searching for the Birth certificates of Juana and Mariano to get everything ready for their marriage. We looked up in books from 1930 to 1935 trying to give him back some of the time he had dedicated to us.
After finishing, the agenda sitting on the parish desk showed an anonymous sentence in bold (January 23): “The person who has faith, has to be prepared, not only to be a martyr, but also to be crazy.”