What are some of THE most important things in human life? I suspect the most truthful answers come from someone who has had enough time to meet death face to face and dialogue with it and comes back to tell the story! In the last two months some such profound answers emerged from the lips of 33 ordinary men - Chilean mine workers as they were rescued from 2300 feet under the earth after the longest underground entrapment in human history at the collpsed mine of San Jose.
OUTSIDE - What it evoked in the world...
- One of the first things the miners’ relatives did at the pithead, while it still looked as though they must be all dead, was to set up a statue of St Lawrence, patron saint of miners. The Chilean president, Sebastian Piñera, named the rescue mission Operation San Lorenzo, in honour of St. Lawrence.
- Employers asked forgiveness to the miners for the mishap.
- Each miner recived a rosay blessed by Pope Benedict XVI, who said he is constantly praying for them. In thanksgiving the miners sent him a chilean flag signed by each of them from thier rocky purgatory.
- Catholic youth from Uruguay sent a statue of Our Lady to the 33 saying “We pray for your liberation and we ask the Virgin Mary to intercede before her Son and to give you courage and hope to get through these difficult times.”
INSIDE - The heart of this unfloding "sermon"
- Esteban Rojas aged 44 - a maintenance mechanic told Jessica Ganiez with whom he's been living-in for 25 years and have three children - When I get out, I want to marry you in the Church.
- Nasa doctors' survival advise - no alcohol, no cigarettes underground.
- A crucifix had already been sent down, but the men requested that statues of Mary and the saints be sent down as they turned a section of the chamber they are in into a shrine where they can pray.
- The oldest of the trapped men - Mario Gómez, aged 63 who has survived a previous a mining accident years ago that severed his fingers and mutilated his hands, took upon himelf to be a father to the 33 and took charge of thier spiritual needs, leading them in prayer.
- When it was annouced to them that their imminent rescue was to be one by one, a heated argument arose underground as to who should be rescued first. When the health minister questioned them, it turned out that each one insisted another be the first to be rescued.
- The first words of Mario Sepulveda to journalists after his rescue was: "I was with God, and I was with the devil, But God won, I held onto God's hand, the best hand, and at no point in time... did I doubt that God wouldn't get me out of there."
What a profound lesson in Chariry and the power of the Risen Christ and as The Guardian put it, that beacon of hope, (from) the shrine set up in a corner of that unspeakable underground hell. "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." (Matthew 11: 25).