An unusual burst of summer hit Washington, D.C. the third week of March, temperatures in the high 80s catching all of us by surprise as we gladly shed sweaters and heavy winter coats. Even the cherry blossoms were fooled, coming into their glory two weeks before the annual festival to celebrate them.
So it was rather shocking to awaken on the morning of March 24 and see the snow coming down in big, wet flakes. We tried not to let it dampen our spirits as we made our way to St. Aloysius Church.
Half an hour before the commemorative prayer service on the 10th anniversary of the assassination of El Salvador's Archbishop Oscar Romero was to begin, the downstairs sanctuary of the church was already full. Twenty minutes later, it was announced that a couple hundred people were still outside in the snow, unable to find space in the church. We moved in one great mass upstairs to the drafty, cavernous sanctuary that sees little use these days. Within minutes, this sanctuary was also overflowing.
The only creature that didn't have to wait patiently for the stream of people to make its way inside was a pigeon. It flew in the back entrance to the front of the church, where it perched on a ledge that circled the base of the sanctuary's huge dome.
The gray bird distracted the attention of many of the worshipers. A man standing in the aisle near me commented, "It's too bad it's not white -- that would make it a dove, a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. "
The large Salvadoran family sitting in the pew behind me overheard the remark. The father of the family said to the man, "But in El Salvador the doves are gray and brown -- so, you see, it is a sign of the Holy Spirit. "