Rodriguez: Saints live up to their names
I was sitting on the couch with Mom when the late night breaking news of Princess Diana’s death broke in 1997. This past weekend, Mom and I watched round-the-clock coverage of another iconic death, that of Juan Gabriel. And we also watched the canonization of the iconic Mother Teresa.
Mom and I have shared many of these tragic moments in television history, and also, with the latter, some blessed moments.
Mother Teresa is now officially a saint. And the late Mexican Elvis Presley, Juan Gabriel, has practically been made a saint too, after almost a week of non-stop coverage since he died of a heart attack in California on Aug. 28. It required a juggling act for Spanish TV as I observed mom watching newscasters flip back and forth from the memorial concerts and crazed fans of Gabriel to the legacy and love of Mother Teresa.
I thought Juan Gabriel was the Elton John of Mexico. It turns out, he’s more like the Elvis Presley, with everyone knowing at least one of his songs, and plans now in the works to make Gabriel’s Juarez home into a museum, like Graceland.
I remember mom and dad spinning Juan Gabriel’s albums of catchy and memorable songs like “Siempre en Mi Mente,” and “El Noa Noa,” and one too many times, I sang Gabriel’s infamous “No Tengo Dinero.”
Interestingly, Mom told me that Gabriel, who spent part of his childhood in an orphanage, gave lots of money to orphanages. And that brings me to Mother Teresa, who is known now as “Saint of the Gutters.” That doesn’t sound flattering, but this beloved nun from Calcutta, who believed everyone deserved a dignified death, didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize for nothing. She didn’t wait for things to happen. She was the great reformer, not comforter, a person who got to the root of the cause, and often that took her to the innermost slums where she served the poorest of the poor. And so it was no surprise to me when Sister Margaret told me on the phone last week that after the Mass of Mother Teresa’s canonization in Rome, where Pope Francis officially declared her a saint, the blue and white robed sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, which Mother Teresa started, served pizza to 1,500 homeless people who were bused into the Vatican and given seats of honor at the Mass.
Meanwhile, a continent away, in Mexico, dignitaries of the musical kind were given seats of honor, and the stage, as they memorialized Juan Gabriel in a way reserved only for musical legends of their own time.
From saints to stars, our media has a way of prolonging the life of an unforgettable name, whether they set out, like Juan Gabriel, to touch people one song at a time, or like Mother Teresa, one person at a time. She once said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time. And always start with the person nearest you.”
Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at: [email protected]