Felicitas Burga, a lay minister at Mission Dolores, remembers observing Lent as a child in Peru. The family celebrated by praying and eating distinctive food like the salted fish dish of bacalao.
Eating beef and pork was forbidden during Lent. Nowadays, children and seniors are allowed to eat meat.
Burga and others who observed Good Friday at Mission Dolores on Friday talked about the season of Lent, the 40-day period of prayer and abstinence that begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday.
“You give up something that you normally like to do,” said Robert Huerta, who attended the Friday service. People give up such vices as smoking, drinking beer, or eating candy, he said. It is meant to be a sacrifice that helps renew one’s faith. It is a period for “The Latino community to recharge its battery,” he said.
“We are in mourning for Christ’s death,” Burga said of Good Friday. Worshipers break the Friday fast by eating a light meal at noon. They are supposed to rest, read the bible and get ready for Easter, she said.
“The first year here I was upset because I had to work on Good Friday,” said Marta Pereyra who said that in Peru people rested and prayed on Good Friday.
Salvadorians follow similar traditions. A lifetime churchgoer Luz María Grande said people are in a period of “beef abstinence” and prayer.
To allow reflection, she said, followers are restricted from listening to the radio and music on Good Friday.
“I remember the sound of rattles in the streets calling people to gather at church for prayer,” said Margot Dubon from her days in El Salvador. People dressed as if they were in mourning and kids weren’t allowed to run around and curse. “People were very quiet this day,” she said.
Although most parishioners are adults, some youngsters also follow the traditions.
Accompanied by her mom and siblings, teenager Grazie Farila from the Philippines said she has observed Good Friday since kindergarten. Nowadays she helps during Mass doing small chores like holding the bible for the priest. She enjoys the rituals such as going to church, praying and fasting but said she was still too young to consider herself a true devotee. “I just do it because it’s a family tradition.”
Narciso Valencia said he remembers how back in El Salvador on Holy Thursdays and Good Friday the radio only played “sacred” music. Michael García said, “I try to be a good Catholic, Good Friday means to be closer to my religion, to myself.”
“By celebrating his [Jesus] death we remember to be better Christians,” said Cristina García. “We stop doing things we enjoy like watching soap operas and listening to music. It is time to show our devotion and go to church.”