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Miners as Metaphor: Hope Rescued from the Mine in Chile, World Invited to Begin Again

By Deacon Keith Fournier
October 14th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The miners have become a metaphor. They emerged from the darkness of what could have been a tomb. Instead, it became a womb of rebirth. Miner Mario Sepulveda, speaking to the International Press put it so simply, "I was with God and with the devil. And I reached out for God."  Now, it is our turn to do the reaching.

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile (Catholic Online) - Like the rest of the world I awakened with the plight of 33 miners in Chile immediately coming to my mind. I had drifted off to sleep last night praying for the success of the rescue mission which had already begun.

Throughout the evening, as time zones allowed, people of every nation watched, almost as sentries. Then, with the fresh light of dawn, I awakened to the colorful collage of safety jacket orange and celebrative flags illuminated by the sundrenched backdrop of the Chilean desert. Hope sprung forth from that dark mine and lit up the whole world.

The entire event seemed almost surreal.

It was as though it were all planned to inspire a global community enmeshed in cynicism, despair and fatigue. These 33 miners, trapped in the womb of the earth since August 5, 2010, began to emerge, one by one, before the eyes of one billion people throughout the world.

The best of humanity contending with what has seemed for so many as the worst of times; and goodness, faith, hope, love, virtue, human ingenuity and collaboration won the day. The events in the Chilean desert have already had an extraordinary impact.

Yet, the rescue - and its aftermath - has only just begun. These miners and their stories of courage, faith and perseverance will become the source of much needed reporting, prose and poetry - right in the nick of time. 

It is as if we were all born again as that rescue tube brought them, one by one, to the surface to embrace their wives, children, neighbors and countrymen. The light of promise lit up the darkness of despair. Hope emerged from that mineshaft in Chile and the whole world seems renewed.

President Pinera of Chile told the more than 1,000 reporters gathered from the International Press "Chileans and the entire world are not going to forget this night.. When Chile unites, and it always happens in adversity, we are capable of big things." He was wearing the red jacket which he wore just after his Nation survived the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in February.

Standing next to him was Bolivian President Evo Morales. The youngest of the miners rescued is a Bolivian, 23 year old Carlos Mamani. The political relationship between these two Nations has already changed as a direct result of their response of solidarity in the face of adversity; a lesson for other Nations to follow. Solidarity is the path to peace. 

As the day unfolds, the world will put aside much other news. What, just yesterday, seemed to be of such pressing importance, now dwarfs in light of the amazing lesson on display in the desert of Chile. What really matters in life has overwhelmed everything else. We are joined together, with one another, and we are our brother and sisters keeper.

Around the world, from schoolchildren to Heads of State, to Patriarch and Pope, persistent prayers have been offered on behalf of these miners. Heaven was besieged. In an age where it seemed like men and women had forgotten God, clearly, God has not forgotten us. We, along with all of those miners and their families, have been given a fresh start and an invitation to begin again.

The Chilean desert around the mineshaft has become a place of pilgrimage over the last 69 days, with its makeshift shrines and altars on display for the world to see. Overt signs of faith were naturally woven in with overt signs of brotherly and sisterly solidarity, compassion, affection, warmth and human dignity. Perhaps it will help bring us back to reality.

The miners have become a metaphor. They emerged from the darkness of what could have been a tomb. Instead, it became a womb of rebirth. To borrow the words of the President of Chile and expand them, "we are capable of big things". That is, when we turn back to the source of our greatness and rediscover what matters most. 

Miner Mario Sepulveda speaking to the International Press put it so simply, "I was with God and with the devil. And I reached out for God."  Now, it is our turn to do the reaching.

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