By Francisco E. Jimenez, Originally Published by The Monitor
(Editor’s note: Thanks to Fr. Kevin Collins, OMI for the “head’s up” about this article)
MISSION — Wiglet and Bendito circle the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church as Father Roy Snipes, Father Richard Philion and a handful of helpers prepare for the Good Friday service.
On any normal celebration of Holy Week, the church would be filled to capacity with worshipers.
But on this Good Friday, one of the biggest congregation days of the year for Christians, the church is empty save for the men of the cloth, Snipes’ beloved canine companions, and a couple of journalists.
The Stations of the Cross, which depict the Passion of Christ, adorn the walls of the old church. These would normally be hidden behind cloths for the extent of Lenten Season, but things have changed. This is what Easter weekend looks like in the era of COVID-19, as social distancing, stay-at-home orders and face masks are now the norm, albeit temporarily.
Known throughout the Rio Grande Valley as the Cowboy Priest, Snipes sits behind a large sheet at the front of the altar, his black cowboy boots reflecting the backlight that casts a cross’ shadow on the sheet.
Wiglet sits at attention at Snipes’ feet, and soon the bells of the church begin to ring to the tune of “Ellens dritter Gesang,” or “Ellen’s Third Song,” more commonly known as “Ave Maria.” The bells’ song marks the Holy Hour, 3 p.m., and is Snipes’ cue that the livestream is about to begin.
“I’m not like John Wayne. I’m more like Barney Fife. When you put the microphone in my face, I kind of get diarrhea of the mouth,” Snipes joked during a telephone conversation Thursday. “I try not to be too incomprehensible, too incoherent and unintelligible.”
The Monitor caught up with Snipes during Holy Week preparations to address the circumstances the current coronavirus pandemic has created, and how people of faith can observe what’s considered Christianity’s holiest day without being near one another.
What message do you have for people who are, for the first time, forced to observe Easter’s holy traditions in isolation?