Palanca or Memento?
Do you have an envelope or bag at home filled with things from the weekends that you have been involved in? Do you go back and read these items over and over again? Well I do, and I can tell you I cherish each one of these memories. They give me strength when I am down. They give me encouragement when I need a push. But are they palanca or just souvenirs or mementos? The answer is, it depends. So let’s make sure we all agree on what palanca is and is not. From some of the things that I see today, I am not sure that the distinction between palanca and memento is clear.
So what makes anything palanca? The answer is very easy. Palanca is sacrificial. In some small way it demonstrates the sacrifice that Christ made for each of us as he gave his life that we might be saved. If your palanca is not sacrificial, it is not palanca. It may be a wonderful gift and very inspirational, but if it did not require sacrifice, it is not palanca. Given that very simple requirement, let’s examine some palanca practices and see if they pass the test.
Is prayer palanca? That one is easy. Prayer is sacrificial and is palanca. It takes your time and energy in an important and beneficial way. It takes a real and conscious effort to pray for pilgrims on the weekend and thus prayer is palanca. In fact, it is the most meaningful form of palanca.
Let’s try another. If I buy and give a bookmark to a pilgrim, is that palanca? The answer is no. The bookmark could, however, become palanca. The key here is making this a sacrificial gift. In that sense almost anything can become palanca. Suppose I pray over that bookmark and ask our Lord and Savior to use it to mark the passages that he knows the owner will need to guide her in her life. At that point I would say that this is palanca. The moment we make our gift a sacrificial one it becomes palanca. It becomes an example of our servanthood for Christ and that is a key distinction between palanca and memento.
One more. If I sit down and make crosses for the pilgrims on a weekend is that palanca? The answer here is yes. If you give, as a servant, of your time in creation, then the thing that you create is palanca. But, be careful. Do not make this what I call “incomplete palanca.” You really need to make it complete. You need to take a few minutes, each day of the weekend, to pray that the sacrifice you made will be an example to the pilgrim in his/her life. You see, the intent of palanca is not to make things, but to be an example of Christ-like servanthood. You are trying to demonstrate, through your actions, the sacrifice that Christ made for each of us. This is indeed a tall order.
One final example. When I spend significant time writing personal notes to people who are attending weekends, is that palanca? Most certainly it is. We all know how much time and effort that takes. It is certainly sacrificial. It does demonstrate the act of servanthood and can be easily enhanced by prayer to under gird what we write. This is a great form of palanca but, some of us are not gifted in the writing area, so don’t consider this the best or only form of palanca available. It is just one of many. Creativity can be unlimited in palanca. One great suggestion I heard is the donation of time at a soup kitchen in the name of a pilgrim. A great act of servanthood.
Does this focus on sacrifice mean that the remarkable and wonderful technology we have at our fingertips cannot be used to create palanca? Of course not. The key here is that technology can assist us in creating the means to inform others of our palanca but is not the palanca in and of itself. Let me try to clarify that. Downloading palanca from a well-intentioned web site and printing it is not palanca. You can turn that into palanca by adding the element of sacrifice to the gift. Suppose that you download a beautiful poem and graphic from a palanca web site. I might do this because I am creatively challenged. What I have here is the start of a great palanca project but it is not complete. I must then make the sacrifice. I must demonstrate my servanthood. I could do this by adding a note to the page telling the pilgrim that I will be in prayer for them for an hour during their weekend. When I then complete my commitment by praying for the pilgrim and sacrificing my time in servanthood, I have genuine palanca.
I think at this point you have picked up the common threads. They are PRAYER and SERVANTHOOD. These are clearly sacrificial and thus they are palanca. If your palanca can pass the test of these elements, then it is true palanca. If it cannot, it is not palanca, and it is only a pretty gift or trinket.
In closing, I would like to reiterate one point. Prayer is the ultimate palanca. We all know that prayer drives our movement and our local weekends, but it also is key to the fulfillment of the weekend for each pilgrim. I would trade a hundred mementos for one hour of sacrificial prayer. Think of the memento as the notification tool for your prayer sacrifice, and you can’t go wrong.
Mark Carnes, National Palanca Chairperson, National Lutheran Secretariat