Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rain, rain go away

It’s been raining – more than usual for this time of the year. Until yesterday we have had few days with sunshine and almost no days without intense rains.

It’s normal to have intense rainstorms this time of the year – but usually the sun is strong for the morning and part of the afternoon. This dries out the earth a bit. But this year continuing rains and days without sunshine have saturated the earth.

And so this year the rains have been disastrous in our area. Parts of roads have been washed out; other parts have collapsed.

Landslides have been common. In a few places they have left huge boulders in the roads.

In several areas the road bed has dropped several inches.

In some places the road has turned to mud and it is nearly impossible to get up the hill.

I have even heard that houses have been affected and even a small dam has been breached.

Some areas are almost incommunicado. Busses are not running in many places and so people have to walk or find a ride in a pickup.

Some of these are natural disasters, others have human causes.

There is one place where the municipal government bought land to make a football (soccer) field for the village. They leveled it off, but left huge boulders near the side of the road. As the raids began in earnest, the road became increasingly muddy. About two weeks ago I mentioned to someone that this was a disaster in the making. Yesterday, passing by the site, I saw the first disaster. The hillside had moved, leaving a huge breach above and even moving several trees. Before two cars could pass, but now only one – with difficulty. When I returned in the afternoon, the only change was that the trees had been cut down. The mayor had not sent any heavy machinery to try to move the mud and widen the passage.

Well, Saturday morning, the disaster worsened. A huge rock had fallen onto the road and passage was impossible. I tried twice – but it was too narrow. Cars lined up on both sides and some men came out to try to widen the road. They even tried to move the rock, but without success. Finally, I could get through. As I drove toward Dulce Nombre, I came across a bulldozer that was going toward the site. 

When I returned from the meeting they were working on the road – moving tons of earth.

Why is it so bad?

People tell me this year there has been more rain than normal. Is this another example of the effects of climate change? Also, there has been a lot of deforestation – often connected with planting coffee, often done after burning the fields.

Also, as far as I know, there are no environmental laws that govern the construction of buildings and the use of land. If there are, they are not enforced.

Also, in several municipalities there is poor maintenance of the roads. Maybe they don’t have money, but in two municipalities there was money to construct decorative stairways that go nowhere.

I do have to say that at least one of the municipalities seems to be responding well. Last Wednesday the road in Candelaria was impassible, because a hilly section had turned into pure mud. Yet later that day rocks and gravel and dirt had been spread on the area and heavy machinery had flattened it out. It’s not perfect, but cars can pass.

In contrast, there were places that looked as if there would be a disaster if nothing were done. Nothing was done – and the road was impassible for several hours. I could pass this morning only because of the efforts of several men trying to move a rock and others trying to widen the passageway by picking away at the earthen sides of the road.

It’s not that there is not the know-how here to do things well. Sometimes the poverty or the diversion of funds by crooked politicians affects the quality of construction. Also, there seems to be a lack of looking for people who know how to deal with issues like susceptibility to landslides, firmness of the earth, etc. Sometimes it’s looking for a short-cut to get something done – at times because it would slow down a project (which a politician wants to have done to ensure re-election). Sometimes it’s just laziness. Sometimes it’s the greed of large landowners who cut corners and create dangerous situations.

There are other reasons. I invite comments to help us understand what’s really happening and why.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Muddy shoes and mission

In Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, 45, Pope Francis wrote about muddy shoes.
We see then that the task of evangelization operates within the limits of language and of circumstances. It constantly seeks to communicate more effectively the truth of the Gospel in a specific context, without renouncing the truth, the goodness and the light which it can bring whenever perfection is not possible. A missionary heart is aware of these limits and makes itself “weak with the weak... everything for everyone” (1 Cor 9:22). It never closes itself off, never retreats into its own security, never opts for rigidity and defensiveness. It realizes that it has to grow in its own understanding of the Gospel and in discerning the paths of the Spirit, and so it always does what good it can, even if in the process, its shoes get soiled by the mud of the street. (Italics added.)
Today I almost got stuck in the mud in nearby Candelaria.

I was planning on getting to Santa Rosa de Copán for a few errands, but as I approached the hill down to the clinic in Candelaria, I had to stop. The road was practically impassible. Because of the intense rains, a large patch of the road was pure mud and deep ruts.

I left my car there and walked and hitched a ride to the church in Candelaria since I had to return a monstrance I had borrowed for Corpus Christi. On the way back I ended up sinking in the mud, almost to my ankles, at the side of the road.

Now I could have gotten down the hill in four wheel drive, as several trucks did. 

But I decided to return home, since I had no assurance that I would be able to get up the hill in the afternoon. One car tried and had to be pulled out of the mud.

I stayed around the area for almost an hour, talking with people, many of whom know me (though I cannot remember many names or even where they are from). For me just being there was very important, experiencing a little of their lives and frustrations. I returned to Plan Grande, giving a number of people a ride in the back of the truck.

Muddy shoes are the mark of a rural missionary. They can always be clean, but I may not always have the great blessing of being able to stand around with people and talk about the weather, the roads, and whatever else in on their minds.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Celebrating Corpus Christi, the Eucharist

The feast of Corpus Christ, the celebration of Christ present in the Eucharist, is very important for people here in our parish. 

In several places in the parish, where there are Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, the Eucharist is reserved in the town or village church. Most of these churches celebrated the Forty Hours devotion from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. This devotion, recalling the approximately forty hours between the death and resurrection of Jesus, used to be common in the United States. I remember it from my youth. Here it Is much more common even today. Usually a priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister exposes the Eucharist in a monstrance and people in the town or village take times to be present and pray. I passed by the church in Plan Grande several times during the Forty Hours  - to pray in private the Liturgy of the Hours – and I always found people praying, often in a profound silence.

Since the extraordinary minister in neighboring Candelaria was gone, they asked me to expose the Eucharist for adoration on Friday. I arrived at 3:00 pm in a pouring rain. After exposing the Eucharist, we spent about thirty minutes in silence and in several prayers, including a reading from the Gospel and prayers of Saint Francis and Blessed Charles de Foucauld.

Saturday we had a meeting of the parish pastoral council. During the meeting, Padre German gave an extended catechesis on processions and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Recalling the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas he noted that the Eucharist brings, in Spanish, una gracia cibativa, which sustains, increases, develops and repairs life. With this grace we live in Gdd, we let ourselves be loved by God, and we love our neighbor. There was more, but I was impressed, especially with his emphasis on the importance of receiving the Eucharist often. Later, affirming my suspicions, I noted that the Latin word cibare refers to feeding or, in the passive, being fed.

In the afternoon I was going to go with Padre to the sector of San Isidro where they had planned a procession from Yaruconte to Dolores, a walk over dirt roads of several kilometers. But we had to suspend the procession, because of the strong rains which would turn the road into mud – which would be especially difficult ascending a hill. They had had such a procession a few years ago. Here are a few photos, which concluded with Mass and First Communions in Dolores.

This year there was only a Mass that evening in Dolores. Padre German had only four or five Masses planned for Sunday.

Sunday morning I got to Candelaria at 6:30 am to put the host in the tabernacle. As I drove over I thought that maybe we should have a short Celebration of the Word with Communion – even though I had to be in another village at 9:00 am. I thought that it only seemed right that they should have the opportunity to receive the Eucharist on the feast of Corpus Christi. When I arrived, I asked them if they’d like an opportunity to receive Communion. Yes, they replied. So after prayers, including the Canticle of the Three Young Men in Daniel, from Lauds, we had a short Celebration with Communion.

I only used the Gospel in the Celebration and gave a short homily, noting that the Eucharist is Jesus the bread of Life come down from heaven which recalls that Jesus is God made flesh who came down from heaven to be with us. The Eucharist is our food, given to nourish us.  The Eucharist is given to us not only to look on and adore, but as food for our life in God.

I hurried to Bañaderos, giving about eight people a ride in the truck. When I got there I was in my worst “in-charge” mode, trying to make everything work well (as I understood it).

There over seventy people from the sector had gathered – from eight different villages. We began about a kilometer from the church and walked in procession, singing hymns and praying the glorious mysteries of the Rosary. We stopped at five altars where we prayed using themes from the recent pastoral letter of our bishop.
Deepening our encounter with God through the Word of God.
Living the sacraments as encounters with God.
Strengthening the family as “domestic church,’ gathered around the Table of the Eucharist.
Caring for our “common Home” where God reveals his glory.
Living the Eucharist in lives of charity and justice.

(The Spanish text can be found here. An English version is here.)

When we arrived at the church, we had a Celebration of the Word with Communion, outside. I was impressed at how well and prayerfully Erasmo read the long Sequence. After Mass, I found out that he has only had three years formal education, but has been reading the Bible and materials related to his ministry in the village where he lives, San Isidro La Cueva.

After Mass, I left quickly since I was planning to go to Mass in San Agustín. Of course, I had a few people in the car.

As I was driving through an Isidro la Cueva, after leaving off several people, I heard a loud noise in the car. I stopped and opened the hood to survey the damage – one of the fan belts was broken and wrapped around a part of the ventilator fan. I removed it and as two young guys stopped to help we found another fan belt that had fallen off. Luckily the car still worked and it wasn’t the ventilator fan belt – just the hydraulic brake and air conditioning bands. So I got home, where I discovered that I had a nearly flat tire – and what looked like a brake line leak. With the help of a neighbor’s son-in-law, we got the tire changed.

Monday I got to Dulce Nombre where the tire was repaired and a mechanic put in two new belts and also replaced two balineras (ball-bearings).  The leak y the tire was oil from the differential which leaked out because of a broken balinera.

Though Sunday afternoon I was a little worried about the car, there was a deeper cause for sadness.

I had been looking forward to Mass on Corpus Christi. Even though I had received Christ in the Eucharist two times, I still had a longing for the communal celebration of the Eucharist. But what struck me in all this was my longing not just to be fed the Eucharist but to pray in a full scale celebration of the Eucharist at a Mass with a community.

I wonder how many of the people here also experience this longing. It is good to receive Christ in Communion, but maybe something is lacking when people don’t have enough opportunities to celebrate together – nourished by the Word of God and the Eucharist around the Table of the Lord.