Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mass of Thanksgiving

When it was finally decided that Bishop Darwin Andino would ordain me deacon on Friday. July 15, Padre German said that we should have a Mass on Sunday where I would preach for the first time as a deacon. I agreed but insisted that this was a Mass of Thanksgiving for my ordination as a permanent deacon.

The preparations began early. Saturday a group of women began to prepare the meal for all those who would attend. When I arrived early Sunday morning they were at work, preparing several cauldrons of a type of beef stew. More than 1000 people were fed after Mass. Also, a special meal was prepared for about 30 special guests, with lots of meat. I, of course, ate none of the meat, vegetarian that I am.

For the Mass, we brought two altar boys from the nearby municipality of Concepción. A communion minister from Dolores helped with the incense. Several people from various communities proclaimed the readings and led the Prayers of the Faithful.

I wore a green dalmatic, a gift from the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas made by Marianne Today, and Padre German Navarro wore a new chasuble made from the same material and embroidered by a woman in the parish.

The Mass began with a procession in which I carried the new Gospel Book. The deacon proclaims the Gospel and can preach.

One of the moving parts of the ordination rite was when the bishop handed me the Gospel Book and told me:

Recibe el Evangelio de Cristo,
del cual has sido constituido mensajero,
ten presente que debes
creer la palabra de Dios que proclamas
y hacer de ella norma de tu vida.

Receive the Gospel of Christ;
You have been constituted as its messenger.
Be aware that you ought to believe the Word of God that you proclaim
and make it the norm of your life.

The English version, which in this case I prefer, reads:
Receive the Gospel of Christ,
whose herald you now are.
Believe what you read,
teach what you believe,
and practice what you teach.

When he began Mass, Padre German noted the importance of combatting domestic violence and abuse of women. I was very pleased to hear this since the good collected at the ordination Mass went to Casa Hogar, a shelter in Santa Rosa for abused women. Also, I had recently heard of a horrid case of abuse. Mentioning this touched me and challenges me  to be more attentive to this.

The Mass proceeded normally. I proclaimed the Gospel and gave the homily. It can be found here in Spanish, and a first draft in English here.

There was a procession of offerings, which is very common here. 

First of all, Phil Barutha, visiting from St. Thomas Aquinas, brought up a signed banner which we affixed to the wall. 

Then gifts were brought representing the deacon’s ministry in service of the poor and in service of the Word. Then, to my surprise, children dressed in typical garb brought forward a gift for me. I was stunned.

Then, finally, a family brought forward bread and wine for the Eucharist, remembering that the deacon also serves at the altar.

During the offertory, the deacon adds a drop of water to the wine. The words prayed during this simple action have often struck me, especially the English translation:
By the mystery of this water and wine
may we come to share in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
Christ took on our humanity so that we might share in His divinity. He emptied Himself so that we would be transformed into Him. The call to downward mobility, which Jesus shows us, is the path whereby we are lifted up. I think this is an important message for us deacons (as well as for all Christians.)

After the gifts are prepared, the priest incenses the gifts and the altar and the deacon (or another person) incenses the priest and the people, as a sign that they are set aside to offer (and be the offering) of a sacrifice to God. I got carried away when I incensed the people and almost lost the censer. One disaster avoided.

As I was preparing for the diaconate, I noted that the deacon is an ordinary minister of Communion, especially of the Cup of the Blood of Christ. At the end of the Eucharistic prayer, he lifts up the chalice. I insisted at this Mass that I hold the cup while the priest and the communion ministers served the people with the Body and Blood of Christ by intinction (dipping the host in the precious blood.)

At the end of Mass, a few words were said by Padre German, Phil, and two members of the parish. Then we went forth. The communion ministers distributed holy cards I had had printed and the people ate and had their full. After numerous photos, I went and ate with a smaller group.

It was a day of deep joy, mostly because I saw so many people coming together to pray and give thanks. Reflecting on the Mass, I think that this was really a time of prayer and reflection. I did not feel as if it were a celebration of me – thank God. I hope that it was for the many who came a way for all of us to celebrate the gift and call to serve God and the People of God, especially the poor.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Celebrating the Virgin of Carmen in Debajiados

When I learned that I would be ordained a deacon on Friday, July 15, I was very happy that this would occur on the feast of the great Franciscan, Saint Bonaventure. A return to my Franciscan roots.

The parish of Dulce Nombre de María, where I have helped since October 2007, had decided to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, July 16.

That left July 16 without anything planned.

But July 16 is a special day here, the feast of our Lady of Mount Carmel, a feast special for the devotees of the brown scapular.

There are three places in the parish which have a church dedicated to La Virgen de Carmen. My one wish was to first exercise my diaconia during Mass in Debajiados, one of the poorest and most remote villages in the parish. I have been there at least four times before, including one Ash Wednesday and Good Friday in 2013 and this year.

Phil Barutha, a visitor from the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, came on his own to accompany my ordination and he is going around with me in my ministry.

He and I got to Debajiados a little before 10 o’clock when Mass was scheduled and so we had time to walk around and talk with people. A group had come for Mass from a nearby village. They belonged to another parish and had not had a visit from a priest for 18 years. (That may be soon changed.) One of the young women wanted a photo with Phil and me – for the social media!

Padre German finally arrived and he proceeded to hear confessions. So Mass didn’t start until after 11:00.  An auspicious beginning to my first full Mass functioning as a deacon.

I proclaimed the Gospel for the first time, aware of the privilege. 

I distributed communion (and we almost ran out of consecrated hosts!) 

After Mass we had a tasty squash seed soup in the best house in the village.

When I arrived, I asked Juan Ángel, who is preparing to become a Communion minister, if his parents would be at Mass. He told me that they are still sick and so I offered to take them communion. So, after eating, Phil and I headed out with Juan Ángel and other folks.

The last time I had made this trip I went on horseback. This time I drove about a third of the way and then we walked – more than half an hour, mostly up hill.

Sweating a bit, we reached the house of his parents, Juan Antonio and Reina. I entered, we talked, and then we prayed and I gave them Communion. Juan has trouble with inflammation and his wife is still suffering after an operation for uterine cancer almost two years ago. The pain was evident on her face. But, as we talked, they shared their deep faith in God, in the midst of suffering.

Before I left I concluded our prayer with a blessing.

Preparing for the visit I had looked at a book on pastoral care of the sick, noting a short ritual for bringing  Communion to the sick. I realized that I as a deacon could bless them.

I reflected that, when I give a blessing as a deacon, I am not giving them my blessing. I am a channel for the blessing of God through the entire People of God. The blessing is from the whole Church – not from an individual. (That merits another blog post.)

I pray that the blessing of the Church that I shared with them helps them live with more consolation and courage than before.

We walked back – a beautiful landscape, though in the midst of poverty.

Juan Ángel then gave me a sack of beans and we gave him and a son a ride up the hill and down the hill (about 30 minutes) to a nearby town.

Juan Ángel and his son Ever, with Phil
Juan Ángel and his parents were blessings for me. They help me see what I am called to as a deacon – to accompany the poor and suffering, to bring Jesus in Communion to them, and to share what I have with others – as a poor man shared with me.

This was a great way to celebrate my first full day as a deacon – learning to serve God and the poor, among the poor.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Agradecimiento de un nuevo diácono permanente

Hoy, el 15 de julio de 2016, Monseñor Darwin Andino me ordenó de diácono permanente  de la diócesis de Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, en Cucuyagua, Copán. Un joven fue ordenado presbítero en la misma misa.
 Al fin de la Misa ofrecí estas palabras de agradecimiento.

 Hermanas y hermanos: Quiero saludarles con la saludo de San Francisco: ¡Paz y bien!

Hoy es un día especial en la diócesis de Santa Rosa de Copán. Monseñor Darwin Andino me ha ordenado el primer diácono permanente de la diócesis en este año centenario de la diócesis.

Ser diácono no es un honor, ni un privilegio, ni un premio, ni un prestigio, ni un asunto de poder.

Ser diácono es ser llamado a vivir, en una manera profunda, la llamada que todos hemos recibido en nuestro bautismo: ser incorporados en Cristo – profeta, sacerdote y rey-servidor. En una manera especial es una llamada a lavarles los pies de los demás y entregar la vida con Jesús hasta la cruz.

Papa Pablo VI dijo que el diácono es “animador del servicio” de todos los fieles. Como un signo del Cristo Servidor, el diácono permanente, debe mostrar en su ministerio en enlace del altar – la mesa del Señor – con la mesa de la vida cotidiana, especialmente la mesa de los pobres y marginados.

El diácono asiste en el altar en la Eucaristía y por eso estoy llamado a dar gracias – porque la palabra Eucaristía quiere decir “dar gracias”.

Primeramente quisiera dar gracias a Dios por llamarme, con todas mis debilidades, de servirle a Él  y al Pueblo de Dios en una manera nueva.

También debo dar gracias a Monseñor Darwin Andino – y a Padre German Navarro – quienes me invitaron a discernir si Dios me llamaba a ser diácono permanente. A pesar de no ser digno, me ha llamado.

También, tengo que darle gracias a Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos que me aceptó a ayudar en la diócesis y me apoyaba desde mi llegada en 2007. También le agradezco a Padre Efraín Romero por invitarme de trabajar en la parroquia de Dulce nombre de Copán.

Gracias a Dios por todos los que me han inspirado a servir a Dios y su Pueblo, especialmente a los pobres. Mis padres fueran ejemplos de amor al prójimo y a los necesitados. Varios profesores han sembrado semillas de diaconía en mí, desde el colegio. Cuando trabajé en la parroquia de Santo Tomás de Aquino en los Estados Unidos – casi 24 años – encontré muchas personas, especialmente universitarios y universitarias, que me inspiraron con sus vidas de entrega a los pobres. También una pareja que sirvió en Bolivia y El Salvador me ha apoyado por su ejemplo y su consejo.

Aquí en Honduras y en El Salvador he encontrado a muchas personas de fe que viven una vida de servicio, especialmente en la parroquia de Dulce Nombre de María; no puedo faltar de darles gracias.

También, quisiera dar gracias a dos comunidades de franciscanas en la diócesis que me han inspirado y son mi familia -  las franciscanas de la Inmaculada, especialmente Sor Inés y Sor María Jesús; las Franciscanas de la Sagrada Familia, especialmente Hermanas Nancy, Brenda y Patricia. Su entrega a los pobres me da fuerza para seguir adelante.

Hay muchas más personas que debo agradecer. Perdóname por no mencionarles a ustedes.

Entonces, estoy muy agradecido.

Pero no podemos vivir nuestros compromisos bautismales y no puedo vivir mi promesas diaconales sin la ayuda de Dios y de la Iglesia.

Por eso, les pido – oren por mí.

[1]Pone de manifiesto la vinculación que existe entre la mesa del Cuerpo de Cristo y la Mesa de los pobres”. (Directorio del Diaconado Permanente)