Friday, May 22, 2015

Romero presente

 I spent time in El Salvador during the war, mostly on short visits. But in  1987 I spent two months in the urban parish of San Roque, in a zone affected by the 1986 San Salvador earthquake. Occasionally I would walk to the cathedral to spend time at Archbishop Romero’s tomb which, at that time, was in the upper church in the cathedral.

Yesterday, I went to visit his tomb, now in the crypt of the cathedral. I had to wait until it was opened at 2:00. I decided to walk around the block. Thirsty I stopped to get a lemon ice.  Next door, there was a booth selling bootleg music. They were playing songs about Romero, but as I listened  I heard a part of Romero’s last public homily, the day before he was martyred. 

I would like to make a special appeal to the men of the army, and specifically to the ranks of the National Guard, the police and the military. Brothers, you come from our own people. You are killing your own brother peasants when any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God which says, "Thou shalt not kill." No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. The church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to face the fact that reforms are valueless if they are to be carried out at the cost of so much blood. In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression.

This would never have been heard in the 1980s. In fact, having images of Romero would often make you suspect by the Salvadoran military. But here, Romero's voice was present in the streets of San Salvador.

A little after two o'clock, I entered the crypt and found a group of Salvadorans around the tomb, with a few people from the Romero Foundation. 

One woman spoke of her suffering and a man sang what I think was his composition on Romero: a martyr of faith, a martyr of love, defending the poor.

I stayed and prayed - surrounded by God's people, the poor.

Romero is present here.


A video of the song:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Saint Oscar Romero de las Américas

I’m in El Salvador for the beatification of Archbishop Romero on Saturday, May 23. San Romero has been proclaimed a saint for many years by the people of Latin America. The Vatican is slowly catching up. He will be proclaimed blessed Saturday.

My first surprise was at the border between Honduras and El Salvador. In the Salvadoran migration office there was a picture of Archbishop Romero prominently displayed on the wall. A mere picture of him would have made one a suspect by the Salvadoran military in the 1980s.

Today I went into the city of San Salvador to buy some books and other materials. It was a marvel to see the images of Romero on the streets of the capital.

I also got to the UCA – Universidad Centro Americana - the Jesuit university, and visited the site of the 1989 martyrdom of the Jesuits.

I passed near the site of the beatification near the Monumento Divino Salvador and took a few pictures.

I also got the tomb of Romero where a group of campesinos was gathered to hear several testimonies and a song in honor of Romero.

A good day.

Tomorrow night there is an all night vigil which I’m still not sure if I’ll attend. Then there’s the beatification ceremony on Saturday.

But for me one of the most significant moments was meeting with Padre Pedro Cortes, a priest who is really committed to the poor and knew Romero. He was the priest I worked with during the two months in 1987, which were my first pastoral experience in Latin America.

When I got back to Suchitoto, where I’m staying, I had pupusas with several sisters, one of who is here. During dinner she noted that the sculpture over Romero’s tomb is solid metal, as if some were trying to keep Romero from escaping from the tomb. But today Romero is escaping in the lives and in the memories of so many people who have come to honor him.


Photos from my visit here will be found in this album.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A deacon candidate

Yesterday, May 16, I was accepted as a candidate for the permanent diaconate in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras. 

The rite took place in the parish church of Dulce Nombre, at the Mass where Padre German Navarro was installed as pastor.

The rite is very simple, but as I stood before the bishop, I had a sense that this is serious stuff.

There are two questions, both of which might seem a bit innocuous:

My son, the pastors and teachers in charge of your formation, and all those who know you, have given good testimony [a favorable account] of you, and we have fill confidence in their thinking.

Are you willing to respond to the call of the Lord, carrying to completion your preparation in such a way that you become fit to receive, when the day comes, sacred ordination and to exercise that ministry in the church?

I am willing

Are you willing to go forward preparing yourself in spirit in such a way that you can serve faithfully Christ, the Lord and his Body, the Church?

I am willing.

The bishop responds:
The church receives your decision with joy. May God, who initiated this good work in you, bring it to completion.

This is serious stuff. It’s not merely study; it’s formation – conversion.

It’s not a question of having an official function in the church.

It’s about taking on the calling of Christ as servant and letting oneself be open to the God who wishes to form us and the church in the image of his Son, Jesus, the servant, the diakonos, the deacon.

To begin to respond to this call, I am off this morning with the Eucharist for a Celebration of the Word with Communion to the village of El Zapote Dulce Nombre.


The Spanish ritual for the admission of a candidate for the diaconate reads:

Querido hijo, los pastores y maestros a quienes se encomendó la tarea de tu formación y todos aquellos que te conocen han dado de ti buen testimonio; yo, por mi parte, confío plenamente en este su parecer.

¿Estás dispuesto, pues, a responder a la llamada del Señor, llevando a término tu preparación de tal forma que llegues a ser apto a recibir, cuando llegue el día, la ordenación sagrada y ejercer así el ministerio en la Iglesia?

Sí, estoy dispuesto.

¿Estas dispuesto a ir formando tu espíritu de tal forma que puedes servir fielmente a Cristo, el Señor, y a su cuerpo, que es la Iglesia?

Sí, estoy dispuesto.

La iglesia recibe con gozo esta tu decisión; y Dios, que comenzó en ti esta obra buena, él mismo la lleve a término.

The English reads a bit differently:

My son, the pastors and teachers in charge of your formation, and others who know you, have given a favorable account of you, and we have full confidence in their testimony.

In response to the Lord’s call are you resolved to com­plete your preparation so that in due time you will be ready to be ordained for the ministry of the Church?

I am.

Are you resolved to prepare yourselves in mind and spirit to give faithful service to Christ the Lord and his body, the Church?

I am.

The Church receives your declaration with joy. May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.

More photos can be found on my photo site here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Saint isidore and Honduran farmers

San Isidro Labrador, 
ponga la lluvia 
y quite el sol. 

Saint Isidore the Laborer,
bring on the rains
and turn off the heat. 
a very free translation 

 Today is the feast of Saint Isidore the Farm Laborer and is celebrated, especially in rural areas, throughout the world – especially in Latin America and in the US. Here people pray for rain and for an end of the dry season.

Today I went to the village of San Isidro La Cueva for their celebration. I’d been there two years ago and wanted to be with them again.

They started with a long procession – with an image of San Isidro, singing and saying the rosary. Their intentions reflected the needs of poor rural communities.

Seeds to be blessed - in the shape of a heart
At Mass, seeds were blessed for the harvest. Padre German helped the people think of the seeds as the seeds to promote life in the community. They are not merely seeds to harvest more corn or beans. They are meant to give life to the community.

I spent lots of time talking with folks and playing with babies. No, I am not running for public office. The kids were very outgoing and one little girl hugged Padre German during Mass.

It was good to be there.

This time of the year can be quite beautiful, despite the lack of rain.

The dry season usually ends here in western Honduras in May.

But as May comes along, many bushes flower.

The acacia trees – also called fire trees – comes out in their glorious red splendor. I have seen a few absolutely gorgeous trees but didn’t have a chance to take a photo since I was driving.

The coffee bushes are also in bloom. The coffee flower has an incredible smell that reminds me of the honeysuckle that my neighbor had when I was growing up.

But it is also a time of ugliness.

In the last few weeks I have seen land devastated by fires that people are setting to clear the land. I have also seen a lot of cutting of trees. What a waste – and for what?

I do not know who is doing this slash and burn – but a few years ago when I spoke about this some people claimed that much of the devastation is wrought by large land owners – to plant more coffee or to expand land for grazing cattle. I do not know if that is the true situation but I believe there is at lest a grain of truth in it. I do know that some of the poor do burn the land to clear the weeds and the underbrush but I do think the burning of vast tracks of land may be the work of the large land-owners.

What a disaster this might be for the people here – in terms of drought, higher temperatures, and danger of landslides.

So today I invoke the intercession of St. Isidore to not only bring on the rains but to turn around these practices that so devastate the earth and turn the hearts of people from the avarice that takes over more and more land, that devastates the land for the sake of gain, and that does not care how Mother Earth is treated.

San Isidro Labrador,
da a todos un amor
por la tierra, y el valor
de luchar contra el destruidor .

St. Isidore the Farm Laborer.
give everyone a love
of the earth and the courage
to struggle against those who destroy.

Image of St. Isidore from Yaramanguila, Intibucá, Honduras