Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christ is risen in Dulce Nombre

The Easter Vigil is the most solemn and important liturgy in the Catholic Church, commemorating that Jesus who died is now risen.

“Cristo es vivo” resounded in the church of Dulce Nombre several times on Saturday evening.

I have no idea how many participated, but several women spent most of Saturday making 1300 tamales and there were only less than 100 left (and some people didn’t eat.)

The liturgy began in a football field about two kilometers from the church. When I arrived a fire was blazing and people were gathered around.

At about 6:45 pm, Padre German blessed the fire, then blessed the Easter Candle and shard the light with the crowd who walked to church.

I drove and waited since I had not been feeling all that well.

The liturgy proceeded with the singing of the Easer Proclamation. All the assigned readings were proclaimed with psalms sung.

Padre German began his sermon recalling what he had said the day before. There are five diabolical enclosures (cercos): poverty, ideological structures, classism, a feeling that there is no sense to life, and living without God. (He later told me that the loss of a sense of life and living without God were combined in his original homily on Friday and he had added another enclosure: the destruction of the environment.) The resurrection is God’s response.

After this the baptism began. About 60 mostly young people were baptized.

It was moving to watch the various reactions of those being baptized – some with hands at their sides or with one hand in a pocket, several with open hands joined together in front, one with his hands folded in prayer.

What I also noticed was the reaction on the faces of many of them. Perhaps it was because of the cold water, but I saw some smiles of joy as the last words of baptism were said over them.

The baptized were not confirmed, because the bishop here reserves confirmation to his visits to the parishes.

The baptized received their first communion.

The liturgy ended about 1:00 am. Though it was more than six hours, I did not have the sense that it was long.

Most people went home, though a few stayed overnight because they lived so far away.

There was one event that threw the shadow of the evil of violence over the celebration of the risen Christ. In Dulce Nombre a young man was knifed by someone upset that the person had been seen with the attacker’s girlfriend. The man was taken to the hospital in Santa Rosa and the attacker was apprehended by the police.

But the signs of life abounded, even in the face of violence.


More photos of the Easter Vigil can be found in this set on my Flickr site.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Good Friday of the crazy drunk

After staying overnight in Dulce Nombre, on Friday morning I went to Camalote for their Via Crucis. They didn’t have a copy of the parish’s Stations and I had left my copy at home. So we improvised – reading the stations from an i-Pad!

After the Stations I went to Don Rodolfo’s house and laid down fro about 90 minutes. I was exhausted. Later talking with him I found out he was 76 years old and had 2) some great grand kids. I would have guessed he was in his mid or late sixties.

After my siesta I went to Pasquingual, a small town. As I arrived, my friend Olvidio came out to great me. The Stations were ending and so I headed to meet them as they walked through the community.

We celebrated the Office of the Passion about 15 minutes after the Stations ended. We needed the time to arrange readers. Since I wasn’t feeling well and my voice was weak, I left almost all the readings and prayers for the people.

What really surprised me was the quality of their reading – especially the three guys who read the Passion. Often people stumble over words or run the sentences into each other. But here almost everyone read very well, including two young kids.

For me, a moving part of the Good Friday service is the Veneration of the Cruz. I watched as people came forward – old men and women, kids, young men, and all the rest to reverence the cross.

At the end a drunk who had been hanging around came forward and knelt before the cross, crying.

After the service, I found out that he wasn’t from the community. He came up to me several times and began to talk. At one point he said that he knew that he was crazy: “Soy loco.”

I immediately responded to him, “You are not crazy; you are a child of God; God loves you.” Yes, you have troubles, but God loves you. I asked his hims name: Cristobal - Christopher.

I urged him to find an Alcoholic Anonymous group.

I really felt bad that he has such a low sense of his own worth. That’s why I was so direct with him, speaking of God’s love.

I don’t know if he grasped much of what I said.

As I was about to leave, he asked me for a ride, but my policy (and the policy of Padre German) is that we don’t give rides to drunks. The possibility of danger to them, falling off the truck, is too risky. But I explained that to him as well as I could. He seemed to understand.

So this Good Friday will be for me the Good Friday of the “crazy” drunk, whom God loves – even if Cristobal doesn’t know it.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy Thursday in Dulce Nombre

Holy Thursday is a busy day here. It didn’t help that I’ve got a chest cold. But it was a good day.

In the morning there was the Chrism Mass in Santa Rosa de Copán where the bishops celebrates with the priests and blesses the holy oils used in the sacraments.

I thought it started at 10 am and so arrived late, but I just missed the readings and part of the bishop’s sermon. When I arrived at 10:45 he was speaking and spoke until about 10:15.

The Mass was held in an auditorium since the cathedral is too small. But, in order to accommodate more people, the bishop had celebrated a Chrism Mass with the priests in the Intibucá deanery, since there are places there that are far from Santa Rosa.

Nothing special about the Mass struck me, except for one thing. There were more than thirty police men and women in and outside the auditorium during the Mass. I don’t know why. At the end of the Mass the bishop did tell the police that they are supposed to "protect and serve" and, referring to the words of Monseñor Romero that they should refuse orders to kill. 

But still the presence of the police is disturbing. Are the police saying that we can even show our presence even inside the church?

After the Chrism Mass I set out for the Dulce Nombre. Padre German had asked me to go to the village of El Prado de la Cruz, for the Celebration of the Word, with the Washing of the Feet, and Communion.

When I arrived I realized that there was a bit of miscommunication. They expected me to come in the morning or at 1 pm, even though Padre had told the coordinator of the zone that I’d come at three.

People slowly came in and when we had a decent sized group we started.

For the washing of the feet we had men, women, and children. Some of the feet were rough – from poor shoes or walking barefoot, some were dirty from walking the dirt streets of the village. But it was a privilege to be able to wash their feet.

After the celebration, I was asked to bring communion to a bed-ridden woman. Of course, I said. But then between ten and fifteen people, mostly women and kids, crammed into the truck.

We went and prayed with the woman and I gave her communion. Then I asked all the people to extend their hands over her in prayer. I placed my hands on her head and then many others joined me.

What solidarity with the sick. Not only a few people but even children went to pray. What a sign of the service that we see in Jesus’ washing the feet.

I went back to Dulce Nombre in time for the evening Mass and more.

The Mass began with 12 men walking in with the priest in the entrance procession. Padre German gave a strong sermon on service of others and then washed the feet of the twelve men.

My first thought was, “Oh, no. Restricting this to men.” I am sure this is due to the piety and tradition of the people in town, where each “apostle” wore a sash with the name of an apostle.

But after he washed the twelfth man, Padre approach a woman in a wheel chair and asked if he could wash her feet. It was moving – and woman nearby, the daughter of the woman, was close to tears.

After Mass, the Eucharist in the monstrance was carried in procession to what they call here the monumentum, the monument – a shrine set apart for private prayer before the Eucharist. In some places people pray in groups until midnight. It’s a tradition that I really like, but they had different plans here.

The statue of the Nazareno was taken in procession to another chapel in town in a procession called the prendimiento, the capture of Jesus.

I begged off taking part in the procession, because of my chest cold and because Good Friday will be a fairly busy day for me.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Passion amid the palms

Yesterday I read a blogger wonder why the Passion is read on Palm Sunday.

I know there must be liturgical reasons, but I think it’s because we need to be reminded of the reality of the passion, especially in the lives of persons.

The Palm Sunday processions here, on the streets of cities, towns, and villages, are often great manifestations of Catholicism, which – I fear – may sometimes verge on triumphalism.

Christ is acclaimed as King. But sometimes he is made to look more like the kings of this world who use violence to enforce their will and their decrees.

Sunday in Dulce Nombre we had a procession through the streets – with palms and songs.

The blessing started in a field about a kilometer from the church.


Then we marched, amid songs to the church, many of them proclaiming Christ as King.

At Mass the Passion was read and Padre German gave a short homily (only about 15 minutes).

“When a man or a woman suffer, Christ is still suffering his Passion,” he said. Where there is bloodshed, where people are made fun of, when the just are beaten down, there we find Calvary. The passion of the people is the passion of Christ.

This reminded me of a quote from Thomas Merton in A Vow of Conversation:
We have to see history as a book that is sealed and opened only by the Passion of Christ. But we prefer to read it from the viewpoint of the Beast. We look at history in terms of hubris and power — in terms of the beast and his values. Christ continues to suffer his passion in the poor, the defenseless, and his Passion destroys the Beast. Those who love power are destroyed together with what they love. Meanwhile, Christ is in agony until the end of time.
When we concentrate only on the Hosannas, we miss the suffering around us. We can look to a “god” who really is not the God who loves the poor.

But when we recognize God in the humble one, seated on a donkey, a burrito in Spanish, we can recognize God in the poor and respond in love.


More photos from Palm Sunday in Dulce Nombre can be found here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Out of control

To calm any concerns, I am not out of control, nor do I feel in danger. I am as committed to being here as I ever have – and perhaps more so. I am seriously looking forward to moving out to the countryside so that I can work more in the parish of Dulce Nombre.

But the “authorities” here are out of control. As a result the people, especially the poor, suffer.

Yesterday I wrote on the blog of my experiences with police and soldiers, here

This morning I told a priest friend of mine about my encounter with the armed police. He told me that last night, returning about 6:30 pm from Mass in a village a car pulled over in front of him blocking the road and three guys jumped out with guns pointed at the car.

They were police. And even though the car had red and blue flashing lights on the top of the cabin, they were not illuminated. Who would have known they were police, especially in the dark?

A policeman told him to get out of the car. He told them that he was the priest of the parish and they let him go.

That is not the way to promote confidence in the police or give people a sense of security. It provokes fear, since one doesn’t know if they are police or robbers, or police who will rob you. This is no way to provide for greater security for the people of Honduras. It is another way to inculcate fear – in the common people, not in the criminals.

But that’s now the only way the country is out of control.

Someone told me that someone in Dulce Nombre denounced car thieves to the Fiscalía – the prosecutors office. The men were arrested and put in jail. But they were released shortly – after money exchanged hands, perhaps 50,000 lempira ($2,500). But what’s worse is that the name of the person who made the denunciation was given to the thieves who were released.

What a great way to undermine any hope for denunciation of crimes in the future. Who will have the courage to denounce a crime when the authorities will give the criminals your name?

All this is happening as Holy Week begins. As Padre German said at Mass this morning, the Passion of Christ is continuing in the suffering of the people here - and in many parts of the world: "While a man or woman is suffering, Christ is still suffering His Passion."