Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thoughts on the Way of the Cross

This is the fourth year I’ve gone to the diocesan Via Crucis in the streets of Santa Rosa. I’ve already written a bit about the Stations in previous posts, but I want to share some of my personal reflections.  You can find my previous posts 2011, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008  and pictures.

Every year I have been impressed by the large number of people who come, some traveling more than three hours in bus. They come to pray, to witness to the liberating power of their faith, and to be in solidarity with a Church that is in solidarity with the poor.

Each year it’s been hot and sunny and sometimes the stations seemed dragged out. But this year the texts were a little more focused than last year and not as long. But they were as strong as ever, treating everything from alcoholism to corruption. One thing I especially noticed was the strong statements about women, their rights and their oppression. The texts were prepared by various deaneries in the diocese and it seems as if concern for women has grown in the past few years.

Different groups from Santa Rosa set up altars and displays at the fourteen stations. Some were fairly traditional but several struck me by their strong political and social commentary. The “altar” for the seventh station was particularly impressive. I caught a few photos while  several people were setting it up.

The killing of the innocent is against justice.
We are not like – but  we are equal  - with the same rights and duties.

Many corrupt businessmen only see their employees as “asses” and don’t even pay them the minimum wage. 

The twelfth station, Jesus dies on the Cross, was impressive in its reference to varied threats to life:  the destruction of nature, malnutrition, burning of forests, desire for riches, violence, egoism, environmental contamination, cutting down of forests, auto exhausts. 

The procession started at 9:00 am from the steps of the cathedral and ended in the parking lot of the Santa Rosa campus of the Catholic University of Honduras – with a Mass that ended about 1:30 pm.

The people marched and prayed in the streets of Santa Rosa. People confessed to priests preparing for Mass and Holy Week.

Hymns were led by several musicians and priests. The hymns that we sang were a mixture of traditional Lenten songs, praying for forgiveness, and hymns with a strong social message. 

After the eleventh station a hymn was introduced as one that the powerful do not appreciate: “Vos sos el Dios de los pobres.”
You are the God of poor,
a God human and simple,
a God who sweats in the street,
a God with a weather-beaten face.
Therefore, I talk to  you
as my people speaks,
for you are the God Laborer,
Christ the Worker.

You walk hand in hand with my people,
you struggle in the countryside and the city,
you stand in line there in the encampment,
so they pay you your daily wage.
As we walked along I saw older men and women, children, and lots of young people, including an impressive number of young men. Some of the people from Intibucá had the colorful scarves typical of the Lenca. Five young Capuchin novices from Ocotepeque walked in their brown habits.

On a personal note, I was touched as many people came up and greeted me by name – Juancito. I hardly recognized some of them who were participants in a program I was part of and so I apologized for not remembering their names.  It is humbling to be greeted by the poor. But it gives me a sense that my presence does have a meaning here. As Father Niall O'Brien who worked in the Philippines once wrote, "When we touch the poor, we touch God in some way."

This may be the last Via Crucis led by Santa Rosa Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos because he has to send Rome his resignation letter in November when he turns 75. But he will continue working for the poor. He also noted that he will continue work with Alianza Cívica por la Democracia and other groups who work with and for the poor here in Honduras.

Monseñor Santos, bishop  of Santa Rosa de Copán
In his final remarks at the Mass he made a strong critique of the political parties and their failure to really respond to the needs of the poor. He proceeded to note his appreciation of the Resistance – which brought a loud applause from the gathered people.

The Via Crucis is a prayerful witness of what the Church is here in Santa Rosa – a Church of the poor, a Church which is very pious with great devotion to the Eucharist and to Mary, and a Church committed to renew Honduras, seeking changes in the lives of people in the most remote villages as well as in the political and economic structures that keeps the people poor.

I looked for a quote to end this reflection and found it from two non-Catholics, William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas, in Resident Aliens, p. 47. I think it expresses what the diocesan Way of the Cross is:
The cross is not a sign of the church’s quiet, suffering submission to the powers that-be, but rather the Church’s revolutionary participation in the victory of Christ over those powers. The cross is not a symbol for general human suffering and oppression. Rather, the cross is a sign of what happens when one takes God’s account of reality more seriously than Caesar’s. The cross stands as God’s (and our) eternal no to the powers of death, as well as God’s eternal yes to humanity, God’s remarkable determination not to leave us to our own devices.

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