Sunday, July 28, 2013

Raise a ruckus

­Today Pope Francis returns to Rome after an incredible journey to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.

His visit to a favela was a continuing sign of his commitment to the poor as was his visit to a drug rehabilitation center at a hospital.

He also showed a concern for justice. He raised questions about the police "purification" a few months ago of the poor neighborhood he visited. He spoke strongly for the rights of the indigenous in the Amazon.

He spoke, as he has since his first days as Bishop of Rome, against consumerism, individualism,  and materialism.

He must have driven his security details crazy by his continuing desire to be in contact with people.

He is a personable pope, more like a lovable parish priest than an ecclesiastic. As I wrote previously, he feels like an “Uncle Frank.”

But in Rio, as in other places, he has spoken in ways that should shake up the church. In off the cuff remarks in Spanish to the Argentinian youth in Rio he said:

Quisiera decir una cosa. ¿Qué es lo que espero como consecuencia de la Jornada de la Juventud? Espero lío. Que acá dentro va a haber lío va a haber, que acá en Río va a haber lío va a haber, pero quiero lío en las diócesis, quiero que se salga afuera, quiero que la Iglesia salga a la calle, quiero que nos defendamos de todo lo que sea mundanidad, de lo que sea instalación, de lo que sea comodidad, de lo que sea clericalismo, de lo que sea estar encerrados en nosotros mismos, las parroquias, los colegios, las instituciones son para salir, sino salen se convierten en una ONG ¡y la Iglesia no puede ser una ONG!

Que me perdonen los obispos y los curas, si alguno después le arma lío a ustedes, pero es el consejo. Gracias por lo que puedan hacer.

I shared this on Facebook under the title: “raise a ruckus in the dioceses,” even though the AP translated “lío” as “mess.” One friend suggested “fuss” which is better than “mess.” I might, however, accept “mess” if it were talking about “messing up.” But "ruckus" is, I think, better.

But then I looked today at the Vatican website translation where I found "lio" translated as “noise.” What a way to tame a strong statement. What bishop is going to be upset if the youth make some noise. They’d just be like crying babies in church.

Here’s what the Vatican site translation is:

Let me tell you what I hope will be the outcome of World Youth Day: I hope there will be noise.  Here there will be noise, I’m quite sure.  Here in Rio there will be plenty of noise, no doubt about that.  But I want you to make yourselves heard in your dioceses, I want the noise to go out, I want the Church to go out onto the streets, I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves.  The parishes, the schools, the institutions are made for going out ... if they don’t, they become an NGO, and the Church cannot be an NGO. 

May the bishops and priests forgive me if some of you create a bit of confusion afterwards.  That’s my advice.  Thanks for whatever you can do.

The translation is weak, to put it mildly.

I think the pope is really saying that he wants the youth to raise a ruckus so that the church goes out of itself, that it is truly missionary. But he wants this to be done without clinging to worldliness (which he seems to relate to desire for power and control), without being stuck where the Church is and has been. He warns of getting too comfortable.

Most strikingly, he warns of “clericalism.” Hearing this, I felt so grateful that someone in the hierarchy is warning about “clericalism,” a scourge in the church which I find not limited to one faction in the church. I have seen and experienced the clericalism of some priests who would consider themselves “radicals.” When I priest I work with spoke of his concern about clericalism a few weeks ago I almost fell out of the chair where I was sitting. What a breath of fresh air.

But one sentence of the Vatican translation really takes the cake for trying to gloss over the radical nature of what Pope Francis sai:
Que me perdonen los obispos y los curas, si alguno después le arma lío a ustedes, pero es el consejo.
The Vatican site translation is: 
 May the bishops and priests forgive me if some of you create a bit of confusion afterwards.
A more literal (and, I think, accurate) translation might be:
May you bishops and priests forgive me if some one later raises a ruckus for you. 
That’s a lot more serious than “creating a bit of confusion.” One idiomatic translation of “armar lío” I ran across is “stir up a hornet’s nest.”

This is not the first time I’ve seen the Pope’s words translated in a way that softens their impact – and it probably won’t be the last. So we need to be attentive to attempts to soften his prophetic words.

But the call is clear: “Raise a ruckus,” get out of the closed-in, insular Church and be the Gospel of Love to the world.

I am grateful for a pope who offers a vision of a church in the streets, with the poor, not fearful of going out and making changes. This can help us nurture hope.

This is what he said to young people at the end of his talk in the favela of Varginha, in Rio:
Here, as in the whole of Brazil, there are many young people. Dear young friends, you have a particular sensitivity towards injustice, but you are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good. To you and to all, I repeat: never yield to discouragement, do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished. Situations can change, people can change. Be the first to seek to bring good, do not grow accustomed to evil, but defeat it. The Church is with you, bringing you the precious good of faith, bringing Jesus Christ, who “came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
I hope that he and all of us can truly live up to this challenge – raise a ruckus and don’t be afraid of stirring up a hornet’s nest. That way we may bring to people Jesus, the God of Life.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

On the wrong side again?

I ran across an article on a US military related website which has irritated me. This blog entry is my unreasonable response.

The article begins with this paragraph:
During a Honduran and American Anti-terrorism/Force protection exercise, here, Joint Task Force-Bravo simulated a two-fold scenario simultaneously, one a nonviolent demonstration and the other being an attack from a terrorist organization July 17.
Are there terrorist organizations in Honduras? Not that I know – unless you want to consider the drug-lords or some groups that seem to be connected to the Honduran police that have killed civilians.

But the scenario starts with a nonviolent demonstration which is interrupted by a terrorist bombing:
"During the nonviolent protest there was an explosion at the front gate, which was mastermind by a local terrorist organization," said U.S. Army Lt. Chad Wallway, Joint Security Force deputy commander. "
First of all, as a pacifist, I am somewhat dismayed by the connection made between two different groups. My concern is that this type of exercise might lead the Honduran military to see every nonviolent demonstration as terrorist. It’s not beyond the mentality of some Latin American military who still live in the 1970s and 1980s where anyone calling for justice was considered a Communist subversive; as a result thousands of people, many people of faith, were tortures, killed, or disappeared by Latin American death squads and military.

Why does a US-sponsored training seem to make this connection? Does the US consider any groups that want social change to be terrorists? (I remember a few months ago that a US military trainer listed Catholics in his power-point presentation as “Religious Extremism” together with Al-Queda, the Mormons, and Evangelical Christians.)

Honduras is a country where there is need for major social change. If the US government is using this type of training for the Honduran military or police, will it lead then to take a jaundiced view of protestors and lead to massive use of violence and deaths of peaceful civilians?

It has already happened. Last week Tomás Garcia, an indigenous leader taking part in an extended protest against a dam project in the department of Santa Bárbara, was killed by the Honduran military. His son was severely wounded.  This occurred two days before the joint US-Honduran military exercise.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable,” said President John F. Kennedy. 

I don’t believe in the inevitability of violence, but I do believe that more use of violence which make it much harder for real change to happen here in Honduras.

What the US Joint Task Force Bravo did in this scenario is part of the problem – seeking violent solutions to what are, at root, problems of injustice, inequality, and repression.

Is the US again putting itself on the wrong side again?

Maybe we need to listen again to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “Beyond Vietnam” sermons where he stated:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-centered" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered...

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, expect a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war....  We still have a chance today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

In the countryside - problems and hopes

These past ten days, I’ve been out in the parish of Dulce Nombre four times.

Responding to violence

I’ve already written in a post a week ago about my experience on Saturday, July 13, taking the woman assaulted by her husband to the hospital.  The woman had one of her lower arms amputated and was taken to a hospital in San Pedro Sula. The police have detained the man.

That event has deeply affected me. I know that domestic violence happens here all too often, but to see it first-hand in one of its more violent forms is hard. But it has stirred me to think about what we can do.

On Friday, we had the parish council meeting. Before the meeting I mentioned to Padre German that I’d like to spend some time talking about this and violence in general. He gave me the go ahead. I talked and shared some statistics and then asked those assembled for their thoughts.

The responses were varied – though people talked about the fears they have and possible causes.

One person shared about some young people from the cities who had come to his village. One of these young people talked about how his father never really cared for him and instead would all too often reprimand him; and the churches didn’t really do much for him. In many ways I think this sense of abandonment might be a factor in some young people seeking the companionship that a gang might offer.

Another shared how one person fled to his town to escape gangs in the city. The young person had relatives there and feared for his life if he would go to one of the big cities.

I’m hoping we can continue these discussions and begin to find ways to respond to violence and threats of violence. We probably especially need to do something about domestic abuse.

Providing hope with the young

One Wednesday, I had a different experience. I went out with Padre German to the village to Pasquingual which was celebrating, a day late, its feast day, Our Lady of Carmen. (Padre had gone on Tuesday to two other villages which had Our Lady of Mount Carmel as their patron.)

I know a good number of people there in this small village of between 16 and 20 families. One person I especially appreciate is Don Salatiel, the 89 year old father of Ovidio. When he saw me he hugged me excitedly. I later took this picture which captures his youthful spirit.

As Padre heard confessions, I walked around outside the small church and ran across five young guys, between 15 and 22. I was happy to see them coming to Mass and found out that they all had been confirmed. We talked a bit about a number of things. One had finished ninth grade; tow had gone to sixth grade, but one had only finished fifth grade and the other, the youngest of them, I think, had only finished third grade. I asked them what they thought they needed. A soccer field, of course. But one mentioned a possible youth group. I mentioned this is a friend and hope they’ll find some way to help the young people do this.

Educating the youth

Saturday I went out to Vega Redonda to visit the Maestro en Casa program, a program of distance learning with classes every Saturday. I spent a little time with the teachers and with the students. Those in Ciclo Segundo – the equivalent of the second year of junior high or eighth grade – were studying English. I proceeded to ask them simple questions in English which they found hard to answer. But I did spend about ten minutes with them trying to get them to understand some basic sentences and questions. 

I would love to find a way to get some people here who have studied linguistics and teaching English as a second language.  They could work with the teachers who really don’t know English and perhaps with the students.

I left Vega Redonda, but not before taking a picture of the First Communicants waiting under a tree for a Mass later that morning. 

I left Vega Redonda , for reasons explained below, but not before I saw Padre German arriving on motorcycle! (He is the only priest I know here who goes around on motorcycle.)

That afternoon I visited with a Honduran friend, Erlin, who is trying to do something like that. I met with him and a woman from Canada who are teaching English to kids in two schools here in Santa Rosa. They charge a little but it’s trying to give poor kids a chance to learn English, something which is only really available to kids in bilingual schools, which mostly cater to middle class families. I am proud to know a young Honduran - with an engineering university degree - who is trying to do something for the poor of his people

Car problems and more

Saturday, I had planned to visit two or three of the Maestro en Casa sites.

But when I got to Vega Redonda on Saturday morning I realize that my brakes weren’t working again. A young friend gave me some brake fluid since it had all drained out.

I started back to Dulce Nombre, where I planned to have someone look at the brakes. A few kilometers outside Vega Redonda I realized the brakes were out again. So I put the car in four-wheel drive and proceeded to drive in first gear in low four wheel drive.

I got to Dulce Nombre safely – my guardian angel is working overtime – and someone fixed it. There was a broken seal in the back right brake. It cost me all of $9.00, including buying an extra container of brake fluid.

Then I proceeded back to Santa Rosa but was having problems changing gears. I got the truck to my mechanic who will work on it. I hope it’s fixed by Monday morning since I have to go pick up a visitor in Copán Ruinas. (UPDATE: the car has to stay in the shop until Tuesday; so my friend has to use the bus to get here.)

I took a taxi back to my house. The driver was a young talkative guy who impressed me. He does have a high school degree from the best high school here in Santa Rosa, but he’s driving a taxi.

We talked a bit about migrating to the US. He told me about a relative who recently left. Though warned about the dangers, the relative basically told him that he doesn’t care if he dies on the way. Such desperation.

But the driver told me that he doesn’t want to go. He cannot see leaving his parents and family. For him those ties are so strong that he has put the idea of migration out of his mind. It does help that he has a job and that my mechanic had even offered him a job! But, despite the economic situation and the presence of violence, he is not tempted to leave. His family is so important for him.

My experiences this week have reinforced my ongoing concern that we work together, especially in the parish, to find ways for the young people to have a dignified life that helps them work to fulfill their potential. That way we may help prevent violence, help them develop their villages into communities where the young see feel at home, and begin to build up small signs of the presence of the Reign of God in the midst of poverty, injustice, and violence.

Surprisingly, I find hope.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Invaded by an imperial power

This month an evangelical group is sending 2,000 to save Honduras. In their publicity they talk about “saving a nation in one day.” That day is July 20, 2013.

I have great respect for many Protestants and Evangelical Protestants. I have family and friends who are not Catholic, I have several non-Catholic clergy as friends (and not only on Facebook). I have worked ecumenically with people from many different faith traditions.

My faith has been enriched by reading people like Will Campbell, a rebel Baptist who recently passed on to the Lord, and Jim Wallis, one of the founders of Sojourners. There’s a nice article about Will Campbell here. My favorite quote from Campbell is “We are all bastards, but God loves us anyway.”

I respect some evangelicals I’ve met here.

This reflection is not about evangelicals, but a critique of a type of “mission” that many, especially evangelicals, promote. For my reaction to being on the receiving end of one of these missionaries a year ago, read here.

The nation of Honduras does need change – or, as we Christians might say, conversion. But conversion is not just something individual. It also means conversion, change of social and economic structures that hinder the work of love that God offers. In the Jewish scriptures the prophets often are calling the political and religious leaders to change, confronting the injustice and violence in their midst.

But one of the strategies of this campaign “one nation, one day” has been to partner with the government. One video shows one of their leaders with Honduran president Pepe Lobo and states that he declared July 20 a national holiday. (I think they’ve got that wrong, but that’s another story.) Another video shows their leaders with the president and other governmental leaders whom, they claim, support their mission.

What disturbs me is the alliance with political power, especially in an election year. Here religion is all too often easily manipulated to help one or another political party.

More disturbing is that One Nation One Day is partnering with political and economic powers that many consider responsible for – or, at least, not responsive to – the continuing violence in the country and the repression. This week an indigenous leader protesting a dam project was shot and killed by government forces. In addition, many of these political leaders see a militarization of the police as the way to deal with the violence, missing the structural issues at the root of the violence here.

These “missionaries” will be accompanied by the National Police, a police that has been riddled by corruption.  (Does this sound like the priests that came with the Spanish conquistadores?) In a few cases, police have assassinated civilians. You can read what I wrote a few weeks ago here or the analysis in Honduras Culture and Politics.

And so, this campaign could be seen as a way to legitimate corruption and repression.

Furthermore, the emphasis of this campaign is individualistic. In their own words, they will “strategically infiltrate” every high school, promoting school-wide calls to salvation. This is one of their ways they are seeking to reach every young person in Honduras; they don’t seem to realize that less than one-third of Honduras young people go past sixth grade! Also, many teachers have to wait months until they are paid.

This group claims it will be mobilizing “virtually every local pastor” – about 30,000, they say – with two major stadium training events. Of course, these are only evangelical pastors. The presence of Catholic leaders – clergy and lay – is conveniently ignored. I wonder if this is more about “saving Hondurans” from their sins than about accompanying Hondurans in their search for the Kingdom of God, a God of justice, love, and peace.

A few days ago a priest friend asked me what I thought about the presence of evangelicals here in Honduras. He, like many, see their presence as part of a campaign to undermine the community vision that the Catholic Church has and that has been reaffirmed in the meetings of the Latin American Bishops Conference in Medellín, Puebla, and Aparecida.

I am not sure that this is really such a campaign – though the support of the Reagan administration to some fundamentalist groups (even in Honduras) is a fact.

But I see most of those who come here in campaigns like this as naïve. They have little understanding of the economic and social situation of the country and the structural injustice at work here. Their individualistic religion often sees personal salvation in individualistic terms and so they overlook the injustice. Some show an unthinking chauvinism that translates into support of unjust regimes.

But most of all they do not see that Jesus is already at work here – not just among the Catholics, but also among many who give their lives to live with and serve the poor.

As a part of One Nation One Day’s publicity, one video declares: “You are becoming Jesus to the world.”

I wonder about this, especially in light of this quote of John Taylor that I share with people who are coming here:
Our first task in approaching
another people,
another culture,
another religion,
is to take off our shoes,
for the place we are approaching
is holy.
Else we may find ourselves
treading on another’s dream.
More seriously still,
we may forget
that God was there
before our arrival.
And so I pray that their time here might be one of conversion – conversion from imperialist religion and imperialist nationalism. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mixed emotions - facing violence: UPDATED

Yesterday I went out to a parish zone meeting in El Zapote de Dulce Nombre. I was happy to be able to get out into the countryside again – now that I’m recuperating from bronchitis.

The meeting was well attended and I merely listened. The people hoped Padre German would arrive but I didn’t know whether he’d make it. He showed up – on a motorcycle!

He answered lots of questions, many related to the changes in the parish. He left after lunch but there was more business and the meeting didn’t end until almost two o’clock.

Seven people piled into the pick – four women inside and three guys outside - for a lift to their villages which were on my way back to Santa Rosa.

At the edge of El Zapote several folks came running and asked me if I’d take a woman to the hospital in Santa Rosa, 90 minutes away. She had hacked by her husband with a machete.

That was a no-brainer. Of course.

I didn’t know what to expect but they came and put here with three young friends in the truck bed. The young man who had carried her to the truck was bloody.

I found out that she had been washing clothes near a well when her husband arrived and cut her up very badly with a machete. He was not drunk. Perhaps he was just a jealous husband.

Before we left, I noticed two young kids at the side of the road. They were traumatized. I presume they were her children.

After a few delays, we left. I went as quickly as I could, trying to avoid bumping around too much of the back roads. On the way we tried to contact the police so they could apprehend the husband. As I drove to Santa Rosa I saw a patrol car and a police on a motorcycle heading toward Dulce Nombre.

It’s about a 90 minute trip to Santa Rosa but we finally arrived. One of the security guards let us into a side entrance to the emergency room and he lifted her from the truck onto the gurney.

One leg was broken, her arm had been cut through and her hand was hanging limply.

I waited a bit and talked with the security guard as he was washing up. I commented on his helpfulness. He told me that he had met the woman before since he was from the area where she lived.

I spent the next few hours trying to get word to the woman’s family who lived in a different village.

I couldn’t find the book where I had the numbers of a few pastoral workers from the area and so I called someone from El Zapote whom I respect, asking him to call a pastoral worker from the other village.

He hemmed and hawed and said he something to do and he had to lead the rosary in his village. I told him that the woman was in a serious condition. I was rather upset by his reaction.

He had however mentioned the name of the pastoral worker in the woman’s village. I found his number on my cellphone and called. After a few attempts he answered.

I asked him to find the family and let them know what had happened.

In the meantime the hospital security guard had called his uncle who knew the family to get the word to them.

The pastoral worker in the woman’s home village called and told me that her family knew and that some were on the way to the hospital.

I was relieved, glad that family would be there to comfort and help her. The hospital system is poor here and family and friends have to provide food – and more, at time – to the patients.

As I reflect now, I wish I had contacted the first aid auxiliary in the village before we left. He called me while we were on the way, not upset but concerned for the woman. He also told me that the kids were with the grandmother.

I also wish that I had first aid training. I think we are blessed that she didn’t die from loss of blood.

Violence is high here in Honduras. I don’t know how many cases are like this one, domestic violence or violence within families or between families.

Some of this is, probably related to the frustration hat comes from poverty and from a justice system that is nearly non-existent. (We’ll see if the husband is arrested and jailed.)

Some of this is the lack of skills to deal with frustration. That’s why we need to work to build a culture of reconciliation and learn skills of conflict transformation.

I’m numb now.

Last night I did have a chance to speak with the Spanish Franciscans down the street and with my friend, Sister Nancy, who lies in Gracias. It is great to have people who help me.

Today I’m out to a town with Padre German. It will be good to speak with him about this – and lots more.

I have written more about this experience in a reflective mode on my Walk the Way blog: here and here.

Please pray for the woman and her family, especially the two kids.

UPDATE: Wednesday, July 17:
Padre German told me that the woman had her lower arm and hand amputated and was sent to a hospital in San Pedro Sula for more care. It is also not clear if the attacker has been arrested.
Devastating news.

UPDATE: Monday, August 19
Today I ran across the guard at the hospital who was a cousin of the woman. He told me that she had not had her arm amputated, but they only put in pins. They did that here in Santa Rosa. What good news.
Also, her husband-attacker is in prison.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Called by name

Yesterday I went out to the village of El Limón in the Dulce Nombre parish to facilitate the last of four workshops in different parts of parish for those who will prepare parents and godparents for the baptism of children under 7 years of age. It’s a new process and we have new materials (which I helped write.)

Catechists at the first workshop, in Agua Buena

As I’ve done in the earlier workshops I began the workshop, walking through the rite of baptism – with two parents and two godparents and a “baby.” In one case we used a statue of the baby Jesús; yesterday we used a towel – which, at first, provoked lots of giggles from the 31 participants.

The welcoming of the child and the parents and godparents at the door of the church begins with the question: “What is the name chosen for the child?”

Timothy Radcliffe has a very good chapter on this in Taking the Plunge: Living Baptism and Confirmation. I won’t try to summarize it.

After the welcoming rite was finished we discussed what had happened.

I emphasized that the first question is about the name of the child. The catechists recognized that this is an act of welcoming children into the community, into the Church.

As I noted, we do not baptize just any “so and so” – “un fulano de tal” in Spanish. The church baptizes, and calls by name, Jesús, María, Gloria, Ramón, Edelmira, Moisés, Nelson, Janixa.

This morning, reading the call of the apostles in Matthew 10: 1-7, I noted that Jesus calls the twelve by name. They are not just a mass of people going out to evangelize. They are Peter, John, Judas, James, and so on – with their names and personalities.

They have a dignity which is recognized when we call them by name.

The poor here and in most of the world are without names. Or, if they are known, they are often despised, ignored, marginalized.

Calling them by name is a way of recognizing their personal worth as children of God. (That’s why I am quite ashamed of my inability to remember names.) It is a way to counteract a society that treats the poor as “nobodies” – or, as a former president of the Honduran Congress once said, “gente del monte,” appropriately translated as “hillbillies.”

Calling them by name also counteracts the tendency to look at the poor as a nameless mass of people, to forget that “the poor” are persons with different personalities, moral character, etc.

And so I’ll try harder to remember names.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Sick but reading like a maniac

Wednesday, after about ten days of cough and chest congestion, I went to the doctors. I should have gone earlier but…

I’ve got bronchitis! Rest, medication, and boredom.

I really miss being out in the countryside, but it’s been out of the question.

Thursday and Friday I did have to sit in on a workshop at Caritas, but I didn’t do anything much.

This is rather boring and so I’ve been reading a lot – and now writing this rather vapid blog entry.

I did finish two books I had started but never got around to finishing.

Jeffrey T. Jackson’s The Globalizers: Development Workers in Action is an interesting look at develop workers in Honduras and a critique of development, a type of power, as benefiting the donor countries. The chapters on the El Cajon Dam are damning.

Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith: Exploring Franciscan Spirituality and Theology in the Modern World Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith: Exploring Franciscan Spirituality and Theology in the Modern World by the Franciscan friar Dan Horan is a series of essays, some of which I found very helpful, including “From Stewardship to Kinship: A Franciscan Understanding of Creation.”

I like to rad suspense novels every once in a while as “light” reading and so I read two novels by the late Andrew Greeley. They are somewhat predictable but fun, with interesting twists and turns. The protagonist, Bishop Blackie Ryan, is a real Chicago Irish character. Unfortunately I read the two novels in the wrong order and knew the conclusion of the one novel almost before I finished the first chapter. If you read them read them in this order: first, The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Germain; then, The Bishop Goes to the University: A Blackie Ryan Story.

I also read two other books.

I had read the first, Lawrence Cunningham’s Francis of Assisi: Performing the Gospel Life. This year I have been reading a lot of Francis. I find this little book rather good, since it reveals Francis as one who took the incarnation to heart. I heartily recommend it as an introduction to Francis (even though there are a few minor errors.)

The other, which I just finished tonight, is John Thavis’s The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church.  Thavis was a Vatican correspondent for Catholic News Services for years, but his account is not in any way a “cover-up.” Rather it’s an open-up the Vatican, with a special focus on the actors within the walls. It was published before Benedict XVI resigned. I finished it thinking how providential that Francis was chosen pope. The Holy Spirit may well be working overtime.

What will I read now?

I’ve got a list, but some of them require a little more attention than I think I can give while recuperating. I’ve been wanting to read Leonardo Boff’s Francis of Assisi: A Model for Human Liberation. I read a few pages but I think it needs a more attentive mind and body.

I also need to finish Donal Dorr’s Option for the Poor and for the Earth: Catholic Social Teaching.

The list includes José Antonio Pagoli’s Jesús: Aproximación histórica as well as Dorothy Day’s Diaries, The Duty of Delight.

In the meantime I’ll have to see if I can find something just to pass the time.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Caring for our fathers

A week ago two parishioners from Dulce Nombre de Maria parish stayed with me. We were leaving at 5:00 am the next day to go to San Pedro to get their passports so that they can apply for a visa for their “mission trip” to Iowa this fall.

As we sat around the table we began to talk about caring for elderly fathers. Two of us had cared for widowed fathers and one is caring for his ninety-year old father who recently lost his wife.

We reflected on the difficulties of this but we also told of the deep joys that this enabled us to do.

I shared a bit of my experience and how I was able to care for my Dad in the last years of his life. Not all are called to this, but it was a blessing for me.

About 1996, after Dad was hospitalized after a stroke about 1996 I was faced with a decision: Do I put Dad in a nursing home where he would be cared for or do I care for him at the apartment where he lived in Ames?

As I reflected on this, I remembered my experience on April 1, 1992, in a village of Suchitoto, El Salvador where I was visiting there as part of the Lenten mission. We stopped by a poor house and there was a bed-ridden older woman, presumably the grandmother, surrounded by family.

I remembered how this poor family cared for a sick parent and I also thought of someone I knew in Ames who cared for his ill mother for many years.

Their inspiration moved me to decide to place Dad in a nursing home for a month and then take him home. I took Dad out of the nursing home after a few weeks (since he was not happy there) and cared for him until his death in September 1999.

Dad and me about 1997

It was a hard task, but full of joy. It was a blessing, inspired by the poor and one that I could share with the poor. 

I've met and talked with both of my friends' fathers. I really need to visit the one who is still alive with an active mind, though it seems he's still mourning his wife, the love of his life.