The best response I can give to my six plus years here in Honduras is “gracias” – thanks.
I just finished reading In the Company of the Poor: Conversations between Dr. Paul Farmer and Father Gustavo Gutiérrez. In one article, Gutiérrez writes:
The experience of gratuitousness is the space of encounter with the Lord. Unless we understand the meaning of gratuitousness, there will be no contemplative dimension in our life. Contemplation is not a state of paralysis but of radical self-giving. In the final analysis, to believe in God means to live our life as a gift from God and to look upon everything that happens in it as a manifestation of this gift.
And so today is a time to call to mind the graciousness of God and the ways this has been made known to me.
Thanks to God who let my heart be opened to move from a place where I was comfortable and happy to a place where I am challenged and happier than I have ever been.
Thanks to all those who help to make this happen – friends who have helped me in my continuing discernment, St. Thomas Aquinas parish which has supported me and is now a sister parish with the parish of Dulce Nombre de María where I help, the many people who have contributed to the ministry, and a special thank you to the people who donated to help me buy a decent vehicle and other people who recently made a very generous contribution to the parish of Dulce Nombre.
Thanks for the people here who welcome me and make me feel at home – and who challenge me to live more simply and to serve in a way that respects them. Thanks for those who have helped me get my old car started when it broke down.
Thanks to the catechists who devote their time to bring God’s love to children, young people, and the parents of young infants.
Thanks to the Dubuque Franciscan sisters in nearby Gracias, Lempira, who have provided a place of welcome and regular opportunities to meet together for reflection. I will spend today, Thanksgiving, with them.
Thanks to God who seems to be working marvels with Pope Francis.
Thanks for the beauty of this land, where, despite the poverty and suffering, God allows us to see beauty and work for the Reign of God.
AN UPDATE ON MY LIFE
But gratitude needs to lead us to share that gratitude. This year has been a year of changes that has offered me new opportunities to serve God’s poor.
At the end of January 2013, a new priest, Padre German Navarro, was appointed to the Dulce Nombre parish. He is a breath of fresh air. He celebrates the Eucharist at least once every two months in the 47 or so towns and villages.
He has given me a lot of responsibilities this year – mostly in formation of catechists. I have prepared materials and then trained the catechists in the four zones of the parish.
This has been very rewarding and challenging – not only having to write in Spanish (though it’s usually been checked by Padre German) but trying to develop materials that encourage participation and that are understandable to people with limited formal education. At one session recently two people mentioned that six of the people seeking adult baptism are illiterate.
This past February I did make a pilgrimage to Italy. I had enough miles to get a really cheap ticket. The highlights were my five days in Assisi and a day trip to Subiaco. I’ve already written about this pilgrimage earlier on my blog. The place of St. Francis has become more central in my spiritual life these past few years.
I made a short visit to Ames this year but I hope to take a longer visit in 2014, as well as to visit cousins and friends in the Philadelphia-New York area.
But I am most grateful for being here. Honduras is now my home.
The biggest change next year will be my move from Santa Rosa, a city of about 40,000 to a rural village in the Dulce Nombre parish. This will enable me to be more present to the parish and help more in the parish. It will also let me be more present to the poor – especially in the remote villages.
Pope Francis in his beautiful apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel, (paragraph 48, emphasis mine), explains why I am here and why I am moving out to the countryside:
If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbors, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14).… Today and always, “the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel”, and the fact that it is freely preached to them is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish. We have to state, without mincing words, that “there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor”. May we never abandon them.
God has not abandoned me, even in the face of difficulties. So how can I abandon the people here?
It's so much fun!