Many days here in the parish of Dulce Nombre go by in which nothing special or different happens. That’s fine because that’s sometime when God works best with us.
I get up; I put on the coffee; I shower; I get the coffee and sit down to pray and read. Then, I go downstairs and eat breakfast while checking mail and Facebook. Then I head out for a meeting, a visit with Padre German, or a trip to Santa Rosa to get supplies or get the car checked out.
But other days are blessed by little events that make life shine. Today was one of those days.
I headed out to El Zapote de Santa Rosa for a workshop with catechists from one of the zones of the parish. Tuesday I had facilitated the same workshop for catechists in another zone. I have two more workshops next week.
I had arranged to meet with some of the small coffee growers who are forming an association with hopes of developing a good market for their coffee. These four had sent five sacks of coffee to the US this year. I had some money for them.
After handing over the money, they told me that the Beneficio that had processed their coffee was interested in working with them. The beneficio noted the quality of their semi-high altitude coffee (1.2 kilometers high). This could be very good but I hope that St. Thomas can continue to work with them to buy some of the coffee.
PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES
The workshop began with twenty catechists - a few were missing for various reasons (school or health) but they are a good group.
These past two years we have been trying to help the people pray the scriptures and not just read them for moralistic admonitions – which happens all too often here.
We have tried to teach them a form of lectio divina, a prayerful reading of a scripture passage; when a word or phrase touches your heart, stop, repeat it, and let it sink into your heart.
The base communities are reading Gospel passages with a form of Ignatian contemplation in which the readers put themselves into the scene, into the action, and pays attention to feelings and sentiments, letting the actions of Jesus become real for them.
Today I tried something new for me. I read Psalm 23 and asked them to pay attention to the phrase that touched them. I handed out paper, pencils, and crayons and asked them to draw the image that touched them.
They really got into this and took about half an hour working on their drawings.
Then we read the psalm again and posted the drawings after a phrase was read. As happened in Tuesday’s workshop, almost every phrase had at least one drawing, some of them quite detailed.
What a marvelous way for them to approach prayer – moving from the mind to the heart to the hands.
I looked on in wonder.
THE ROLE OF THE DEACON
During lunch I sat under a tree with a few catechists and they asked me about the diaconate.
Since the permanent diaconate is virtually unknown in Honduras – there are only two in Tegucigalpa – there were a number of questions, including one if that meant I would become a priest.
I explained that the diaconate is a separate vocation – representing Christ the Servant to the community as a way to encourage all the faithful to live up to their baptismal call to being a servant.
We talked about other aspects of the diaconate and I especially expressed my concern that the permanent diaconate in Honduras could become a phenomenon of the cities and of people who had much more education than most of the people who live in the countryside. The need for servants – deacons – is in the countryside.
But then Matias mentioned that perhaps the deacon was one who could bring the concerns of the people to the bishop and then bring those of the bishop to the people.
I nearly fell off the bench I was seated on.
An Italian bishop at Council of Trent had urged the restoration of the diaconate noting that
“The Church has always used [the service of deacons]. Not only in ministering at the altar, but in baptism, in care of hospitals, of widows, and of suffering persons. Finally all the needs of the people are mediated to the bishop by deacons.”
A recent article by Deacon Thomas Baker noted that
“This special flavor of the deacon’s identity found expression, in time, in the ancient thought that the deacons served as “the bishop’s eyes and ears” —informing the community about the concerns and desires of the bishop, and reporting to the bishop the needs and situation of his people.”
No theology, no study had given Matias this insight into what a deacon is.
I was floored.
As I left a farmer I had met on Tuesday on my way to the other workshop came up with a large sack of oranges and mandarins.
He had given me about forty mandarins on Tuesday, most of which I distributed at the workshop that day.
He had promised to give me more, as well as some oranges, on Thursday when I was in El Zapote (he is from El Zapote). There were about forty mandarins and forty oranges.
I came some mandarins to folks here in Plan Grande as I returned home, but I still have many to eat and share.
The farmer’s wife is suffering with rheumatoid arthritis and he is concerned about medicine for her.
But with all this he was happy to give me lots of citrus – which I love.
While we were doing the evaluation, one of the workshop participants noted how the people in San Agustin were happy with how I had helped them with the confirmation liturgy this past Monday.
I will be working with people from this zone on Saturday to prepare the confirmation liturgy here in El Zapote on November 13. I had worked with folks from another zone on Tuesday to help them prepare their liturgy.
I reflected aloud on my approach. The liturgy has to be theirs, but often this is overwhelming. The bishop is coming! We have to do it right!
What I try to do is make it easier for them to do it well. I try to give them a clear idea of what we are going to do but I leave much to them. They choose the readers; they agree to the readings we’ll use; they choose different people for the offertory procession; etc. But I have the readings prepared; I have a list of things that need to be done; and I promise to be there at least an hour before so that we can make sure all goes well.
I reflected on this out loud, in light of the principle of subsidiarity.
In some way I am trying to live out the Catholic Social Principle of subsidiarity. According to that principle higher level institutions should not do what more grass roots institutions can do – but they also should provide assistance (“subsidy”). You don’t do everything for people but you provide help so that they can prosper.
That’s what I am here for – to accompany the people in their path toward being signs of God’s Reign here in the parish of Dulce Nombre.
Today was a day that help me to learn more about that ministry of accompaniment, about that way of trying to become a servant, about what it means to be a “deacon.”