This afternoon, returning from an afternoon and evening in Gracias with the Franciscan sisters, I almost ran into a funeral procession, at a curve in front of the church in Candelaria.
I stopped and asked a person I know what had happened. A twenty-four year old man had been brutally killed two nights ago and his body had been mutilated.
I noticed the parish car on the lawn outside the church and decided to stay for the funeral.
The church was full and Padre German, who had three other funerals today, delivered a strong homily, beginning by saying that a machete is meant to bring life, not death. Very interestingly he chose the Genesis 11 account of the Tower of Babel and the Gospel account of the beheading of John the Baptist for the readings.
He called for an end to the violence and noted how one remote village is almost empty because of the spiral of violence that took so many lives.
After the Mass, Padre had to go to another funeral in Dulce Nombre. I decided to accompany them to the burial; the cemetery is just down the hill from the church.
As the casket was being prepared to be put in the concrete vault, a women cried – no, lamented – leaning on the glass where she could see his face.
She finally left with many of the family members. The concrete top of the vault was poured and flowers here put on the grave.
I had been looking around to see if any of the Delegates of the Word were present to say a final word. I was surprised that no one was there. (A delegate from Plan Grande had been there but left.)
So I asked a sister of the young man if it would be okay to say a prayer.
It was a short prayer with an Our Father and a Hail Mary, recalling how Mary had suffered the violent death of her son. I called on the people to see that the violence stops here and that no one gives in to vengeance or vendettas.
Several times this afternoon I was near tears, tears of compassion for the suffering of the people here and for the terrible loss of another young life.
I was privileged to be there, privileged to be able to do one of the spiritual works of mercy, burying the dead.
As I was walking to the cemetery I came across one young man I know. I asked him if he was going to the gravesite. He said no because it was evil. I’m not sure what he meant, but I think he might have a fear of funerals and the dead. I told him that no matter what we may think of the person who was killed it is a work of mercy to offer consolation to the family by being there.
But I feel a strong calling tonight to try to help people to face, with faith and courage, the violence around us. I hope to meet with some of the youth this coming weekend and I’ve offered others to come and reflect with them over the death and the violence.
Footnote: this death does not change the security situation for me or for other visitors, but it does reveal the increasing vulnerability of Hondurans, especially the young.