Yesterday, Saturday, October 22, five buses and one car from the parish of Dulce Nombre traveled more than three hours to the shrine of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Our Lady of the Remedies) in Tomalá, in the south of the department of Lempira.
Tomalá is one of the pilgrimage sites in our diocese during this Holy Year of Mercy, with a designated Holy Door.
Many of us got up at 4:00 am of earlier to catch the buses.
I went with Padre German in his truck, leaving from Dulce Nombre about 6:30 am. The ride was uneventful – thanks be to God – but with some beautiful landscapes.
At the entrance to the town of Tomalá, close to three hundred of us got out of our vehicles in order to travel the last kilometer of foot.
I reflected with them on this passage of Pope Francis’s Misericordiae Vultus, The Face of Mercy, ¶ 14:
The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.
We walked to the church, a beautiful combination of young and old, from many different parts of the parish. I was especially impressed by the large number of young people from several of the towns and villages.
When we arrived at the door of the church, Padre German led us in prayer and then we entered the church
When we had filed the church, we recited the creed. Then Padre German and the pastor of Tomalá heard confessions for about 90 minutes. During that time, others gathered around the altar of Our Lady of Remedies to pray or had lunch or visited the spring of the Virgin.
Mass concluded our celebration.
After Mass, many of us made our way to the Spring of the Virgin, El Posito de la Virgen, a miraculous spring not far from the church.
People come from near and far to drink from the spring or bathe in its waters (in two separate places). Some take water back home, seeking God’s healing through the intercession of Mary.
I visited the spring many years ago, in the company of the mayor at that time. He told me how someone fenced in the spring, planning to charge people for admission. The spring retreated!
When I visited I put my right hand in the waters, not thinking of anything in particular. Right before coming to Honduras I had broken a bone in that hand while on a parish work trip to New Orleans. It healed but there was an almost constant ache. A few days after putting my hand in the water I realized that the ache was gone. Thanks be to God and His mother.
Those who know me realize that I am not credulous, given to believing or expecting great miracles. I am much more comfortable with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who said, “The miracle is to walk the earth.”
But I did experience a small miracle and thus I hope that I can become more open to the signs of God’s love, the miracles of everyday life, and that I can be part of God’s miracles of love and justice and mercy here on earth.
Most of the busses left about 3:00 but we didn’t leave until about an hour later. One bus had major mechanical problems and they worked about an hour repairing it.
We stayed behind. Padre German didn’t want to leave them. He also decided to drive back cautiously, making sure that our car was behind the busses – in case there was an emergency of some sort.
We arrived in Dulce Nombre about 7:35 and got home to Plan Grande after 8:30 pm – tired but filled with peace.
It was a beautiful day, experiencing the mercy of God and the faith of the people I work with.