Thursday, June 01, 2017

Seventy years and celebrating

A seventieth birthday should probably be celebrated for seventy days or at least seventy hours. One person suggested that I celebrate the whole week.

I do know that I have had over 200 birthday greetings today via e-mail and Facebook - and phone calls. I lost track since some people made remarks on some of the photos I posted.

The birthday celebration actually started last Monday when I was with the men working on the parish coffee fields. Padre German was telling them that Thursday was my birthday and proceeded to pour water over my head several times. Bañando the person celebrating a birthday is not uncommon here – especially with Padre German!

I started Wednesday, getting up early to bake bread for my guests. I know that the six Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family (the Dubuque Franciscans) usually take Wednesday off and so I invited them to an early birthday celebration.

Knowing they like bread I decided to go all out and bake cinnamon rolls. They were barely out of the oven when they arrived and so, putting on a pot of coffee, we enjoyed them. They were the best cinnamon rolls I have made here in Honduras (and maybe ever). We also had eggplant parmigiana (one of my classic dishes), bread, salad brought by the sisters, and an incredible chocolate dessert brought by Sister Nancy.

But the real joy was the company. We spoke of many things. We prayed. They sang. It was a time to lift the spirits. I am really blessed to know these sisters – and be an associate of their community. They are signs of God’s presence here in a particularly Franciscan way, fully committed to the poor.

After they left, I rested since I knew my birthday would be busy.

At about 8 am I begin helping folks here move chairs, tables, and more to the site of the Mass this morning. I also sent and picked up the young woman who has been largely bed-ridden who was going to receive her first communion. I nearly backed the car into a ditch, but the ingenuity of my Honduran neighbors saved the day.

We got to the site of the Mass and I got a chance to greet the couple who were getting married. I jokingly greeted them as novios, which could be translated as the engaged or even as boyfriend and girlfriend. Smiles ensued.

Before Mass started Padre German heard the confessions of the couple who were to be married and the young woman who would receive her first communion.

The small yard was filled with people – friends, neighbors, family, grand kids, kids – and a music group. It was a real community celebration of life and love.

Mass went on and Padre German gave a pointed homily. As he spoke with the couple, Paulino, the husband, became very responsive, at one point saying, very appropriately, “Love triumphs.”

Padre German also addressed the young woman whom he was going to anoint, asking her to see her illness as a way to share with Christ. (Note that this was not a way to diminish her suffering but to help her give it meaning.)

 After the homily, Padre German turned to me and said, “You’re doing the marriage!” Now that’s real delegation of responsibilities to the deacon. All went well and they were wed to the great joy of all those there. (I made no mistakes I know of.)

I did change one of the questions that the couple are asked. Instead of asking them if they were willing to accept children as a gift of their marriage, I amended it to note that they had accepted children.

As I see it, their sacramental marriage is really a confirmation of the “sacrament” that they have been living, of the sign of God’s love they have shared.

The Mass concluded after they had signed the parish’s wedding book, which is done publicly at the end of the Mass, before the blessing.

At the end of Mass in the parish, there is the custom to celebrate birthdays. The cumpleañeros come forward. Las mañanitas are sung; they are blessed and sprinkled with water and then they have to blow out their candles. Padre German, though, likes to bañar, pour lots of water, on the birthday parties – especially me. There were five of us - Wilmer, 13 years old, and three young women of various ages, and me.

After Mass, the food came out. The base communities of Plan Grande had come out in full force with tamales, rice, tortillas, and juice. It was a real celebration.

I took the young woman back to her home and then, after helping take things back to the church and taking a short break, I headed out to Dulce Nombre by the back route. A mistake.

First of all, I thought I had changed the condados, the locks for the four-wheel drive. So when I got stuck in the mud, I had to get out and change them. Mud abounded.

After that I had to get the car washed. I think something might be wrong and I’ll have to take it to a mechanic tomorrow since there is a wire hanging down from the engine.

Tomorrow, I also have to prepare for the Pentecost Vigil. I have to preach, though I do have some ideas already. I’ll also see about making sure the car is in working condition.

But then I’ll be off to Gracias to join the sisters in a celebration of Sister Nancy’s fifty years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Holy Family. I feel really blest to have known Nancy for about twenty-five years – from the time I met and worked with her in Suchitoto, El Salvador. She is partly responsible for me being here in Honduras. But most of all she is a great sign of the presence of God and of the Franciscan charism in the world of the poor and the young.

Then there’s the Pentecost Vigil – 6 pm, Saturday to 6 am, Sunday – to conclude my birthday celebrations – almost a week!

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