Sunday, December 02, 2018

It's not looking like Advent

Advent has begun. For many years I’ve loved to celebrate this season, a season of hope and waiting.

For many years, I’ve read portions of the Prison Meditations of Father Alfred Delp, a Jesuit killed by the Nazis in 1945. His Advent and Christmas meditations have sustained me for many years. (It's now available as Alfred Delp: Prison Writings.)

I’ve often tried to have an Advent wreath. This year I have the candles, but no greens.

I’ve often had to bundle up for Advent since it was cold in the places where I lived in the US, especially Ames, Iowa. But I also usually had to bundle up here in Honduras since it’s usually rainy and in the 50s – which is cold when you have no heat. My first year here I wondered if I would ever feel warm. Hot showers and a space heater helped a bit. But this year it’s been dry and hot, more like March and April than December. Don’t tell me climate change is not happening.

In the last few years we’ve had the rite of welcome of the candidates for the catechumenate on the first Sunday of Advent.

This year we welcomed 43 into the catechumenate, mostly young people between 14 and 20.

I don’t have any pictures of the first Sunday of Advent because I was busy. I had to arrange all the details for the rite and then, when the church secretary couldn’t come, I had to arrange for someone to help with the signing-in of the candidates.

The pastor asked me to bless the Advent wreath and then, as we sat down to listen to the readings, he asked me if I had a homily prepared. Yes, I told him and so I preached.

Then I led the catechumens out for a short reflection on the rite after the prayer of the faithful.

After all this, since I wanted to attend a complete Mass, I accompanied the pastor to Mass in San Agustín, where I also blessed the Advent wreath and preached.

After Mass, he went to visit the sick. The communion minister in San Agustin, a young man from the parish, and I accompanied him.

In the first house we visited a woman whom I had visited several times. In fact, she remembered me and had wondered why I hadn’t come recently. She is much worse than when I last saw here in the beginning of October.

Then we went to the house of a 93 year-old, former delegate of the word, who was being cared for by his wife of 67 years, who was in her eighties. Though he was confined to bed, he was very alert and proceeded to joke with father. When we prayed, he prayed aloud, and when we sang, he sang. He received the anointing of the sick and both he and his wife received communion.

What a great way to begin Advent – even though it’s not feeling a lot like Christmas.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Celebrating Christ the King

The feast of Christ the King is a big celebration in our parish.

For many years we have had a morning Mass for all the parish in one of the towns or villages of the parish. In the past few years, these have included processions to the site of the Mass.

This year the Mass was held near the village of Plan Grande, where I live. It started about 9 pm with processions from two parts of the parish with people singing and praying along the way – with marching bands (which here they unfortunately call “Bandas de guerra” – war bands.)

The Mass this year was preceded by adoration of the Eucharist. After Padre German offered some prayers, he invited the Delegate of the Word present to offer a few prayers.

Christ the King Sunday is also celebrated as the day of the Delegates of the Word, the men and women who lead Sunday celebrations of the Word in their communities. The movement was started in the mid-1960s to help the many distant communities gather for a Sunday celebration, since the parish priest could not get to all the communities on a Sunday and it was very difficult to get to the main town for Mass.

After the prayer, Padre German took the monstrance with the host throughout the crowd. 

Here, there is a custom of touching the monstrance and then blessing oneself. I don’t know where the custom comes from, though I wonder if it is in some way related to the difficulty many have of going to communion (for any number of reasons). In my mind, it is very much an expression of the desire to touch God – to be in real contact with Jesus. It could at times become almost superstitious, but, watching the devotion, it seems to be the expression of deep desire for God.

After the period of adoration, we had Mass. I am coming down with a cold and so I can’t give a good report on the homily, though Padre German tried to connect the reading of Jesus before Pilate with the reality of people’s lives.

Since I was away all week at a seminar on the protection and care of minors and persons in vulnerable situations, I did not have much of a role in the celebration, which doesn’t bother me. I didn’t participate in the processions, but I did do my diaconal roles at Mass and helped move things after the celebration.

I spent a good bit of time before and after connecting with people, even arranging a few visits to communities in December. I also talked to at least four young people who are finishing high school this December. Several of them want to study in the university but that’s costly. So they may work for a while – or try to find a way to both work and study. There is also the difficulty of not finding the degree they want near here.

While visiting I found out that a neighbor had left for Spain last Sunday. She has a sister there and will probably be seeking work, to help pay off debts of the family. She leaves a husband a a two year old son. I also found out that one young guy who worked on my house was with the caravan. However, he crossed the border on his own and is presumably safe in the US.

The feast of Christ the King is important for us here – not least of all it is a contrast to the politics that we find here and in many places throughout the world. And so it is important to celebrate it – among the poor, who show us the face of the prisoner Jesus before the repressive and violent powers of this world.

So sorry

Friday I read that the brother of the president of Honduras was arrested in Miami on drug charges. There have been many rumors about this for quite some times as other members of the political and economic elites have been arrested in Honduras and the US for drug-related crimes.

Saturday morning I opened my Facebook page and found this post of a FB friend from the Te Apoyamas JOH FB page:

Nuestra admiración ante su postura y Valentia, pero de igual manera nuestra solidaridad por su dolor de hermano, estamos con vos, Juan Orlando.
Our admiration in the face of your posture and courage, and in like manner our solidarity for your pain as brother. We are with you, Juan Orlando.
I don’t want to comment, since this is almost too painful.

In the face of the thousands in the caravan fleeing the situation in Honduras, in the face of the rising costs of living in Honduras, in the face of violence in the cities, in the face of the lack of justice for victims of violence, in the face of the rampant corruption, in the face of thousands in prison waiting for long periods to go before the court – people feel sad and offer support for someone whose brother has been arrested.  Yes, it is hard when a loved one is arrested. But I know any number of cases where family members have been imprisoned and are waiting for months without much hope of justice. Where is the solidarity with them?

This type of propaganda is part of the problem of Honduras. I am not blaming those who do it since I presume that many may be doing it to keep their jobs. I know of some cases in which people had to put posts on social media to support the ruling party before the last election; otherwise, their work in public institutions (e.g., public hospitals) could be endangered.

There is a system here that seeks to sustain itself – a system of domination, fueled by the love of power and money by ruling elites. This is the problem.