Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Santa Rosa priests support Father Melo


I hate the one who does evil, he will not gather together with me. Far from me is the twisted heart; I will not approve the evil doer.” Psalm 100

The Priests of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, having learned of the information about the threats put forth by various media against Father Ismael Moreno (Padre Melo) to national and international communities, make it known that:
  1. We are in solidarity with Father Ismael Moreno, our brother in the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ.
  2. The defense of the virginity and the chastity of a young woman, in the history of the church, led to martyrdom for missionary priests and bishops, for example, the Salesians Bishop Luis Versiglia and Father Caravario.
  3. We are firmly convinced that the action of Father Ismael Moreno is based in the defense of the dignity of the human person and of the human rights of Miss Irma Melissa Villanueva.
  4. Sexual assault of women is brutish conduct which intends to demonstrate superiority and brute force as a way to intimidate and to caution all those who think differently.
  5. The judicial and police authorities of Honduras ought to act in adherence to the law and to justice against the police who committed lewd acts against and sexual rape of Irma Melissa Villanueva, and hopefully they will not go unpunished as in past occasion; for example, the police who wounded with bullets the demonstrators in Colonia 6 de mayo, in Macuelizo, Santa Bárbara, June 17, 2006.
  6. The competent authorities ought to process the formal accusation which Father Valentín Menéndez, S.J., superior of the Jesuits, presented to the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights of San Pedro Sula, dated April 17, 2010.
  7. He have taken the word of Mr. Oscar Álvares, Minister of Security, and President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, who have publicly affirmed that in this government corruption and criminal police forces will not be tolerated.
  8. With this message we call upon all the bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, and all the base ecclesial communities to join with us in one soul and one heart to defend the Catholic Church seriously threatened in terms of the moral and physical security of several priests.


Santa Rosa de Copán, April 30, 2010.
Presbytery (the priests) of the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán [Honduras]

The original Spanish can be found on my Spanish language blog.
The statement of the Jesuits in support of Father Melo can be read on a recent blog post of mine.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A death on our street

Until last night there were three Juancitos in the block where I live in Santa Rosa – me, Juancito who owns the mini-super up the block, and Don Juancito, his father.

Last night Don Juancito died about 7:30 pm, presumably of a heart attack. He almost always had a big smile on his face, even though he lost his wife last year. We’d often greet each other as “tocayo” – a term that means people share the same name.

At times he raised corn in a small plot across the street from his house.

The other day I saw him outside his house chopping the weeds with his machete. I called out to him – but he didn’t hear me.

Neighbors told that they saw him walking up the street yesterday. His sudden death has shaken the neighborhood.

I’ll miss his presence and his gentle smile. He was, in the best sense of the word, a simple man.

“Blessed are the pure of heart, they shall see God.” (Matthew 5: 8)

And I saw God through Don Juancito.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jesuit statement regarding threats to Padre Melo

Statement of the Jesuits of Honduras

The superiors of the Society of Jesus in Honduras, in the face of the threats and duress that repeatedly target Father Ismael Moreno, S.J. (Padre Melo), we declare the following before national and international public opinion:

First: We denounce the fact that in the last few weeks Padre Melo has been the object of death threats by unknown persons through text messages and calls to his dell phone. Such threats are related to the humanitarian decision to provide protection for the young woman Irma Melissa Villanueva in a case already known by the Public Ministry’s District Attorney’s office and by various national and international human rights organizations.

Second: we affirm that the relation of Padre Melo with Irma Melissa and her family is exclusively in terms of the actions that occurred on August 14 in Choloma, the day Irma Melissa accused various policemen of having raped her on the occasion of a march of the Resistance in that city. The action of Padre Melo is in the framework of a Christian commitment in the face of situations that require the humanitarian accompaniment of members of religious communities such as he.

Third: we note that the threats against Padre Melo don’t refer only to him. The Society of Jesus denounces the fact that Gerardo Chévez, Radio Progreso reporter, also is receiving threats and intimidation for his informative work in the Radio.

Fourth: we note that on Friday, April 17, Father Valentín Menéndez, S.J., superior of the Jesuits in El Progreso, Yoro, presented a formal complaint (denunciation) to the Special District Attorney for Human Rights in San Pedro Sula in which he asked that there be an ongoing investigation of the threats and duress against Padre Melo.

Fifth: we demand that the national authorities conduct a diligent and effective investigation of the deeds which have been denounced and we make an urgent appeal to national and international human rights organizations to follow up on this case.

Released in the city of El Progreso, in the department of Yoro, the nineteenth of April, 2010.

Valentín Menéndez S.I.
Superior of the Jesuits of El Progreso.
Carlos Solano S.I.
Superior of the Jesuits of Yoro
Juan José Colato S.I.
Superior of the Jesuits of Tocoa.

The Spanish original can be found at the Radio Progreso blog or at my Spanish language blog.

There are articles in Spanish at Proceso Digital and at El Tiempo. Also at El Revistazo.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Human rights

I am in the middle of preparing a workshop on Catholic Social Teaching for the rural areas of the cathedral parish here in Santa Rosa de Lima. I am also helping to find sources in Catholic Social Teaching for the schools of governability and democracy that Caritas is preparing for the eight deaneries of the diocese.

In the midst of my research I came across these fascinating paragraphs (60 - 61) in Blessed Pope John XXIII's 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris - Peace on Earth.
60. It is agreed that in our time the common good is chiefly guaranteed when personal rights and duties are maintained. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are acknowledged, respected, coordinated with other rights, defended and promoted, so that in this way each one may more easily carry out his duties. For "to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the fulfillment of his duties, should be the chief duty of every public authority."

61. This means that, if any government does not acknowledge the rights of man or violates them, it not only fails in its duty, but its orders completely lack juridical force.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blessed are they

On Wednesday the Vatican announced the date of the beatification of Polish priest Jerzy Popieluszko as a martyr, on 6 June in Warsaw, Poland.

Ever since I heard his story I was impressed by the commitment of this young priest to the cause of the Polish workers.

He seems to have been a reluctant activist. In 1980 striking Warsaw steel plant workers asked the cardinal for a priest to say Mass at their plant. The cardinal found the Father Popieluszko at the church where he was serving part-time, because of his poor health. Father Popieluszko gradually became more involved in support of the Solidarity trade union. Eventually he presided over monthly Masses for the Fatherland where his preaching strengthened the people in their struggle.

He was a threat to the regime and so was abducted by the Polish secret police on October 19, 1984, and died after being bound, gagged, and thrown into a reservoir. He was 37 years old.

I was impressed by his commitment to nonviolence. Here are a few quotes I came across:
“Do not fight by means of violence. Violence is a sign of weakness. Whatever cannot win by influencing the heart tries to win by means of violence. The most splendid and lasting battles known to history are the battles of human thought. The most ignoble and the shortest are the battles of violence. An idea which needs weapons to survive will die of itself. The idea which prevails merely through the use of violence is perverted. A living idea conquers by itself. It is followed by millions.”
Mass for the Country, December 1982
Let us pray that we may be free from fear and intimidation, but most of all that we may be free from the desire for violence and vengeance.
at his last Mass
Through Christ’s death and resurrection the Cross – a symbol of disgrace – became a sign of courage, virtue, help, and brotherhood. In the sign of the Cross we embrace today all that is most beautiful and valuable in man. Through the Cross we go to the resurrection. There is no other way. And therefore the crosses of our county, our personal crosses, and those of our families, must lead to victory, to resurrection, if we are united to Christ who conquered the Cross.”
Mass for the Country, September 1982
in Grazyna Sikorska, Jerzy Popieluszko: A Martyr for the Truth
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 52.
As I read this news today I thought of two other persons who also deserve honor. One is Franz Jaegerstaetter, an Austrian Peasanta who refused to serve in Hitler’s army. For his conscientious decision he was beheaded on August 9, 1943. he was beatified in October 2007. Orbis books has recently published a collection of his writings, Franz Jagerstatter: Letters and Writings from Prison.

The other person who should be formally canonized – and not just beatified – is Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, who was a voice for the voiceless. In many ways I think he was a reluctant prophet, much like Blessed Jerzy. He also stood with the people, denouncing injustices and seeking a way out.

He has been canonized in the hearts of millions in Latin America and throughout the world as San Romero. But the Vatican has been slow to acknowledge him, possibly because of what they see as his political stances. However, in my eyes he was much less politically partisan than Blessed Jerzy.

There are two major differences between the two men. The killers of Blessed Jerzy were Communists whereas San Romero’s were nominally Catholic. In addition, San Romero found himself in conflict with the conservative bishops of El Salvador.

Yet he has inspired millions to live as people of faith committed to justice. Whether he is canonized or not in the next few years, his example as a bishop committed to Christ and to the suffering needs to be emulated and followed – especially these days.

A collection of quotes, The Violence of Love, is published by Orbis Books and is also available as a PDF file from Plough Publishing. Romero: A Life by James Brockman is also available from Orbis Books.

Lest I be accused of sexism, I must mention that yesterday the person who contracted the killing of Sister Dorothy Stang, a Notre Dame sister who defended the people in the Brazilian rain forests was found guilty again.


The photo of Blessed Jerzy Popieuluszko is from the Wikipedia page.

Commenting on the news

There’s a lot happening in other parts of Honduras that will probably affect us here in western Honduras in very subtle ways. I usually don’t like to write my blog posts on what I don’t personally experience, but I’ve decided to note what I have been reading and hearing since it affects our lives.

Repression of Land Movements

There has been a lot of news in Honduras about an area near the northern coast, Bajo Aguán where 3500 families have taken over some land and before the coup were in the process of negotiating control of the land with the government. The situation there has been very conflictive and campesinos have been killed, wounded, and taken captive by army and police forces. They have also been accused of being armed by outside forces, whereas all that I’ve read indicates their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. They are in negotiation with Pepe Lobe on the land but it seems to be a stalemate. It is not beside the point that three major wealthy landowners are contesting the campesinos' claim on the land.

This past weekend about 3000 security forces were sent to the area, supposedly to deal with crime and drug trafficking, but to many it seems to be an effort to coerce the campesinos to accept a deal that gives them two hectares – about 3 acres, but they have to work one of the hectares in African palm which they must sell to the big companies. Sounds like a sweetheart deal for the big palm oil dealers who get the product without the risk. (Does this sound like some deals that farmers in the US make with big poultry and hog companies?)

Militarization of Crime Prevention

Yesterday, the president declared that he was sending the army out on the streets to police crime. Honduras is the second or third most violent country in the Americas and violent crime seems to be growing here, especially in the cities, due – I believe – to drug trafficking and gangs. Here in Santa Rosa de Copán the situation is fairly safe, though there are concerns in several departments (states) in the area about the presence of drug trafficking, even involving public authorities.

Something needs to be done but there is concern that this is a further militarization of the country that remembers the role of the military in the June 28, 2009, coup as well as in the massive human rights violations in the 1980s.

Yet I am not sure that this militarization of policing is really a new policy. During Holy Week I saw a lot of military with the police on the roads here. But I had been seeing more military troops out on the streets here. Nothing new, just justified by the government.

A “Truth” Commission that will hide the truth

In accord with the various agreements made last year at the prompting of the US, a Truth Commission is to be set up, but, according to the press, the report to be sealed for ten years. What purpose does such a commission serve? The truth will not be made known but covered up, hidden.

Today’s Gospel reading of the encounter of Jesus and Nicodemus has this fascinating line: “Whoever does wrong hates the light and doesn’t come to the light for fear that his deeds will be shown as evil.” (John 3: 20) No comment.

These works of martyred Guatemalan bishop Juan Gerardi reveal the way that Honduras should go – making the truth known.
To open ourselves to the truth and to bring ourselves face to face with our personal and collective reality is not an option that can be accepted or rejected. It is an undeniable requirement of all people and all societies that seek to humanize themselves and to be free.
Bishop Gerardi, auxiliary bishop of Guatemala City, spearheaded the work of the Catholic Church in Guatemala to document human rights violations which resulted in a major four-volume report, “The Recovery of Historical Memory: Guatemala: Never Again.” Two days after a report was released he was killed, April 26, 1998, for bringing the truth to light!

A final note on sources

It is very hard to keep up on what is happening here. The newspapers are notoriously partisan as are many of the radio stations. I don’t listen as much as I could to radio stations such as the Jesuit-sponsored Radio Progreso or the Santa Rosa diocesan radio stations, partly because it takes a fair amount of concentration to really understand what is being said. I do look at newspapers, blogs, and reports on line, but there is only so much time I should give to them. I also try to talk with people about what is happening.

So what would I recommend to folks who want good information with decent commentary? For me the most helpful source is the blog of two Berkeley anthropologists, Honduras Culture and Politics, especially since it provides perceptive analyses that I trust and avoids incendiary language and subjective commentaries. Also, from June 28, 2009, the day of the coup, until very recently Charles II wrote a daily précis of what he read on Honduras which I found most helpful on a blog, Mercury Rising, he shares with several other folks. He continues to post on Honduras at least once a week. Adrienne Pine is another anthropologist whose blog Quotha provides another, very critical perspective on Honduras.

There are other sources but these have been most helpful for me and Honduras Culture and Politics continues to provide almost daily updates and commentaries.

Revised 8:45 am, April 14, 2010

Friday, April 09, 2010

Pax Christi International report

Pax Christi International, the international Catholic peace organization, sent a delegation to Honduras in late March. Their report, in English or Spanish, seems to me to be a balanced document that is sensitive to the demands of the Resistance and to the human rights concerns expressed by many people here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Indigenous wisdom

Each time I go to the countryside I learn something new – or I am reminded of something I knew but which hadn’t stuck in my consciousness.

Tuesday I went with Johnny, one of the coordinators of the maternal and infant health program that Caritas Santa Rosa is coordinating, to a remote area of the municipality of El Paraiso, Copán.

What really impressed me was Johnny’s integrity and his commitment to those in need. During the trip – two hours by car – and during our visit to a rural village we talked about corruption, about his previous work, and about the project.

Johnny has been at work with the poor for many years. He mentioned how he worked with some volunteers in a program of informal education a number of years ago. He encouraged them to think about studying to become teachers. Four of them followed his advice and are now teachers, earning a salary.

He also mentioned an experience during an internship when he, as a high school student, refused to go along with a supervisor who was skimming off the materials which had been left over from a project. He was vindicated but it took a lot of courage for him to stand up for honesty.

In the village where we visited, El Chacron – the big mud hole, we delivered materials for the three volunteers in the village who will keep track of infants under 2 years and pregnant women. We first visited with the volunteer in charge. As we left, he showed us his garden. Though there is a fence around it he is using pineapple plants as a barrier against invasion of chickens and other creatures. Not only is this effective and ecologically sound, he will be able to harvest 200 pineapples during the year.

He also spoke about the medicinal values of some of the plants in the garden. I asked him where he learned this. “From my ancestors,” he replied. The native wisdom of the people here is something which I hope will not be lost.

As we drove back from El Chacron to the town of El Paraiso, Johnny and Ondina, a local nurse, talked about some of the communities nearby, including several within a national park – Cerro Azul. One community is mostly indigenous and eats tortillas and “monte” – wild greens; they are relatively healthier than another community which is not indigenous and doesn’t include enough greens in their diets.

This reminded me of a book I started to read a few years ago but never finished. A friend, Alfonso Carranza, who is a professor of agriculture at the local campus of the National University of Honduras, investigated the practices of indigenous communities in the department of Lempira. He found that they have preserved ancient practices to deal with food shortages.

This wisdom of the native population is invaluable but often neglected when we try to find ways to assist them. Many assume that because they are poor and without formal education they are dumb. But, the wisdom of the poor is often invaluable and more in contact with the reality of this world than the so-called wisdom of professionals.

Disturbing news

Yesterday Pepe Lobo, elected president of Honduras last November, met with the Canadian Ambassador as well as with Canadian business leaders, including the president of Aura Minerals, a Canadian company that owns the San Andrés mine not far from Santa Rosa. The Canadians intend to invest 700 million US dollars in mining and maquila efforts, according to a report in Honduras Weekly.

The San Andrés, Copán, mine is not far from where I live. Streams near the mine flow into the Rio Lara which is the source of water for the city of Santa Rosa. San Andrés is an open pit mine that uses cyanide leeching as the way to separate out gold. A number of years ago cyanide was released into the stream that led into Rio Lara. Last year a cyanide spill on the mining grounds was supposedly contained. But who knows how much cyanide or heavy metals may be being released into the ecosystem here.

There is a concern that there will be increased concessions granted to mining interests without concern for the environmental and human effects. Lobo mentioned the need for new mining regulations to protect the mining companies’ investments.

Many are concerned that the mining companies already have a sweetheart deal. The current law has a minimal tax on the profits of the mining companies and the companies have nearly unlimited access to water, a precious commodity here.

There are outrageous promises of jobs – 50,000 according to Santos Gabino Carvajal, president of the Honduran National Mining association (Asociación Nacional de Minería de Honduras [ANAMINH]), cited in a January 20, 2010 article in La Tribuna.

In the March 9, 2010 edition of La Tribuna, Adolfo Facussé, president of the National Association of Industries (Andi), referred to groups that demonize the mining companies and made other fairly outrageous comments which seem intended to demonize those who oppose the current mining situation in Honduras, implying that they oppose all mining and are inspired by the left. Facussé is a prominent supporter of the coup who had his US visa pulled as he tried to enter the US last year.

The bishop of Santa Rosa de Copán, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, has been an outspoken voice against the current mining law and the human and ecological damage done by the mines, including the San Andrés mine.

Where will this lead?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Vera Cruz - the people

There are many wonderful people in Vera Cruz and many stories. I mentioned a few of them in yesterday’s post.

During my three days there a few other people stood out.

There’s Mario, an eighth grade student who is a very good reader. After I heard him read one of the Stations of the Cross, I asked him to read the narrator’s part in the Good Friday Passion. He did a wonderful job.

There’s Nelson, the celebrator of the word from El Ocote, a nice young man who is single and has a real dedication to working with young people. (His group did the skit with the Richard Nixon mask last August that cracked me up.) He only has a sixth grade education.

After the Easter Vigil I stood around for a while and talked with a few people. I almost always ask about their work – farmers all. I also often ask about family. One has nine children, another three. But the one couple said they had none. That sounded really strange, but they mentioned that the wife had given birth to two, and one they had fourteen months to get to know. They have no chance of other children. How sad.

There was also the person who at the last Station of the Cross on Friday – Jesus is laid in the tomb – went beyond the written text and talked about the burial of democracy with the June 28 coup last year.

There were the two kids who I got to meet at Ermelinda’s house – nephews of her husband, she explained. They obviously enjoyed the crazy gringo visiting there. Their father is in the states working. The younger one, almost four years old, doesn’t speak, though he obviously understands what people say to him.

There was the choir, mostly teenage girls, who sang – sometimes off key – but with faith and enthusiasm.

There were the women who fed me and kept wondering why I eat so little. And the women who cleaned and decorated the church.

I already mentioned the old woman who pushed five lempiras into my hands after the celebration on Easter Sunday morning.

Their lives and mine have intersected for a few days, but they remind me why I’m here.

They are part of that Paschal mystery of dying and rising.

The Lord is risen - alleluia!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Paschal Triduum in Vera Cruz

But we will not find Jesus in tombs or in any place that is ruled by violence, self satisfaction, greed, or any institution that deals in death and lies. We find him out in the world, specifically in Galilee, that is, among the poor, the workers, those struggling for a way to survive in an unjust world, our neighbors, believers and unbelievers alike, whom we have known and who have known us always. We will see him there.
Megan McKenna, Lent: The Sunday Readings, p. 211

This year I celebrated the Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil in the town of Vera Cruz, Copán. Appropriately, Vera Cruz means the “True Cross.”

Vera Cruz is one of the municipalities in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María. I’ve been there before a few times, but this time I noticed the poverty of this town of abut 1000 people which is the municipio, the “county” seat of the municipality. Many of the houses in town are of adobe (mud blocks) or bahareque (walls of horizontal sticks with mud between them).

It’s poor in other ways – including its pastoral life. The one celebrator of the Word was suspended for a year because he got involved publicly in partisan politics. (Partisan politics is so divisive that many parishes have placed limits on pastoral workers getting involved, which is probably good.) A celebrator from a nearby village has been helping, but there is a real dearth of initiative among the people in Vera Cruz. It was sad.

But the three days of the Easter Triduum were filled with prayer. I was privileged to be able to bring the Eucharist so that the people could have communion at the services.

It began at 7 pm on Holy Thursday. I had the celebrator take charge of the Liturgy of the Word, even though I shared a reflection.After the reflection we had the washing of the feet. I ended up washing the feet of twelve members of the congregation – from an infant to an old man. This was not merely an aesthetic exercise for at least of the boys had dirty feet (as the towel we used testified). After I washed the twelve I invited others to come forward to wash feet. Only two men came forward and I had to strongly encourage an older woman to come forward to let her feet be washed. The people in this town seem rather timid – another sign of poverty.

Here I am washing the feet. Since I was going to distribute communion I was vested in a borrowed alb.

After the celebration there was the first of many processions. This was the procession of desprendimiento, I think. I’ll translate it as the “leave-taking” procession since the men went off on one way with an image of Jesus and the women went off on another route with a statue of Mary, the sorrowful Mother. They met up three times at which the two images “bowed” three times to each other.

After the procession we had a holy hour of adoration of the Eucharist until 10 pm.

The next day was even more filled with events showing the faith of the people.

Stations of the Cross throughout town began at 9 in the morning. At 2 pm there was supposed to be a service of anointing of the body of Christ, but plans changed and it was inserted into the 3 pm liturgy before the veneration of the cross.

The anointing was a rite of popular piety I had never seen. Cotton is soaked with perfumed oil and two young women anointed a small crucifix. I thought this strange until I found out that many statues were stolen from the church abut three years ago and one of them was the image of the dead Christ which is carried in processions in a glass coffin in many places, as can be seen in this image from Santa Rosa two years ago.

The ritual is remembering the role of the women in anointing the body of Jesus after he was taken down from the Cross. (The anointing stone is a special shrine in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.)

After the anointing people were given pieces of the cotton after they venerated the Cross.

After the service there was the procession of the Santo Entierro, the Holy Entombment. The glass coffin was carried throughout the streets of Vera Cruz.

Later that evening, about 8, there was the procession of Soledad, of desolation. The Cross is carried by women accompanied by an image of Mary in complete silence.

Saturday was quiet until the Vigil which was supposed to start at 7 pm. Almost no one was there at 7, not even the choir and the musical group; even the celebrator of the word arrived after 7. They had not even arranged where they were going to have the Easter fire! (All this severely tested my gringo anal-retentiveness, but I got over it.)

But all went well. The fire was started in a street and we processed into the darkened church.

I had managed to find a sung version of the “Exultet,” the Paschal hymn, in Spanish. I didn’t trust my sight reading but I had a recording of the version by Jaime Cortes; so I listened to it on my iPod while I sang it aloud. A type of karaoke, I guess.

We read all the readings, after which we had the service of water. I was filled with a deep sense of Christ’s victory over death and shared a short reflection, mostly using a meditation of Carlo Carretto on the Risen Life. (See the previous post)

We had some blessed water which we used for sprinkling the people after the renewal of baptismal promises. I know I surprised the people since I sprinkled - rather soaked – the people with the water. (I am no minimalist when it comes to religious symbolism.)

The liturgy ended with Communion.

I got to bed relatively early and slept in until almost 7 am. The morning service was at 9:30 but started about 20 minutes late with a smaller crowd. The Gospel begins with Mary Magdalene going to the tomb very early. As I shared my reflection I noted how the women here are almost always the first up – preparing breakfast for the household. And so I asked a few women when they got up. Two older women said 4 am! One middle-aged woman said 6 am, but noted that was only on Sunday, since she usually got up at 5! The women work long and hard here – and in many places in the world of the poor.

The celebration ended and the people wished me goodbye. One poor old woman came up to me and gave me a folded up bill – five lempiras, about 27 cents. That generosity touched me deeply. The widow’s mite!

I left after lunch with a family who send their kids to school. Two have graduated from high school; two guys are in a high school in a nearby town; one girl is going to school in San Pedro Sula. I went to the main road to catch a bus with three members of the family who were going to San Pedro Sula. Two of them work there and their sister is studying there.

One of them, a bright young woman who has finished high school is working in a maquila, one of the clothing factories so prominent in Honduras. I asked her the name of the company. “Fruit,” she answered. Yes, Fruit of the Loom. From what she told me, it seems that she is one of the workers who operates machines that hem collars and cuffs on long sleeve sweat shirts. (Remember her the next time you put on your “Fruit of the Loom.”)

I had also met the son of another person in Vera Cruz who was home for Holy Week. He works in a clothing factory in Tegucigalpa, carrying the cloth from one place to another in the factory. He said his salary was good, but it’s only 200 lempiras a day, about $10.20.

Vera Cruz has touched me. The poverty is so evident – not only the poor houses and unpaved streets, but the low spirits of the people involved in the life of the church. I pray that God acted through me to give them a little more spirit.

I’ll be back there a few times more this year. First of all because a United Church of Christ congregation in West Des Moines is committed to help the people rebuild their church.

I pray that these efforts may give the people a deeper sense of their worth and their capabilities.

And so this has been somewhat of a sad Easter – not because I do not have hope and faith in the resurrection of Jesus, but because the victory of life over death seems so far from the lives of so many people.

Perhaps this is a realistic view of the Risen Lord and the life of the Church. Suffering abounds, but we must let the Lord build up hope with and through us.

Other Holy Week photos can be found in my Holy Seek 2010 Flickr set.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

He is risen

The following is part of a longer reflection on the resurrection by Little Brother of Jesus Carlo Carretto (1910-1988).

Belief in the risen Christ means something else.

For Mother Teresa of Calcutta it means comforting the dying, and for you it means doing the same.

For Martin Luther King it meant facing death, and for you it means being afraid to die for your brothers and sisters.

For Abbé Schultz, prior of Taizé, it means opening his convent to hope, and for you opening your house to hope.

Every departing missionary is an act of faith in the resurrection.

Every newly-opened leper hospital is an act of faith in the resurrection.

Every peace treaty is an act of faith in the resurrection.

Every agreed commitment is an act of faith in the resurrection.

When you forgive your enemy
When you feed the hungry
When you defend the weak
you believe in the resurrection.

When you have the courage to marry
When you welcome the newly-born child
When you build your home
you believe in the resurrection.

When you wake at peace in the morning
When you sing to the rising sun
When you go to work with joy
you believe in the resurrection.

Carlo Carretto, Blessed Are You Who Believed
found in Robert Ellsberg, ed.,
Carlo Carretto: Selected Writings

The photo above is from the stations in El Rosario church in downtown San Salvador, El Salvador.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Joyful foolishness

“Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”

I don’t know who first wrote this – I’ve seen it referred to as a Portuguese proverb – but on April Fools Day

Anyway, “We are fools, for Christ’s sake.” (1 Corinthians 4: 10)

Do something foolish today, like washing another person’s feet. (John 13: 3-17)

This painting of the Washing of the Feet,
by the Master of Hausbuchs,
is in the Stattliche Museen, Berlin.


A very provocative painting and blog entry is "Would you wash bin Laden's feet?"