Sunday, June 10, 2012

Eucharistic piety among the poor

Catholics in western Honduras have a deep devotion to the Eucharist. Despite the fact that most villages may not have Mass more than a few times a year, the people in the countryside maintain their love of the Eucharist.

In December sixteen extraordinary ministers of Communion were commissioned in the parish of Dulce Nombre and this has enabled people in remote villages to be able to received Communion at some Sunday Celebrations of the Word.

Last Thursday was the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, though many countries celebrate it on Sunday. There were celebrations in several communities last Thursday as well as Saturday, the Vigil. But on Sunday, a big celebration was held in Dolores with the four other villages that make up a sector of the parish.

I arrived about 9 and walked out of town toward the other villages. Father Efrain and people from the parish had started the procession about 9 am in Yaruconte, halfway up a hill opposite Dolores.

Yaruconte is just below the cloud

I watched as they approached the turn off to Camalote and went down to join them. 

Procession approaching the Camalote turn off

My first sight was of more than 25 young people in white, who had been baptized last Sunday and who would receive their first Communion today at Mass in Dolores.

I was moved as I saw the Eucharist carried on a platform by four men under a  canopy carried by four others. 

Children from Camalote who would receive First Communion at today's Mass

The people were praying and singing. Some of the hymns were traditional, but just before the people from Camalote joined us, the people were singing “Encenderemos la llama” [“Let us light the flame], with these incendiary lyrics:
Let’s light the flame; let’s go,
the burning flame of liberation.
Let us transform the world courageously;
together we will make history; let’s go.

Oppressed people, go forward, liberation.
Campesino, go forward, liberation;
together we will make history; let’s go.

Human, wake; it’s the hour of light;
everything around you breathers slavery;
get rid of your chains; set yourself free from them;
return to the Father’s house with love.

We will announce Christ, our peace,
liberator of the poor with love.
We will implant your Kingdom courageously,
a Kingdom which demands justice and freedom.
 This is a hymn that the people often sing with great fervor. I don’t know the political implications of their singing, but the hymn does express the people’s desire for freedom from poverty.

Before continuing the people knelt in the dusty road to pray. And then the procession continued uphill, under a fierce sun.

Climbing the hill up to Dolores

Another hymn they sang struck me deeply, “Nadie hay tan grande como Tú.” The refrain come across fairly traditional: 
There is no one as great as You, Lord;
who will work marvels like You do?

But the three verses – a little bit of subversion:
Ni con la fuerza, ni la violencia,
es como el mundo cambiará;
Sólo el amor lo cambiará; solo el amor nos salvará.

Ni con las armas ni con la guerra,
es como el mundo cambiará;
Sólo el amor…

Ni con los pactos, ni los discursos,
es como el mundo cambiará;
Sólo el amor…

Not with force, nor with violence,
will the world be changed;
only love will change it; only love will save us.

Not with weapons nor with war
will the world be changed;
only love…

Not with pacts and talks
will the world be changed;
only love…
In the midst of the continuing violence and injustice it’s a hymn worth singing.

Praying on the road at the edge of Dolores

We stopped at the edge of Dolores and prayed again, kneeling in the dusty road, remembering in particular the migrants and the violence so many experience here in Honduras.

We arrived at the church about 10:30 and Mass began with a packed church.

The young people from Camalote receive their first communion. Padre Efraín announced that there would be baptisms on Wednesday in the village of San Antonio Dolores.

And the people left church to get in line for tamales.

The morning was a beautiful mix of the popular piety of the people, the liberating message of the church in this region, and a simple, tasteful liturgy.

Mass in Dolores

What a way to begin to  honor Christ in the Eucharist.

What more? As C. S. Lewis once wrote, 
“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
And, as Dorothy Day wrote,
We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of the bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.
 What a blessing this morning was.


More photos can be found in my Corpus Christi Dolores 2012 set on Flickr: here.

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