Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas wanderings

The past week I’ve not stayed much in Santa Rosa.

Last Monday I went out to Plan Grande where I’m planning to move next year. I also wanted to arrange a visit to the village with Fr. Jon Seda, the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa, who is coming this Friday with two others.

I went to the place on the grounds of the church where I’m thinking of building a small house (with guest rooms). In the future the parish could also use it for small retreats.

My friends who live near the church had an unusual Christmas tree in front of their house.

What a creative use of plastic pop bottles. (For you non-Mid-Westerners, they are soda bottles.)

Tuesday, I went out to El Zapote de Santa Rosa for the graduation ceremony for their Maestro en Casa program. Seven students finished ninth grade – the end of Ciclo Común (the equivalent of junior high). It was great to see their accomplishment. They will probably not have a chance at this point of going on to high school since there is no high school nearby.

Graduates in El Zapote with their teacher (in the center)
In the afternoon I went to Gracias, Lempira, to spend Christmas eve and Christmas day with the Dubuque Franciscan sisters who live and minister there. It is always great to be with them, not only because I’m a lay associate of their community but also because it is an opportunity to pray, eat, talk, and play dominos with friends.

We went to the Christmas Eve Mass at the church of San Marcos in Gracias.

A children’s group put on a pastorela, a Christmas pageant, before Mass. The dramatization was fantastic – and their singing was very good.

Gabriel visits Mary
Simeon (mop hair and beard) greets the holy family (with a real baby)

Thursday and Friday were days at home in Santa Rosa – cleaning the house, doing errands, making a few needed purchases. Saturday I went to the Mass of priestly ordination of two young men here in Santa Rosa.

Today I went out again to El Zapote de Santa Rosa, one of my favorite communities, for Mass – complete with about 49 baptisms: 23 of children under seven, the rest between seven and fourteen.

Baptism of a months old baby girl
Before Mass, I had a chance to see their nacimiento, their nativity scene. When I had passed by there on Tuesday they were getting ready to set it up. They were proud that it would be all–natural. They had gone out into the woods to gather real plants.

It was a marked contrast to the nacimientos I saw last week in Quebraditas. See my previous post

Nacimiento in El Zapote de Santa Rosa de Copán
As I witnessed the baptisms I marveled several times when I saw the look of awe on the face of several of the children. 

They were really experiencing the loving embrace of God in their baptism.

The trip down the hill from the church was treacherous, even in four wheel drive. The rains and heavy fog had turned the road into a slick muddy mess. It was like driving on pure ice - though a little more scary since there was a steep drop off on the left.

Tomorrow I’m out to Dulce Nombre again to talk with Padre German about several things, including the upcoming visit of Fr. Jon.

New Years Eve is Tuesday. I don’t know what I’ll do, though the Franciscan sisters down the street (from a Spanish congregation) invite me to drop by. In any case, I’ll have to prepare myself for the barrage of firecrackers with which people celebrate New Years. I may have to find my earplugs.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Christmas moment

The Christmas season didn’t get real for me until this morning.

It wasn't a nativity scene - un nacimiento - that brought this on - but witnessing the anointing of the sick.

The nacimientos can be very moving - though they are often amusing as the people put all sorts of items in the display - from Snow White on a horse to Winnie the Pooh and a half-naked Barbie doll. 

Everything is present at the birth of the Savior - even if his image gets lost amid the other figures.

I went to Dulce Nombre to go with Padre German to Mass in two towns – Quebraditas and San Augustín. But first we went to visit a very sick woman who lives outside of the nearby town of Concepción.

We got there, down a rutted dirt road, through a field, and up a hill. We first passed by a very poor house with a mother and four kids.

The old woman, 81 years old she told us, had been in Tegucigalpa but was abandoned by some of her family. But finally ended up in this dirt-poor house. The floor was dirt and the house was of bahareque – mud and sticks p with a tin roof.  Three members of the family – a couple and their 15 year old son escorted us into the room where Adela was lying on the bed. She was so sick that she could only consume liquids.

The woman had not been baptized (as well as she could remember). So Padre German baptized her conditionally, gave her the anointing of the sick, and shared communion with her.

The poverty was tangible.

As I watched and listened, I noticed a small picture of the Baby Jesus in the manger over Adela’s bed.

In a place like this, Jesus was born, God became flesh.

In the midst of poverty God comes to save us.

As he left, Padre German told the couple that he could send over some basic grains when they needed them.

We left for Mass in Quebraditas.

As Mass was finished I spoke with a young woman whom I know whom I find very thoughtful. She told me that her mother was very ill, suffering for nine months, and that the doctors still haven’t been able to treat her adequately. She thinks it’s something to do with the liver.

I told Padre German and he went to anoint her mother and share the Eucharist with her. It was moving as the spouse and several of the children and grandchildren gathered around her bed. Tears were flowing.

As we left, Padre German got a call and a request for another anointing. On our way to San Augustine we stopped in Granadillal, where Padre German spoke at length with the 77 year old man and anointed him. The house was poor – with just one bed. But a crowd gathered – some relatives and about 8 kids  (who may or may not have been related.)

Mass at San Augustin was not as crowded as normal – probably because of the coffee harvest. Padre German asked me to preach – to give him a little relief.

It may seem strange but the three anointings of the sick have made Christmas more real – especially the first visit.

God has come among us as a poor, defenseless baby. Today he came, in a special way, to visit the sick and dying.

Our God doesn’t save us – or give us hope – from afar.

Children in Debajiados, December 23, 2012

He pitches his tent among us – in the midst of the poor houses of the poor.

Christmas, the poor, and Archbishop Romero

... no one can celebrate an authentic Christmas 
unless they are truly poor. 

The self-sufficient, the proud of heart, 
those who despise others 
because they do not possess the material goods of this earth, 
those who do not need or want God 
--- for these people there is no Christmas. 

Only the poor, the hungry, 
and those who need someone to come to them 
because they have need of someone, 
someone who is God, someone who is Emmanuel, 
--- only these people are able to celebrate Christmas. 

Without the spirit of poverty 
one is unable to be filled with God.

Archbishop Oscar Romero
December 24, 1978

* * * * *

The original Spanish can be found here.

A blog post on Romero, Christmas, and the poor can be found here on Super Martyrio.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas images from throughout the world

Last February when I went to Mass at the cathedral in Ravenna, I noticed a display of Christmas images from throughout the world.

I snapped photos of many of them – though I didn’t take the time to list where they were from.

They provide a glimpse of the way peoples throughout the world perceive the birth of Christ.

Tonight is the first night of the posadas, the religious processions in Latin America re-creating Joseph and Mary seeking shelter in Bethlehem. Tomorrow we begin to pray the O Antiphons at Evening Prayer.

May these images help us to see Christ Jesus coming to all God’s people throughout the world.

If you can identify what country an image comes from, let me know and I will put captions on the photo. 

All photos are covered by a Common Commons license and may be copied for non-commercial use with attribution.