Friday, March 29, 2013

Holy Thursday in Plan Grande

This year in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María we are trying to get a Eucharistic Minister out to every one of the 46 towns and villages during the Triduum so that all have the opportunity to receive Christ in the Eucharist.

This Lent Father German Navarro, the pastoral administrator, has visited almost every village and town to hear confessions, preside at Mass, and meet the community church council.

Holy Thursday I went out to Plan Grande, a village I dearly love. I had thought that two local leaders would lead the celebration and I would only distribute the Eucharist. But they asked me to preside, preach, and wash feet.

The ritual of the washing of the feet has been for me a highlight of the Holy Thursday liturgy. At St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa, where I served as a campus minister, it is the custom to invite everyone to come forward to wash the feet of other members of the congregation. I was often moved as parents washed the feet of their kids, who returned the gesture. It was for me a profound sign of the loving service that Christ Jesus showed us by his life, as well as by his washing of the feet of his disciples at the last supper.

Since the election of Pope Francis I have been astounded by the images of Cardinal Bergoglio washing the feet of women and troubled youth. It reminded me of the beautiful talk of Jean Vanier on foot washing, which you can read here. It is a rich reflection, but as I prepared to wash others’ feet, I recalled that Vanier sees the washing of feet as a way to let people know their dignity, their worth – especially those whom the world considers useless and marginalizes.

And so I felt blessed to be asked to wash the feet of people in Plan Grande.

In the reflection I spoke of all three readings and shared the stories of Pope Francis, as a cardinal and even that very day, washing the feet of people at the margins and how he was giving us an example of how to follow Jesus.

Then twelve came forward – eight males and four women, from children to an older woman. Assisted by one of the community leaders, I washed their feet – and was moved to tears. Not only was the hymn being sung moving, being able to touch tenderly the feet of people, some poor, touched something deep in my heart.

I was especially moved washing the foot of an older woman. She was wearing only flip-flops on her well-worn feet. Here was a woman who had served so many for so many years. She is an example for people like me. But I had been given the gift to wash her feet – and gently press my face to her foot.

Sharing the Eucharist with the people was another highlight of the celebration. This village has a communion minister (who is visiting two other villages Holy Thursday and Good Friday) and so they are accustomed to have the opportunity to  the Eucharist.

At the end of the service, I place the pyx with the Host on the altar, for all to see. Since there will be no procession here and they haven’t put up a special altar for adoration, I invited them all to kneel in prayer before the Eucharistic Christ.

And so, having knelt before twelve people in the village, I knelt before Jesus again.

When I returned home I watched a video of Pope Francis washing the feet of the young people in the prison.

His words strike me deeply, full of a theology of service and offering a simple but challenging message:

… washing your feet means I am at your service. And we are too, among each other, but we don’t have to wash each others' feet each day. So what does this mean? That we have to help each other…

Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. …it is a duty that comes from my heart and a duty I love. I love doing it because this is what the Lord has taught me. But you too must help us and help each other, always. And thus in helping each other we will do good for each other.

Washing feet is a sign that the Reign of God is in our midst – and to see a pope kneeling before young prisoners gives me hope.


More photos from Holy Week in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María can be found here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Palm Sunday in Dulce Nombre

Yesterday the Palm Sunday and Mass lasted three hours, which actually surprised Padre German, the pastoral administrator. Here are a few photos:

Waiting for the blessing of the palms
Jesus and the 11 apostles

Padre German Navarro preaching

More photos from Palm Sunday here. More Holy Week photos will be added this week.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Romero "What is Church?"

On March 24, 1980, Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero was killed while celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence Hospital where lived.

While archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, the “Voice of the Voiceless” spoke out relentlessly for the poor and against the oppression they experienced.

But he also spoke with a vision of the church and spoke clearly for a Church of the Poor.

Pope Francis seems to be seeking to present a new face of the Church, as a Poor Church and a Church for the poor. It would be helpful to meditate on Romero, especially his Pastoral Letters and his address at Louvain in February 1980.

To start here are a few quotations from The Violence of Love, which might help our reflection on what Church is and should be:

Authority in the church is not command,
but service.
Among Christians,
those who do not become simple as children
cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
To my shame, as a pastor,
I beg forgiveness from you, my community,
that I have not been able to carry out
as your servant
my role of bishop.
I am not a master,
I am not a boss,
I am not an authority that imposes itself.
I want to be God’s servant and yours.
homily of September 10, 1978

Christ became a man of his people and of his time:
He lived as a Jew,
he worked as a laborer of Nazareth,
and since then he continues to become incarnate
in everyone.
If many have distanced themselves from the church,
it is precisely because the church has somewhat
estranged itself from humanity.
But a church that can feel as its own all that is human
and wants to incarnate the pain,
the hope,
the affliction of all who suffer and feel joy,
such a church will be Christ loved and awaited,
Christ present.
And that depends on us.
homily of December 3, 1978

An accommodating church,
a church that seeks prestige
without the pain of the cross,
is not the authentic church of Jesus Christ.
homily of February 19, 1978


The original Spanish of the quotations can be found here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Consecration of the Quebraditas Church

Yesterday, Bishop Darwin Andino consecrated the church in Quebraditas, Concepción, Copán, in the Dulce Nombre parish, with Padre German helping.

March 19 was the day chosen for the even since it is the feast of St. Joseph who is the patron of the village of Qeubraditas.

I went out at 9 am in the morning and with Marcia from Dulce Nombre helped prepare the church and get the people ready for the Mass and ceremonies.

The people had painted the church, put in a ceramic floor, and transformed the church.

I had liked the church before it was painted. It had been a beautiful rose color. But the people wanted the new colors.

Preparing the church for the Mass had its interesting moments. For example, when curtains were hung from the beams or tin sheets were taken down off the beams, we used a ladder that did not reach the beams; it had to be held by four guys so that a kid or an adventurous young guy could go up and get the work done. Typical campesino ingenuity - when you don't have what you need, improvise.

It was a two and a half hour Mass and would have been longer if the bishops hadn't limited his homily to 35 minutes. But the consecration of a church has many extra elements:

the handing over of the keys to the bishop and the pastor,

the blessing of the people and the walls with holy water,

the litany of the Saints (which I ended up singing),

the anointing of the altar and the walls with chrism,

 and the burning of incense on the altar.

Since a tabernacle was not prepared we did not have the blessing of the tabernacle.

And of course there was a lot of singing.

After the Mass all were invited to share tamales.

I got home to Santa Rosa at 9 pm, tired, but glad to have been able to take part in another celebration in the parish.

I had also gotten a chance to chinear un bebé - hold a little kid who reached out to me when I was talking with his mother.

He wasn't one of the ones who looked at me and either hid or cried! His eyes are closed because of the bright sun.

The joys of ministry.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bad news for Hondurans

Fuel prices are rising. 

The cost of the basic food basket is rising.

The coffee harvest was a bust for many small coffee farmers and for thousands of coffee pickers.

What is a proposal going around Congress to deal with this?

Tax basic food stuffs.

Don’t tax the mining industries more than the 2% they now pay.

Don’t recall the tax breaks for fast food concessions or the maquiladores.

Tax the poor.

Honduras has a 12% sales tax, though most visitors might not know it since it is a value added tax which is included in the price of goods.

But now many food items may be taxed – at 12%. This may be an “austerity measure” suggested or mandated by international financial authorities.

Thus the poor suffer even more as the rich continue to grow richer.

And the Honduran government is complicit in this.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) at the Latin American Bishops Conference meeting in Brazil in 2007 stated it bluntly:
“We live, apparently, in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least. The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”
When riots broke out in Argentina in 2002 due to the debt crisis, he identified the problems of the Argentinian economy as “social exclusion, a growing gap between rich and poor, insecurity, corruption, social and family violence, serious deficiencies in the educational system and in public health, the negative consequences of globalization and the tyranny of the markets.”

Yet Honduras President Pepe Lobe, his wife and children are off to Rome to witness the pope's inauguration. Would that he and the Honduran Congress would make real changes so that the poor will begin to flourish.

In the meantime, my hope is that in the parish of Dulce Nombre we can begin to strengthen the ties of solidarity within the poor communities so that they can respond to the crisis which is upon us and which, I fear, will get worse in June and July. 


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Jon Sobrino on Pope Francis - edited a second time.

Father Jon Sobrino, the Spanish-born Jesuit who has lived worked, and taught in El Salvador since the late 1960s, was recently interviewed recently spoke about Pope Francis. Below is a quick translation of that interview his remarks.

At the suggestion of a friend, I have cut the interviewer's remarks of the publisher and the headline which are terrible distortions of what Sobrino said and meant. (If you really want to read them I'm putting them in a comment.)

The Spanish version I used for translating is here.What is probably the real text is found in Cartas a las Iglesias can be downloaded as a .pdf file here.

You have dismissed the papal election as “a media folktale.”

The plaza of St. Peter’s was mobbed with people of all races and colors, with a variety of banners, with expectant and smiling faces. The façade of the church was decorated with calculated refinement. One saw people wearing dressy episcopal garments which are not seen in the streets of real life, by campesinos and women in the market. Folklore prevailed – popular customs, in English – although in St. Peter’s Plaza, the customs were more sophisticated and dressed up than those of the people in native Spain or in the rural cantons of El Salvador, where I am.

Is that bad?

No. Nothing of this was bad but it didn’t say anything significant concerning who was going to be the next pope, what joys and problems he would have, and what cross he was going to bear…
But yes; the lavish display, far from the simplicity of Jesus, was shocking. And I sensed a certain boastfulness in the organizers as it to say that everything is going well. What that perfection also expresses power, I am accustomed to call it the ministry of divinization [apotheosis].

But not everything was folklore?

No. There was something not folkloric even from the first day. I mean the simple garments of the pope, the small cross on his chest without gold, or silver, or shining jewels, his prayer in which, bowing, he asked the people before blessing them. These are small but clear signs. I hope they increase as grand signs which accompany his mission. His simplicity and humility were apparent.

The election of Bergoglio was a complete surprise?

Yes, for those who were not insiders it was surprise and a great novelty. The Pope is Argentinian, the first pope from that country. He is a Jesuit, the first pope from that order. Both of these could be trivialized, as has happened in some news reports. Therefore, one must understand this well.  Messi [the football/soccer star] is Argentinian, but not all the Argentinians are stars. Pedro Arrupe [a former superior general of the Jesuits] was a Jesuit, but – and here I’m talking about something more serious – not all the Jesuits are like him.

Headlines which are thoughtless and lazy – like “Argentinian and Jesuit” – are also like folklore. Won’t they have anything else to say? In addition, folkloric and media moments don’t last long. It’s sad to sustain them or continue adding insignificant details without going into the fundamental aspects of the matter, such as the Pope, the Church, God and us. That the folkloric will continue to be what is most sought after depends on the owners of the media – and the spectators

During these days, have you spoken with people who know Bergoglio closely?

Yes, I’m not an expert on the life, work, joys, and sufferings of Bergoglio. And so that I don’t fall into any type of irresponsibility, I have tried to connect with persons in Argentina, whom I will not quote, above all those who have had direct contact with him. I expect understanding of the limits of what I am going to say and I apologize for any errors I might commit. Bergoglio is a Jesuit who has held important posts in the [Jesuit] Province of Argentina. He has been professor of theology, superior and provincial. It is not difficult to talk about his external work. But of the more internal, one can speak only delicately and now respectfully and responsibly. Many companions have spoken of him as a person with deep convictions and temperament, a resolute and relentless fighter. If they make him pope, he will clean up the Curia, it has been said with humor.

His austerity has been highlighted.

Also, they remember him for boundless interest to communicate with others his convictions about the Society of Jesus, an interest which could become possessiveness, even to the point of demanding loyalty to his person. Many recall his austerity of life, as Jesuit, archbishop, and cardinal. Examples of this are his residence and his proverbial travelling by bus. When he was bishop, many priests remember how he was close to them and how he offered to stand in for them in their parish work when they needed to go away for rest. His austerity was accompanied by a real interest in the poor, the indigenous, trade union members who were attacked; this led him to firmly defend them in the face of successive governments. Moral issues have been very close to him, certainly abortion, which led him to directly confront the president of his country.

They have recalled his option for the poor.

In all that, one can assess his specific way of making an option for the poor. Not in actively going out and risking oneself in their defense in the time of repression of the criminal military dictatorships. The complicity of the hierarchy with the dictators is known. Bergoglio was superior of the Jesuits in Argentina from 1973 to 1979, in the years of major repression of civil-military genocide.

Are you talking about complicity?

It doesn’t appear just to speak of complicity, but it seems correct to say that in those circumstances Bergoglio distanced himself from the Popular Church which was committed to the poor. We wasn’t a Romero – celebrated for his defense of human rights and assassinated while exercising his pastoral ministry. I don’t have enough knowledge, and I say this with the fear of being mistaken, Bergoglio did not present himself like Bishop Angelleli, Argentinian bishop assassinated by the military in 1976. Very possibly this took place in his heart, but he was not accustomed to make visible in public the living memory of [Bishop] Leonidas Proaño [of Ecuador], Bishop Juan Gerardi [of Guatemala], Bishop Sergio Mendez [of Cuernevaca, Mexico]…

Nevertheless, he also has a pronounced solidarity?

Yes. On the other hand, since 1998, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, in various ways he accompanied the poorly treated sector of that great city – and with concrete deeds. An eye witness speaks of how, on the first anniversary of the tragedy of Cromagnon [when a fire during a rock concert took the lives of 200 young people], Bergoglio was present and forcibly demanded justice for the victims.  At times he used prophetic language. He denounced the evils which grind the flesh of the people and he named them concretely: human trafficking, slave labor, prostitution, drug-trafficking, and much more. For some, the major force to carry forward his present ministry is his openness to dialogue with the marginalized and from their suffering.
He accompanied decisively church processes in the margins of the Catholic Church and processes which happen at the edge of legality. Two significant examples are the deanery of slum priests in marginal neighborhoods and his assistance to priests who are going about without a worthy ministry.

What awaits Pope Francis?

Only God know. The new pope will have thought well about what awaits him and about what he ought to do, what he will be able to do, and what he wishes to do. Now we can enumerate some tasks which appear important to us here in El Salvador and which can be important for everyone in the Church. Also, we ought to carry out these tasks. But the pope has a greater responsibility and I hope he has his ways [to do this]. The tasks match those that José Ignacio González Faus recently proposed.

What is the most urgent?

The first – I believe the major utopia – is to make real the utopia of John XXIII: The Church is in a special way the Church of the Poor. This didn’t happen in the hall of Vatican II; and thus about forty bishops met outside the Council hall and in the Catacombs of Saint Domitila signed the manifesto which is called the Pact of the Catacombs.

You always point out the lack of sensitivity in the Church

As many say, Bergoglio is sensitive toward the poor. Would that he had the lucidity to make the Church of the Poor real and that the Church would cease to be a Church of abundance, of the bourgeois and the rich. There will not be a lack of enemies to this, as there was not a lack of opposition after [the Latin American bishops’s meeting in] Medellín to many members of the hierarchy who put the poor at the center of the Church. The enemies are inside church offices [curias] and are very powerful in the world of wealth and power. They killed thousands of Christians.

It is impossible to forget Archbishop Romero, Latin American martyr

Would that Pope Francis is not frightened of a Church which is persecuted and martyred, as the churches of Archbishop Romero and Bishop Gerardi. Whether or not he canonizes them, would that he proclaim that the martyrs, speaking of them concretely as martyrs of justice, are the best that we have in the Church. Because they make it like Jesus of Nazareth.  For this, it is not essential that he canonizes Archbishop Romero, although that would be a good sign.  And, if the pope falls into any type of human weakness, may it be pride in his Latin American homeland, suffering and hopeful, martyred and always about to experience resurrection. As well may it be pride for the whole generation of bishops: Leónidas Proaño, Helder Camara, Aloysius Lorscheider, Samuel Ruiz… They didn’t become popes, not even cardinals. But from them we live.

And what can you tell me of the problems which are shaking up the church and which appear in the media?

The second utopia is to face the known constellation of problems inside the organization of the Church which wait to be solved. For example, the urgent reform of the Roman Curia.  It’s also necessary that the members of the Curia should preferably be lay people. Likewise it is important that Rome let the local churches choose their pastors. Also all the symbols of power and worldly dignity should disappear from the papal environment, and certainly  that the successor of Peter lay aside being the head of a State, since this would embarrass Jesus. What remains is that the whole Church feels the present separation of the Christian churches as an offense against God. The pope must be asked that Rome resolve the situation of Catholics whose first marriage fails and who have found stability in a second union. And, of course, priestly celibacy should be rethought.

You also don’t leave aside other classic concerns.

I do have three other questions. On the one hand, that once and for all we put in order the unsustainable situation of women in the Church. Also that we stop undervaluing, and at times despising, the indigenous world, the mapuches of South America and all those the pope will get to know as he travels through  Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And, of course, that we learn to love mother earth.

All this with a firm commitment that has to do a lot with what happened these days.

Yes. The commitment ought to be that the new pope in the balcony of St. Peter’s and the millions in the plaza not become such that the pope becomes a grand actor and the faithful become mere box-office spectators.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

St. Francis, Pope Francis, and poverty

St. Francis has been on my mind for quite some time (probably at least 55 years), especially in the last few months, leading up to my visit to Assisi in February.

But now that our new pope is named Francis, I decided to write the blog I have been putting of for several weeks.

It is even more fitting to write this since Pope Francis told journalists, Me gustaría una Iglesia pobre y para los pobres”. – "How I would like a poor Church, and [a Church] for the poor."

This is not new. In the early 1960s Pope John XXIII and Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro called for a “poor Church” and a “Church of the poor.”

The difference between a Church of the poor and for the poor may need some discussion. To start: There’s a fascinating 2010 article by Jon Sobrino on the Church of the Poor in the National Catholic Reporter here.

St. Francis by Girolamo Muziano
But today I’d like to write about St. Francis and poverty.

Preparing for my pilgrimage to Assisi in February, I read Francis of Assisi: the life and afterlife of a medieval saint, by Andre Vauchez, which opened up for me a deeper understanding of Franciscan poverty.

In the course of the history of the Franciscans there were many arguments about poverty, which often centered around the question of whether the communities could hold property.

But the question of poverty is not merely a question about owning property.

I don’t wish to reduce this to a call for “spiritual poverty” which I sometime feel is a First World way of avoiding the question: “If we are just detached from what we own, that’s what God is asking.” I think this is to trivialize the Lucan beatitude “Blessed are you who are poor…”

Nor is poverty merely a question of how much one can own, though I firmly believe – as does the tradition and magisterium of the Catholic Church – that maldistribution of the goods of the earth is sinful and must be changed.

But I think Francis had a very different, much more radical understanding that flowed from his faith in God.

Why did Francis disdain owning property, intellectual pursuits, and calling anything one’s own?

I think it’s because he saw that possessions may prevent us from following Christ and seeing the radical poverty of Christ.

Francis had a great devotion to the Infant Jesus. He is credited with the first Christmas crib. He also was deeply moved by the crucified Lord. He is the first recorded to have the stigmata of Jesus.

Both these events present us with a poor Jesus.

The precariousness of life which the poor experience every day is what Jesus chose.

The words of St. Paul to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8: 9) boldly state:

“Although he was rich, he made himself poor to make you rich through his poverty.”

St. Francis, in his Letter to the Faithful, put it this way:

It is from [the] womb [of the Virgin Mary] that the Word received the true flesh of our humanity and our fragility. The one who was rich above all others wanted, along with the most holy Virgin Mary his mother, to choose poverty in this world.

Property, books, learning are ways we seek security, to defend ourselves against the precariousness of life.

But Jesus shared in the precariousness of the poor, not having even a place to lay his head.

Things become security blankets, preventing us from living as true children of God, following Jesus.

When we leave behind things, when we give to the poor and depend on others, we are more like Christ.

We are called to put our trust in the Providence of God and doing this we are also called to live lives of solidarity.

In many ways this means that we are re-creating a new way of being Church.

As Andre Vauchez wrote (p. 335):

Francis chose to follow a poor and begging Christ, always on the road and sharing with the marginalized the precariousness of their conditions of life, and to worship a God full of mercy who made the sun shine and the rain fall on the good and the bad alike. In doing this, he was not replicating a model: he was creating one by virtue of his own personal sensibility, which was keen and which made for its originality. 

May we, with Pope Francis, begin to create this poor Church, a Church of the poor and for the poor. It will not be easy, but it may be what God wants of us now.

It will demand of us living the precariousness of life with the poor, with trust in the loving Providence of God, sharing in solidarity with all those in need.

Vauchez describes how Francis saw this (p. 107):

…the project of Francis, which was to give birth in the heart of the world a society without money and without goods, where an “economy of poverty” would prevail, characterized by liberality and the redistribution to disadvantaged persons of all that was not strictly indispensable to the survival of the community. 

Though this may not be possible for all the world, maybe we should revisit the suggestion of the Jesuit martyr, Ignacio Ellacuría, of the need to seek a “civilization of poverty.” More on that later.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Uncle Frank, the Pope

I want to call Pope Francis “Uncle Frank.”

I never had an uncle Frank. There were John, Leonard, Ed, Bill, George, Vinnie (the Italian from Brooklyn), Howard, but no Frank.

Some Argentinians, it seems, are calling him Papa Pancho, Pancho being a nickname for Francisco.

I don’t think there’s anything irreverent about calling him Papa Pancho or Uncle Frank. He seems very much down to earth, like a loving uncle.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was willing to ride subways, cook his own meals, and wash the feet of pregnant women and ex-drug addicts.

He appeared in a simple white cassock, on St. Peter’s balcony, and wore his own pectoral cross, instead of a jeweled Cross. The image on the cross is the good shepherd.

He already has already eschewed a limousine several times – taking the bus with the bishops to and from the Vatican.

He tried to not disturb the visit of pilgrims to the Saint Mary Major Basilica when he visited – but was over-ruled. They locked everyone else out.

This leads me to see him as a follower of Christ who seeks to live simply, in the style of the Lord.

I do have some questions.

Like most church leaders in Argentina during the state terrorism of the 1970s and 1980s, he did not speak out forcefully. Whether he could have done more is another question.

He seems to have been critical of liberation theology. Though he does has a great heart for the poor, does his love go beyond acts of charity and strong statements against the austerity that affect the poor? Will he stand up forcibly to world powers that oppress the poor?

But he’s only been pope a few days and seems to be shaking up things – at this stylistically. But maybe this is the most important way to initiate change.

I think he will face major challenges, perhaps most of all from those who seek to maintain a church of power, allied with political and economic elites. Pope Francis seems more attuned to a Church of the Poor.

To my surprise, the radical liberation theology Leonardo Boff (a former Franciscan priest) has written quite favorably about him. (Rebel Girl has translated his article here.)

Francis isn't a name; it's a plan for a Church that is poor, simple, gospel-centered, and devoid of all power. It's a Church that walks the way together with the least and last… It's an ecological Church that calls all beings those sweet words "brothers and sisters". Francis was obedient to the Church and the popes and at the same time he followed his own path with the gospel of poverty in hand. So theologian Joseph Ratzinger wrote: "Francis' 'no' to this imperial type of Church couldn't be more radical; it's what we could call a prophetic protest."… Francis doesn't talk; he simply inaugurates something new.

I think Pope Francis has in mind a church outside the palaces and symbols of power…. Three highly symbolic points stand out in his inaugural address.

First: He said that he wants to "preside with charity”… The Pope should not preside as an absolute monarch, clothed in sacred power… According to Jesus, he should preside in love and strengthen the faith of the brothers and sisters.

Second: He gave a central place to the People of God…

Finally, he avoided all spectacle in the figure of Pope. He didn't extend both arms to greet the people. He remained still, serious and sober, even frightened, I would say. One only saw a white figure who greeted the people affectionately. But he radiated peace and confidence. He showed his mood by speaking without official-sounding rhetoric, like a pastor speaks to the faithful.

And so we have a new Pope, a new father, but one in the image of Francis of Assisi.

But he still really feels like an Uncle Frank to me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A prayer for Pope Francis

What a sense of humor God has. A Latin American Jesuit is elected pope and takes the name Francis.

Inside of St. Peter's dome, The Vatican

Pope Francis,
May the Spirit of God light a fire in you 
so that you may be Good News to the Poor, 
a sign of contradiction to the powers of this world, 
and a witness to the compassion of Jesus.

Papa Francisco (Pancho),
Que el Espíritu de Dios encienda en ti un fuego 
para que seas Buena Nueva a los pobres, 
un señal de contradicción a los poderes del mundo, 
y un testigo de la compasión de Jesucristo.

When I was in Rome last month I took the above photo of St. Francis and his companions facing the Lateran Basilica, where the pope lived in Francis' day. 

My prayer in the past few weeks can be summed up as asking God that the next pope be more like Francis of Assisi than a Renaissance potentate.

May Pope Francis live up to his name. 

I just had an errant thought. What if he took the name Francis after St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary? That's not a problem for me.

Here's a great quote from a letter of  St. Francis Xavier, taken from Henri Nouwen's Road to Daybreak:
      “Often I am overcome with the desire to cry out against the universities, especially against the University of Paris . . . and to rage with all my powers like a fool who has lost his senses.
      “I would cry out against those who are more preoccupied with becoming scientists than with letting people in need profit from their science . . . I am afraid that many who learn their disciplines at the university are more interested in using them to acquire honors, bishoprics, privileges, and high position than in using them for what is just and necessary. . . The common word is: ‘I will study “letters” in order to get some good privileged position in the Church, and after that  I will live for God.’ These people are brutes, following the guidance of their sensuality and disordered impulses. . . They do not trust in God, nor do they give themselves completely to him . . . they are afraid that God does not want what they desire and that when they obtain him they are forced to abandon their unjustly acquired privileges. . .
      “How many would be enlightened by the faith of the Gospel if there were some who would put all their effort into finding good people who are willing to make sacrifices to search for and find not what belongs to them, but what belongs to Jesus Christ. In these lands so many people come to faith in Jesus Christ that many times my arms fail me because of the painful work of baptizing them.”
Arm of St. Francis Xavier in the church of the Gesù, Rome
St. Francis Xavier is said to have baptized hundreds of thousands, beginning with his mission in India. He was an evangelizer who was not afraid to leave home and seek other shores to bring Good News to the poor.
May God, Mary, and all the angels and saints guide Pope Francis, who not only blessed the Church but also asked us to pray to God to bless him.


John Allen's portrait of Pope Francis can be found here

Monday, March 04, 2013

In the countryside with Padre German

This past weekend was cold in western Honduras. It got down into the low forties at least two nights.

It was especially cold on Friday when I went with Padre German Navarro to two villages where he was going to celebrate Mass.

Agua Zarca church in the mist

We went to El Zapote de Santa Rosa and from there walked or rode a horse to the nearby village of Agua Zarca. I rode a horse going up and Padre rode coming down.

A little mud

The path was pure mud and I slip/slided down, without falling in the mud.

We had Mass in the small church in Agua Zarca and Padre introduced himself to the people as he has been doing for the past weeks, often presiding at three Masses a day.

Mass in Agua Zarca

After Mass in Agua Zarca we hiked back to El Zapote for an afternoon Mass. On the way there Padre German asked if I would do the reflection on the Gospel. I was moved to be asked.

After Mass we went back to Dulce Nombre where I picked up my truck and headed back to Santa Rosa. I may have to move out to the parish (or get a truck with better lights) if I continue to be out in the countryside until dusk.

Saturday, I led a retreat in El Zapote for the pastoral workers in Zone 3. Mist, rain – heavy at times, wind, and cold accompanied our time in the church. But 37 had come out, some walking in the rain and cold to have an opportunity to deepen their faith.

I led the sessions which ended with a celebration of the Word with Communion, led by the Communion ministers. Marco Tulio from El Zapote gave a good reflection on the Prodigal Son parable, noting something I had never noticed: the father addresses both his sons as “my son.” Relationship is central for our life with God, and God is the one who reaches out to us.

Sunday I went out to San Agustín with Padre German. There have been some problems there and Padre sat down and talked with them. Next week we’ll be back and he asked me to do a presentation to the base community members of base communities and their spirituality.

Formation of pastoral workers and deepening of spirituality are very important for Padre German. I’m looking forward to working more on this with him, as we plan on how to improve the work in formation that Padre Efraín began.

This week I’ll spend a few days in Caritas and then spend the weekend in the Dulce Nombre parish. 

God is good.

Sunset driving back to Santa Rosa, March 3

This photo does not give a good idea of what the sunset was like driving back to Santa Rosa with corn and beans for the bishop, a gift from Yaruconte, one of the rural villages of the Dulce Nombre parish. Both the beauty of creation and the generosity of the poor continue to give me hope and reveal signs of God's presence.