Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday started with rain in Plan Grande.

A little chill in the air and rain made me wonder what the procession would be like in Dulce Nombre. But when I got there the rain was more like a light mist – and then stopped and started several times.

We started the blessing of palms and the procession in a field near the water tank about a kilometer from the church about 9:30 am.

In Dulce Nombre they usually have twelve kids in albs as part of the procession. 

This year there was a donkey for the procession.

Some of the kids mounted the burro before Padre German arrived.

After the blessing Padre German mounted the burro and we walked to the church, singing all the way.

At the church most of those in the procession entered for Mass, which lasted until about noon.

After Mass, I had to go to Santa Rosa to get a few things and returned to Plan Grande about 3:45 pm.

The catechists from Plan Grande and Candelaria were leading the retreat for the elect from the two communities and La Torera in preparation for the baptisms at the Easter Vigil. They pulled me into doing a few things and leading the final prayer.

The session ended at 4:45 pm. Folks from La Torera asked me to give them a ride to the turn off to their village. Fourteen people got on or into the truck – a violation of the law, but this was an act of mercy. Otherwise they would have had to walk two hours to get home.

When I left them, they wanted to give me some money for the ride. Instead, I asked them to say an Our Father for me – I need it. 

I was really glad to be able to give these people a ride. They have just begun pastoral work in the village this year with the help of neighboring villages - and they have six young people who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil.


More photos from Holy Week 2015 in Dulce Nombre de María parish can be found here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Via Crucis - Stations of the Cross - Dulce Nombre parish

In the face of a suffering people it is crucial that the Church connect their suffering with the suffering of Jesus.

That’s what we did Friday, March 27, in Dulce Nombre, walking through the town, stopping at fourteen stations, remembering the traditional Way of the Cross. Several hundred people came from almost all the villages of the parish.

But the traditional meant remembering the sufferings of the people, the sins that afflict us here in the parish of Dulce Nombre. But we recall not just personal sins and occasions of sin, but the sinful social structure that crucify people and make it difficult for people to live as God’s children.

Padre German, the pastor, has asked the communities to bring in crosses with the sins that afflict the community.

Plan Grande had this cross – with sins of indifference to the poor, alcohol and drugs, attachment to money, violence, robbery, disintegration of families, lack of love of God.

San Augustín identified these sinful situations on their cross: adultery, marijuana and cocaine, violence, prostitution, envy, caciquismo (a single boss running everything).

Montaña Adentro, which has suffered many killings in the last two years, had a simple written poster with these sins: discouragement in religious activities, violence, many poor people, lack of drinking water, sale of alcohol, disobedience of youth in regard to the church.

From Vertientes they denounced many sins: no to drugs and to alcohol; no to violence – let there be peace in our country; let there be no corruption on our country; let people be converted and stop doing evil to their neighbors.

Agua Buena Concepción mentioned only one sin – a major one: inequality.

La Torera is a small community which is just being evangelized this year and has 7 young people who will be baptized in the Easter Vigil. They identified alcohol and weapons of violence.

Dolores had a long list of sins and evils afflicting their community and the nation on their cross: exploitation, low salaries, politiquería (politicizing everything and being manipulated by politicians), immigration, unemployment, domestic violence, pornography, sexualismo, alcoholism, corruption, extortion, killings.

Other communities had crosses with these and other sins and evils affecting their lives.

The first Sunday of Lent I had the catechumens identify the temptations that they faced as young people. The papers they had written included temptations to drugs, alcohol, smoking, fighting, robbing, belittling others, angry, money, lying, laziness, and even killing. There were veiled references to sexual temptations. But they also identified what I would call, in the traditional Catholic terminology, “occasions of sin”: cell phones, music, soccer, dances. There were several that identified the eye as an occasion of sin.

The crosses with these sins and evils and the papers with the temptations and occasions of sin were burned outside the church at the end of the stations.

 What I found intriguing was the inclusion of all sorts of evils, sins, temptations, and occasions of sin. These included evils connected with religious practice as well as with social ills; sexuality and alcohol and drug abuse were mentioned several times. Violence appeared many times. These evils, sins, and temptations reveal much of what is wrong and unjust here in Honduras.

But for me, one of the most moving moments during the Stations was at the twelfth station: Jesus dies on the cross. There we had people come forward to mentioned those who had been murdered in the past year or so. Montaña Adentro had more than five; San Agustín had more than 14; and there were more from about five or so villages.

The suffering is great. But, as Padre German noted, quoted the martyred Jesuit Ignacio Ellacuría, “We have to be honest with reality.”

But we tried, as we walked the way of the cross, to recall the presence of Christ with us in our sufferings and to offer hope. As we prayed in the last station, “Death is not the final word; there is hope.”

Holy Week is beginning, although the way of the cross is being lived out daily in the lives of the people in our parish.

I pray that hope may triumph – even in small ways.

But, as a believer in a God who became flesh and suffered with us, I believe in Life. But the life that I believe in means that we may suffer but we are called to give ourselves up for others, to seek the good of all – the Reign of God, in religious terms. In this way we try to live the Resurrection.


As part of our Stations of the Cross, we used this quote from the September 7, 2013 homily of Pope Francis at every station:
"My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken."

The text in Spanish of the Stations that we used can be found here in a PDF file. 

More photos of the Stations of the Cross can be viewed here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Holy Week is beginning – and more

Officially Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday.

This holiest week of the Catholic calendar is full of opportunities to pray and respond to the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.

For me, this Holy Week (plus 2) begins tomorrow with our parish Stations of the Cross in the streets of Dulce Nombre. All the villages have been invited to come, each bearing a cross on which are hung the sins – personal and social – that plague us here in western Honduras. At the end of the stations, there will be a penitential act and the burning of the crosses in front of the church.

Via Crucis Dulce Nombre 2014

Palm Sunday there will be processions with palms before the Masses in Dulce Nombre and San Agustín and celebrations of the Word in the villages.

On Monday Padre German will go out to one village to have confessions and Masses for the people there and in the neighboring villages.

Wednesday will be a day of quiet rest.

Thursday morning the bishop with the priests celebrate the Chrism Mass in Santa Rosa de Copán. The bishop will consecrate Chrism and the oils of the catechumens and of the sick.

In the evening Padre German will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with the washing of the feet in Dulce Nombre. In the villages where there is a communion minister they will have a Celebration of the Word, the washing of the feet, Communion, and adoration after Mass. Where there is no communion minister they will just have a Celebration of the Word and the Washing of the Feet.

In some places, there will be a procession late at night – La Procesión de la Soledad.

On Friday morning, most places will celebrate the Stations of the Cross in the streets of their towns and villages. The Reading of the Passion and the Veneration of the Cross will be the afternoon liturgies in most places. Where the Eucharist is reserved, they will have Communion.

Calvary, Jerusalem

After the Good Friday afternoon liturgy many places have a procession called El Santo Entierro, the Holy Burial. An image of Jesus – often placed in a glass casket will be borne throughout the streets of the towns and villages.

Padre German has asked me to go out to three very remote and poor villages for Holy Thursday and Good Friday – Agua Buena, Delicias, and El Bálsamo in the Dolores municipality. I feel very privileges to be able to accompany the people there.

Holy Saturday I have nothing until the Vigil. We have about 96 catechumens, aged 14 and older, to be baptized. The procession of the Paschal often begins about 30 minutes from the church; then the parish uses all the Vigil readings; and then the baptisms. My guess is that this could take at least four hours.

I will try to post photos and some commentary when I can. Since I will be out in the countryside, I will not post on Thursday and not until late on Friday.

Sunday, I hope to spend lunch with the Dubuque Franciscan sisters in Gracias.

Then on Tuesday, a two week trip to visit friends and relatives in the New York City, Philadelphia, and Scranton region.

Then, celebrating the Easter season back here – and hoping to get to the beatification of Monseñor Romero in El Salvador on May 23.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Honoring Romero

In a few ways I feel bad that I haven’t written about Monseñor Romero today on the 35th anniversary of his martyrdom in the chapel of the Divina Providencia Hospital in San Salvador. 

The alter where Monseñor Romero was martyred

But I spent almost 12 hours with two members of the small coffee coop in formation in El Zapote de Santa Rosa. We took soil samples from ten of the producers to a laboratory at the Fundación Hondureña de Investigación Agricola in La Lima, Cortés, just past the San Pedro Sula airport – a 3.5 hour drive from El Zapote. 

After getting up at 4:30 to wash, make coffee and pray, I left home at 5:30 am, picked up the guys and the samples in El Zapote and headed out toward San Pedro Sula. We talked a bit. I mostly tried to avoid the potholes and the crazy drivers.

As we talked, I learned, sadly, that Oscar and his wife lost an infant last June – due to severe pneumonia. But here he is, taking part in the coop and being its secretary, serving as president of his village’s water board, and teaching the confirmation class in religious education. Oscar is a quiet guy and shows some of what is best about Honduran campesinos.


We spent almost three hours in the lab office. The woman who prepared the samples for the lab was very helpful, extremely pleasant, and even worked through her lunch hour.

The director of the lab is a Honduran who was born and raised in Santa Rosa de Copán and then studied in the US. He seemed to take a liking to the two guys, especially connecting with their Copán ties.  He was also helpful in cutting down the number of samples (close to 100) to 38, thus cutting the costs. It was fascinating watching him going through the soil samples.

It still cost a little more than $1,000 for the analyses, but – thanks be to God and a generous anonymous donor – I had the funds to cover the costs, though I had to run out to an ATM to get more lempiras.

We finished about 1:30 pm and left immediately for home – stopping for a quick 3:00 pm lunch. I left them in El Zapote about 5:45 pm and got to Plan Grande in about 15 minutes.

As I look back on today, I think that what I saw and what we did are truly ways to honor Romero and live out the commitment to our Lord.

Though we are in the middle of Lent, these words from a 1978 Advent sermon of Romero, speak to me of how today, taking soil samples to be analyzed was a great way to honor our blessed martyr, Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero.

Advent should admonish us to discover
  in each brother or sister
    that we greet,
  in each friend whose hand we shake,
  in each beggar who asks for bread,
  in each worker who wants to use
    the right to join a union,
  in each peasant who looks for work
    in the coffee groves,
       the face of Christ.

Then it would not be possible
  to rob them,
  to cheat them,
  to deny them their rights.

They are Christ,
  and whatever is done to them
      Christ will take as done to himself.

This is what Advent is:

Christ living among us.