Thursday, July 30, 2015

A month of many things


Yesterday I went to Santa Rosa and talked with the people at Beneficio Santa Rosa. The coffee from the cooperative will be sent about August 12.

It has been a long and complicated process and I hope there are no problems. Most of the work will have to be done on the US side of the process.

The cooperative is in the process of incorporation and will need to go to Tegucigalpa soon. They asked me if I could take them – and the Caritas lawyer. I looked at my calendar and told them the only time I have two days free in August is the last week! We’ll see if that works out.

They also want to have soil analyses of the members who didn’t have an analysis earlier this year. Unless they work out an arrangement with an organization in Santa Rosa, that will mean a long trip to La Lima, Cortes, near the San Pedro Sula airport.

My hope for them is that they can get legal status and also begin working to improve their crops – so that they can find a good market for the coming harvest.

But there is concern about the upcoming harvest.

Though we’ve had some rains, it has been hot and dry – which is not good for coffee. Padre German told me this morning that some coffee bushes are ripening too fast and so the harvest may be poor. My hope is that the coop’s lands, which are at 1280 to 1320 meters high have enough coolness and moisture to bring in a good crop.


The second week in July I was at a national clergy study week on Christology. Last week the diocese had a clergy study week on Spiritual Direction. The bishop has me attend both as part of my formation for the permanent diaconate.

I am also taking an online course on canon law which ends in early August. I am also begin an online short course on morality.

I am also reading like mad.

I just finished two books that really complimented each other: Robert Barron’s  Catholicism and Robert Imbelli’s Rekindling the Christic Imagination. Two things I liked about both books were the emphasis on the Incarnation and the use of art to help understand faith.

I’m also studying Pope Francis’ encyclical on creation, Laudato ‘Si, which I’m finding challenging and refreshing. It really speaks to our situation here. I’m hoping I’ll have time later this year to write something about it.


The real joys of ministry this month have been my visits to various villages, leading the Celebrations of the Word and distributing Communion. This is a great way to get to know people where they live and share with them my reflections on living the Gospel here.

I’m met with the youth in Oromilaca last Sunday when I visited there. I also met with the youth group in the nearby village of Candelaria about a week ago. This is an area where we need to work more in the parish.

I also continue to accompany Padre German n some of his visits to the villages.

Next month I will have four workshops with catechists in the different zones of the parish. Before that I need to finish the materials for First Communion.

The first week of the month I’ll accompany Sister Pat Farrell to the Gracias, Lempira, prison for an Alternatives to Violence workshop. I am looking forward to this – not only the chance to work with Pat but also the opportunity to work with people at the margins facing one of the serious problems here in Honduras – violence.


Monday I went to Tegucigalpa to renew my residency card. Sister Pat accompanied me since she is in the process of getting residency and had to leave some papers. Thanks be to God we got in and out in one day. It was a long day since I drove most of the 11 hours that it took. But I have the card and don’t have to go through that process until next July or August.

In July I also went to the doctor’s for a check-up. When I went in, June blood personal, cholesterol, uric acid, and triglycerides were above normal. The doctor gave me medicine and it seems to be working – since all was normal. I do however need to begin to walk and to do a little exercise.


I hope to get to Iowa in October to visit St. Thomas Aquinas as well as to do some speaking around the region.

I also hope to bring Padre German with me since he has been invited by St. Thomas Aquinas to visit the parish.


Last Thursday night I woke up at 3:30 am to the sound of a hard rain on the roof. I went out to check the terrace since it has not been draining all that well. So I went out to sweep off the excess water.
When I opened the bedroom door I felt the rain and wind hitting the door – an almost horizontal rain, with a fierce wind. Then I heard and saw a piece of tin roofing fly in the air. I thought a piece of my roof had come off.

Needless to say I couldn’t fall back to sleep and so decided to put on the coffee and sit down to pray and read until the sun came up and I could survey the damage.

My roof wasn’t damaged, but the front porch roof of my next door neighbors had blown off – and one piece had landed next to my house.

I got them some nails when I went into Santa Rosa that day an they fixed the roof on Saturday.

But the drought and continued. As I write this on Wednesday afternoon, we are having our first rain since last Friday.

Wonder of wonders, the sun is shining as the rain comes down – and I saw a rainbow not far away.


The first few months here in Plan Grande there was no problem with water. However. the last few months there have been some problems and we’ve been without water for a few days. Right now we have not had running water for two days. I do have a tank and a large pila of water and so I am doing a lot better than my neighbors.


Tomorrow is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Though my spirituality has Franciscan roots, the Jesuit ways of praying have helped me a lot – especially the Examen and the Composition of Place. The latter is reading the Gospels while putting oneself in the place where the events are happening, paying attention to one’s feelings. We are even using this way of praying the scripture with our base communities.

Tomorrow I hope to use the day as a retreat day – before a busy month. In the afternoon I’ll accompany Padre German to a Mass on the first anniversary of the death of the husband of one of our Communion ministers.

I’ll close this meandering entry on the little things that have taken up my life this month with these words of the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner on the value of earthly things, taken from Jim Maaney’s  An Ignatian Book of Days.

In the last analysis there is nothing that cannot be integrated into the service of God in some way, and one can say without hesitation: God grows in men to the degree that their relationship to things is a more positive one, and vice versa. This point must be emphasized because man is always tempted to consider earthly things meaningless and of little value. For our relationship to God, the “other things” are absolutely necessary— they are the place of our service and worship.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Drought and torrential rains

It’s been a very dry year so far – and this is a cause for concern. It has also been very hot!

A lagoon that I have often passed appears to be drying up – partly due to the drought, partly to the local government that has been sucking out the water for use on road work.

The rainy season usually begins in May but this year there has been little rain. In some places, the ground is dry and hard; so people have not planted. Others who planted earlier have been fearing that their crops would dry up or would yield only a limited crop.

There is a concern about possible hunger scenarios.

But the weather yesterday and today may mark the beginning of the rainy season.

Yesterday was a beautiful day.

As I left the Celebration of the Word with Communion here in Plan Grande, I remarked to someone how clear and fresh it was.

In the afternoon I went to the youth group meeting in the nearby aldea of Candelaria, noting the threatening sky in the distance.

The rains came in the middle of the meeting and the torrential rains on the tin roof made it almost impossible to hear each other. So I did an activity with them – a trust fall.

After the meeting I drove home – in the midst of rain and fog.

When I arrived at the house I noted that the electricity was off. Then I went upstairs and noted a little lake on the terraza.

The drain is too small for all the rain to flow out and so I proceeded to push water over the side with a broom.

The rains continued – something with a lot of force – during most of the evening and into the night.

When I got up about 6:00 am, the electricity was still off and a thick fog engulfed the house.

Ar midmorning it's overcast, but the sun is peaking through the clouds.

Whether the dry season is over, I do not know. I hope so – for the well-being of the people.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Life goes on

Saturday, after a Parish Council meeting, I accompanied Padre German to two Masses. I have been accompanying him several times a month to Masses in various communities.

The first on this past Saturday, in Quebraditas, was a Quinceañera celebration. A young woman was celebrating her fifteenth birthday – a major celebration of coming of age of a young woman in some Latin American communities. Here it is not a common occurrence – possibly because of the costs of renting dresses and suits as well as providing food.

I was delightfully surprised at how the celebration was not to show off the young woman, but a real step to help her grow as a person of faith.
The quinceañera and her parents
Padre German asked me to say a few words on the readings: 1 John 4: 7-11 and  Matthew 25: 1-13. The text in Spanish can be found here.

After the Mass we rushed off to San Agustin, arriv4ing a little late for a wedding. I hadn’t expected to go to the wedding but I am glad I went.

The groom in his mid twenties had been baptized on July 5 and I had been there for the baptism. His twenty-something bride has been involved in the church. I think she has been a catechist.

The wedding was simple – much simpler than the quineañera celebration. What struck me most as I sat in front, helping during the Mass, was the sight of the two parents beside their children. If I may be a bit culturally insensitive, they were typical campesinos, people connected to the campo, the countryside. Their clothes were simple and the bride’s father had his “cowboy” sombrero.

San Agustín church decorated for the wedding
There was something very real and down-to-earth about the celebration. I was glad I had gone there.

If I am ordained a permanent deacon here, I will probably be asked by the pastor to be the church’s official witness at weddings as well as to do the sacramental preparation. That will be a real privilege (and will relieve him of some work). I won’t have to do the catechetical preparation since that is done in the villages by couples but there are “canonical” things that must be done.

In the meantime I keep busy.

I’ve begun to visit various communities on Sundays twice a month, bringing them communion for their Celebration of the Word. On July 12 I went to Delicias Concepción and on July 26 I’ll get to Oromilaca. Today I stayed here in Plan Grande – but I ended up leading the celebration and distributing communion.

As part of my formation for the permanent diaconate, the bishop had me attend the national theological study week for clergy. About 80 or so priests, transitional deacons, transitional deacon candidates, and I were there. Bishop Vittorino Girardi of Costa Rica led us in a study of Christology. It was a good conference though I didn’t learn much new, but I was very pleased when, at one point, the bishop noted Gustavo Gutierrez’s work We Drink from Our Own Wells.

This week, the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán has a study week for clergy on spiritual direction. The bishop wants me to be there.

The identity of the deacon is to serve – especially those on the margins. And so I'm involved in a few activities serving the people here.

I am still working with a cooperative of small coffee farmers which is being organized. The diocesan office of Caritas is helping them get legal status but I’ve been involved in trying to get the coffee to the United States. The parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa, is working to see that there are buyers for their coffee. This year it’s not a lot – under 1,000 pounds – but if things go well there may be more for next year. It’s been a lot of work, with lots of headaches trying to maneuver through the systems, but I have hope that something good will come for these farmers.

At the end of the month, God willing, I’ll join Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell in an Alternatives to Violence workshop in the prison. That could be the start of something really good in a society so plagued with violence.

And in the midst of this I’m taking an on-line course in Canon Law.

I also have to find time in the next few weeks for a trip to Tegucigalpa to get my residence card renewed. I have residency until 2017 but I have to get a new card every year – which often means two days in one of my least favorite cities in Honduras. But it’s something I have to do to continue what I feel called to do – be present to the people here as a servant, in the name of Christ.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Building Communion

Today Little Brother Arturo Paoli passed on to the Lord he loved so much – at the age of 102.  Arturo Paoli was a member of the Little Brothers of the Gospel, a community founded with the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.

Cross of Charles de Foucauld
The Little Brothers – as well as the Little Sisters – live a life of poverty among the poor, working as the poor do, living in community among the poor, with a deep devotion to Jesus, incarnate, present in the Eucharist, and present among the poor.

Little Brother Arturo brought the Little Brothers to Latin America in 1959 and spent much of his life in our continent. He lived in Argentina where the Little Brothers suffered under the dictatorships, several of them martyred for their solidarity with the poor.

In Venezuela he lived in community of Bojó, in the western part of the country. For a  time he shared his home with Pedro, an un-churched twenty-year old. In response to this he wrote a book for Carlos – and for all of us, Gather Together in My Name. Published by Orbis Books in 1987, it is regrettably out of print.

I had decided to spend today as a day of prayer and personal retreat but I had no idea what I would read.

Opening Facebook I discovered that Little Brother Arturo had died. I quickly sought out this book which I had read many years ago and which I had brought with me to Honduras.

I went through the book, looking at my notations and found myself challenged, but filled with joy. I found some responses to questions on how I am to live here.

Who am I – as a Christian?
Christians are persons who discover that they are loved, and find that the best response they can give, the only way to say “thanks” for the love they receive is the response of loving. The very need to love leads them not to refuse any proposal, any path that seems to them to be a good one for building communion….
if you really love, if you been captured by the love of Christ, you throw yourself into the battle for communion, but you’re on the lookout jot to lose the essential thing: love for human beings. (pp 137-8)
It all starts with God’s love –not with any ideology, not even with any doctrinal content. It all starts with the fact, with the experience of God’s love which urges us on (2 Corinthians 5:14).

What does Christ want us to share?
Today I’d say that the important thing is to share in Christ’s ideal, which can be summed up in one phrase: “to build communion by taking cognizance of uncommunion.” This is crucial, and I want to stress it with you: Christ’s ideal is to  make communion where there is uncommunion. (pp. 81-82)
 All around me I see uncommunion: poor families suffering for lack of land and work’ farmers worrying about the lack of rain and what that might mean for their families; victims of violence who feel alone and without any source of help, especially from the government and police; people in the streets frustrated by the lack of accountability of government officials in the light of serious monetary scandals; people in church separated because of those leaders at many levels who don’t want to share or allow others to participate; and so much more.
How can I be present so that communion may become possible?

What am I called to?
… all whom Jesus calls are called to one thing alone: to discover a relationship with our Father by building a communion of brothers and sisters, to bring it about in some way or another that human relationships change….
 Our betrayal of the Gospel is such that we have failed sufficiently to reflect that Christ’s interest is not so much that of getting the hungry something to eat as it is of taking a diabolical relationship and making a love relationship of it. (p. 183)
And what to do?
First of all, one ought to form a clear notion that life has not been bestowed on us in order to make money to be well off. Our raison d’être, as the French say, our reason for being, is to become brothers and sisters…
 The second thing is not to refuse political tasks that bear directly on eliminating justice in the world, and helping human beings to become brothers and sisters…. what counts is live. What counts is the real desire to struggle for communion. The third thing to do is to “be compassionate” (Luke 6:36(. Well, it’s not actually something to “do,” because we don’t get to be compassionate just by making up our minds to be so. Being compassionate is a result of something…. The  “compassionate heart” — particular sensitivity toward sisters and brothers who have been left behind, been left out — is the gift of Christ to his friends, and is the most characteristic sign that someone is Christ’s friend. (pp. 26-28)
Where do I go from here?

The first step I see is to keep reminding myself of God’s love and opening myself to my brothers and sisters her.

What follows?

Only God knows.