Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ten days in January

The last ten days have gone by in a flash.

Much of my work has been at home, preparing material for the base communities, based on saints of mercy. It’s not easy work – since I try to make the material understandable to people with great faith but limited formal education. I also try to prepare questions that make them think about what they read in terms of their lives and allow them the chance to share. This is not easy since much of the educational system (as well as the religious education system) is oriented to the question-answer memorization method. I finally got the booklet done and got it printed. Now the distribution begins.

I was also busy several days reviewing scholarship applications. St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa, is providing funds for partial scholarships for student in the alternative program called Maestro en Casa, which provides classes on weekends for middle school and high school students. They listen to programs on the radio, fill out workbooks, and have classes one or two days each weekend.

Sunday January 24 was a good day. My neighbors’ children got married at the 9 am Mass in Dulce Nombre. I was glad to see them taking this step – which so many young people avoid.

After the Mass I met with twenty young people to try to begin the formation of leaders for youth base communities or groups in the parish. We only had representation from eight communities, but five of them have functioning groups. We have some activities planned and I need to get materials ready for them.

Monday January 25 was another good day.  

In the morning I took members of the small coffee producers association in El Zapote de Santa Rosa to Estu Café in Santa Rosa de Copán, a business that does cupping, roasting, and training of baristas. I thought only one or two would be coming, but eight showed up. I also thought that Estu Café would only take the coffee. But Juan Carlos and his staff spent almost three hours with the producers, talking to them about cupping, producing quality coffee, and giving them an abbreviated experience of how cupping is done. I am most grateful for the work of Estu Café.  

I will be forwarding the results to folks at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames to help them determine if and how much coffee they are interested in buying.

In the afternoon I got back in time to help transport some of the men who had been working on the parish coffee land, clearing the brush around the plants in preparation for fertilizing the field before the next harvest. I took about seven guys to their villages about twenty minutes away. Then back home for some food and rest.

Wednesday I made another trip to Santa Rosa, mostly to do some shopping. But the real joy was to spend lunch at Weekend’s Pizza with the Dubuque Franciscan sisters who now live in two places, Gracias and La Entrada. Visiting with them refreshes my spirits.

Thursday was the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. I decided to accompany Padre German to Mass in the village of El Zapote de Dulce Nombre. He praised Saint Thomas church up and down and prayed for the parish, ever grateful for their solidarity and aid.

After Mass he went to visit two bed-ridden old people to hear their confessions and celebrate the anointing of the sick with them. He had to rush to another village for Mass and so asked me to share Holy Communion with them and pray with them.

What a great privilege it was to be there with these two persons, people of faith. They were living in the home of some family members who cared to them. I asked them to pray for the parish, telling them that that is their mission.

I couldn’t help but remember caring for my dad is his last years. I spoke to the family and encouraged them to continue the loving care they were giving. In the first house I shared how seeing a poor family in El Salvador caring for a sick older family member helped me make the decision to care for my dad at home.

Friday, I stopped down to the parish coffee field where a small group was fertilizing a part of the field. I also spoke to Padre German about the base community booklet and then headed out to Santa Rosa- my third trip last week – to get copies made.

Today the dioceses celebrated the opening of the Jubilee year of Mercy and the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. That deserves a separate post which I’ll try to write later today or tomorrow – complete with photos. For a preview of the photos, check out the album here.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rosy-fingered dawn

The dawn now spreads its rosy dew
Hymn, Saturday Lauds
Benedictine Daily Prayer

We have had several days of bone-chilling cold and rain – down to the high-forties and only up to the mid-sixties.

But this morning dawned with promises of sun and warmth.

As I stopped to take some photos I recalled my Greek classes in high school, where we learned Greek starting with Homer. Homer, in the Odyssey, sings of ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς, the rosy-fingered dawn – and so it was.

Later the rising sun shone on the western hills and highlighted a bird chirping in a tree outside the house.

A great day to remind me of the hope that God gives us, even in the face of pain and suffering.


Here's the full quote from the Odyssey which appears several times, including the first line of Book II:
μος δ᾽ ἠριγενεια φάνη ῥοδοδάκτυλος ώς
When the early born one, the rosy-fingered dawn appeared,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Working at home

This week Padre German is gone and I have little to do in the communities. So there’s not a lack of work for me in the villages. But that doesn’t mean I lack for work.

Since the weather is cooler and we are having a bit of rain, I have tried to do a bit of wash whenever there is hope for sun.

On Monday, I spent most of the day reading – because the electricity was gone all morning.

Tuesday I went to Santa Rosa to get some supplies.

I have had to make a number of phone calls and to send and receive e-mails in regard to the coffee association project and another project.

I also had to deal with an infestation of zompopos, leaf-cutter ants, that did a job on my rose bush and a few flowers. Yuck!

But today I decided to stay here to do some work that I’ve been putting off.

I spent the morning going over scholarship applications for students in Maestro en Casa, an alternative education program that provides distance learning for the Honduran equivalents of middle school and high school. The students have texts, listen to radio programs, and meet on weekends. St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames has been providing partial scholarships for the past three years.

I still have to go through one more set of applications that I’ll probably review tomorrow morning.

In the afternoon I spent time working on a booklet I am preparing for the base communities.

Last year I prepared a set of readings and questions for Saints of Charity, since the diocese was celebrating a Year of Charity in preparation for the hundredth anniversary of the diocese this year.

Now I am preparing a set of questions for Saints of Mercy to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It’s not easy trying to find information in Spanish and English that I can use to write reflections and questions that will be understandable to our people.

I managed to finish a few and to put a dent in a few more but this will probably take me a few more days.

About 5:00 PM I decided to put these aside and went upstairs to pray in my prayer room.

But I was soon awe-struck by the sky, the clouds, and the sunset.

As I looked east I noticed the light on the mango tree right next to the house. Last year there were no mangos but this year there are numerous flowers that I hope will provide fruit for me and many others here in Plan Grande.

This evening I’ll take it easy after a light supper.

Tomorrow, unless I get a call from Padre German I’ll probably spend it here working on the scholarship applications and the base community booklet. I also have to work on a meeting with youth group leaders on Sunday. But I long to get out to the communities.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Instituted an acolyte

Today I was formally instituted in the ministry of acolyte. I wrote about this in three earlier blog posts.

It is a call to serve in a special way at the altar and so become more connected with the Eucharist. One of the roles of the acolyte is to assist the deacon and priest; another is to be an extraordinary minister of Communion, especially to the sick.

As I was kneeling before the bishop, I heard him pray these words:
así como participan de un mismo Pan con sus hermanos, así también deben formar un solo cuerpo con ellos; por tanto, amen sinceramente al Cuerpo místico de Cristo, que es el Pueblo de Dios especialmente a los débiles y enfermos
…as you share of the same Bread with your brothers [and sisters], so you should also form one single body with them; therefore, sincerely love the mystical body of Christ, which is the People of God, especially the weak and the sick…
As I listened to these words, I recalled an experience I had almost three years ago in Assisi, in the Basilica of Saint Clare, kneeling before the Cross that St. Francis heard calling him to repair His church.

I knelt and prayed, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" That day I had a very clear sense that Jesus was telling me, 
"Love my people."
"Love the little ones of this world, the poor, the people at the margin."
Here I was, kneeling before the bishop and hearing almost the exact same words, calling me to deepen my commitment. Tears welled up within me.

At the Mass I was also entrusted with distributing Communion, assisting Bishop Darwin Andino and Padre German, our pastor.

I have distributed many times before but today was special and I recalled what often comes to mind as I distribute Communion. As I lift up the Host before the people, saying “Body of Christ,” I often find myself looking at them “through” the Host, focusing on both Christ in the Eucharist and the member of the Body of Christ before me, seeking Communion.

My sense of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist and my sense of the Church as the Body of Christ are intimately connected.

May I serve both!

The three previous posts related to the institution of acolyte can be found here, here, and here.
More photos of the Mass, which included the acceptance of a seminarian as a candidate for the priesthood and the institution of three seminarians as lectors, can be found here.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tarcisius, patron of acolytes

I became an altar boy in Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Darby, Pennsylvania, when I was in second grade.

We had to memorize the responses in Latin and learn how to ring the bells, move the missal from one side of the altar to another, give the priest the wine and water and wash his hands, and, in general, to behave well on the altar.

We were there, close to the priest, close to the Eucharist, visible to all our family and the whole parish.

I learned that the patron of acolytes was St. Tarcisius, a twelve year old who was entrusted to take Communion. On the way he was accosted by some pagans but he refused to give up the Sacred Hosts. He was killed, a martyr for the Eucharist.

In a few days, God willing, our bishop, Monseñor Darwin Andino, will install me in the ministry of the acolyte.

As I prepare for this I thought again of St. Tarcisius.

Searching for more information on this early martyr, I came across an address by Pope Benedict XVI, in 2010, to altar servers, where he spoke about St. Tarcisius, who was martyred about the year 257:
Who was St Tarcisius? We do not have much information about him…. It is said that he was a boy who came regularly to the Catacombs of St Calixtus here in Rome and took his special Christian duties very seriously. He had great love for the Eucharist and various hints lead us to conclude that he was presumably an acolyte, that is, an altar server. Those were years in which the Emperor Valerian was harshly persecuting Christians who were forced to meet secretly in private houses or, at times, also in the Catacombs, to hear the word of God, to pray and to celebrate Holy Mass. Even the custom of taking the Eucharist to prisoners and the sick became increasingly dangerous. One day, when, as was his habit, the priest asked who was prepared to take the Eucharist to the other brothers and sisters who were waiting for it, young Tarcisius stood up and said: "Send me!". This boy seemed too young for such a demanding service! "My youth", Tarcisius said, "will be the best shield for the Eucharist". Convinced, the priest entrusted to him the precious Bread, saying: "Tarcisius, remember that a heavenly treasure has been entrusted to your weak hands. Avoid crowded streets and do not forget that holy things must never be thrown to dogs nor pearls to pigs. Will you guard the Sacred Mysteries faithfully and safely?". "I would die", Tarcisio answered with determination, "rather than let go of them". As he went on his way he met some friends who approached him and asked him to join them. As pagans they became suspicious and insistent at his refusal and realized he was clasping something to his breast that he appeared to be protecting. They tried to prize it away from him, but in vain; the struggle became ever fiercer, especially when they realized that Tarcisius was a Christian; They kicked him, they threw stones at him, but he did not surrender. While Tarcisius was dying a Pretoria guard called Quadratus, who had also, secretly, become a Christian, carried him to the priest. Tarcisius was already dead when they arrived but was still clutching to his breast a small linen bag containing the Eucharist. He was buried straight away in the Catacombs of St Calixtus….
Not a deacon, not a priest, not even an adult, he carefully carried and guarded the Body of Christ.

May I be worthy to carry the Body of Christ to the sick and the inform and all those members of the Body of Christ who seek to satisfy their hunger.


This is the third in a series of blog posts on the ministry of acolytes, in preparation for my institution in the ministry on Sunday, January 17, 2016.