Sunday, July 17, 2016

Celebrating the Virgin of Carmen in Debajiados

When I learned that I would be ordained a deacon on Friday, July 15, I was very happy that this would occur on the feast of the great Franciscan, Saint Bonaventure. A return to my Franciscan roots.

The parish of Dulce Nombre de María, where I have helped since October 2007, had decided to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, July 16.

That left July 16 without anything planned.

But July 16 is a special day here, the feast of our Lady of Mount Carmel, a feast special for the devotees of the brown scapular.

There are three places in the parish which have a church dedicated to La Virgen de Carmen. My one wish was to first exercise my diaconia during Mass in Debajiados, one of the poorest and most remote villages in the parish. I have been there at least four times before, including one Ash Wednesday and Good Friday in 2013 and this year.

Phil Barutha, a visitor from the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, came on his own to accompany my ordination and he is going around with me in my ministry.

He and I got to Debajiados a little before 10 o’clock when Mass was scheduled and so we had time to walk around and talk with people. A group had come for Mass from a nearby village. They belonged to another parish and had not had a visit from a priest for 18 years. (That may be soon changed.) One of the young women wanted a photo with Phil and me – for the social media!

Padre German finally arrived and he proceeded to hear confessions. So Mass didn’t start until after 11:00.  An auspicious beginning to my first full Mass functioning as a deacon.

I proclaimed the Gospel for the first time, aware of the privilege. 

I distributed communion (and we almost ran out of consecrated hosts!) 

After Mass we had a tasty squash seed soup in the best house in the village.

When I arrived, I asked Juan Ángel, who is preparing to become a Communion minister, if his parents would be at Mass. He told me that they are still sick and so I offered to take them communion. So, after eating, Phil and I headed out with Juan Ángel and other folks.

The last time I had made this trip I went on horseback. This time I drove about a third of the way and then we walked – more than half an hour, mostly up hill.

Sweating a bit, we reached the house of his parents, Juan Antonio and Reina. I entered, we talked, and then we prayed and I gave them Communion. Juan has trouble with inflammation and his wife is still suffering after an operation for uterine cancer almost two years ago. The pain was evident on her face. But, as we talked, they shared their deep faith in God, in the midst of suffering.

Before I left I concluded our prayer with a blessing.

Preparing for the visit I had looked at a book on pastoral care of the sick, noting a short ritual for bringing  Communion to the sick. I realized that I as a deacon could bless them.

I reflected that, when I give a blessing as a deacon, I am not giving them my blessing. I am a channel for the blessing of God through the entire People of God. The blessing is from the whole Church – not from an individual. (That merits another blog post.)

I pray that the blessing of the Church that I shared with them helps them live with more consolation and courage than before.

We walked back – a beautiful landscape, though in the midst of poverty.

Juan Ángel then gave me a sack of beans and we gave him and a son a ride up the hill and down the hill (about 30 minutes) to a nearby town.

Juan Ángel and his son Ever, with Phil
Juan Ángel and his parents were blessings for me. They help me see what I am called to as a deacon – to accompany the poor and suffering, to bring Jesus in Communion to them, and to share what I have with others – as a poor man shared with me.

This was a great way to celebrate my first full day as a deacon – learning to serve God and the poor, among the poor.

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