Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A US visit

I’m in the United States for about two weeks, mostly to celebrate the fifty years my cousin, Mary Barrar, has lived as a vowed Sister of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill.

I decided to take advantage of this trip and arrived a week early for a workshop on Creative Workshop Design at Training for change in Philadelphia. It was a very intensive workshop with people from all across the US and Canada, mostly working on issues of racism. It was challenging and helpful. I even had time to work on my catechists’ workshop and got some good feedback to improve it.

The workshop and walking through this West Philadelphia neighborhood were very good for me and I got a few delightful surprises.

Training for Change is, as I see it, fairly secular, though I believe it has Quaker roots. It is very committed to people of color – and is very much connected with LGTBQ activists. It was thus very encouraging to see how my obvious connection with the Catholic Church was never an object of disdain. In fact, I found many very supportive of me, even though I guess that they might not agree with all my beliefs and practices. That is important for me and I wish others, especially in the church, would have such positive experiences and move away from their combative and oppressive approach.

What also gave me cause for awe was the abundance of spring in Philadelphia. Though the nights were cool, the flowers and the trees were blooming. There were tulips and many other spring flowers and these beautiful pink flowered trees.

That struck me is how the flowers call from the trees and make the whole area around them a world of pink. Such abundance – even extravagance.

After Philadelphia, I went to Cranford, New Jersey, to visit and stay with an old friend (younger than I am, though). I also went into New York.

After confession at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st Street, I went up to visit the Cloisters Museum, one of my favorite places in Manhattan. When I was a grad student in the city between 1970nand 1974, this was one of my refuges.

As I got off the subway, I asked a woman if this was the stop for the Cloisters. She said yes and told me how to get there. We continued talking on the elevator up to the street. She is among those who maintain a garden in the park that goes up to the museum and told me to be sure to pass through the park and see the flowers. We parted, wishing each other well.

It was a delight to speak with such a warm person and then to see the park with tulips and other flowers.

Then I spent a short time in the Cloisters, not only marveling at the art but glorying in the abundance of the trees, flowers, and herbs.

I’ll be heading to Philadelphia area tomorrow for visiting friends and family and for the celebration. After this I’ll return to home in Honduras, after a short visit to Mexico City, to visit the Virgin of Guadalupe and more.

A change of pace, but, God willing, a way to open me to better serve God’s people.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

On the way to the East Coast of the US

I’m in the San Pedro airport, waiting for a flight to the US – through Mexico City. I’m not looking forward to a long lay-over in the Mexico City airport, but I’ll be in Philadelphia tomorrow night for a weekend workshop.

I got up, as usual, at 5:00 am to a beautiful morning. After prayer, breakfast, and a few chores around the house, I left and stopped off at the parish to say hello to Padre German before leaving. But I took this picture of a hibiscus which will bloom while I’m away.

I got to San Pedro Sula earlier than I had planned but with no thanks to the road.

I hadn’t driven t San Pedro since last October. The international highway from Dulce Nombre to La Entrada is in the worst shape I’ve ever seen or felt. In addition to the potholes and the parts where the asphalt is gone, there are the huge trucks which are struggling to go up the hills and also to avoid the huge holes. The road from Plan Grande to the highway is less treacherous than the international highway (even though it’s mostly dirt and gravel).

However, the flowering trees were a great joy.

Passing near Trinidad, Copán, there were these incredible flowering pink trees. I didn’t find a good place to stop and take a picture. But from La Flecha, Santa Bárbara, to San Pedro Sula, there were these incredibly beautiful trees with yellow flowers, sometimes as lone trees on a hillside with other trees. What beauty.

I also found Radio Progreso, the radio sponsored by the Jesuits in El Progreso, Yoro, on the car radio. I even heard their noon program on feminism - not your usual Honduran fare.

I’ll be in the US until May 2, in both the New York and Philadelphia area. In Philly, I’ll be joining my family to celebrate my cousin – 30 days younger than I am – Sister Mary Barrar, who has been a Sister of Saint Joseph (of Chestnut Hill) for fifty years. It will be great to celebrate this with her and with many cousins and their families.

I’m also going to a workshop this weekend. I just hope I am awake enough after all the travel and the all-nighter in the Mexico City airport.

After leaving the US, I am planning to spend two days in Mexico City, mostly to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I really didn’t feel like leaving home. There is so much to do and I feel so much at home in the parish – but this should be a good respite. I especially look forward to seeing friends and family.

Monday, April 17, 2017

After Easter Sunday

Today, Easter Monday, I’m trying to recoup my energies after a good, but busy, Paschal Triduum – Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.

Saturday we started the Easter Vigil at 5:30 pm about three blocks from the church. Padre German had asked me to give a short reflection on the theme inscribed on the Paschal Candle. Then we lit the Paschal Candle from the New Fire.

After we walked to the church we gathered outside in the park. I began by singing the Exultet, the Easter Proclamation. I didn’t do too badly, but I don’t think too many noticed it my errors. Then we had all the readings with sung psalm responses.

After the homily we had the baptisms of about forty, mostly young, people. It was a bit of a mob scene since they were baptized in the midst of the crowd (to avoid water flowing on the wires of the sound system). I had the job of transporting water from the font to the place of baptism.

What impressed me was the large number of young men – from sixteen to the early twenties – who were baptized. I had met a number of them, mostly when I went for the Scrutinies in three villages during Lent. I felt very hopeful seeing so many young men.

The Vigil ended about 10:30 pm, followed with tamales for everyone. 

I got home way after 11 pm and didn’t get to sleep until after midnight. Then up about 5 (to bak bread to take with me to lunch in the afternoon.)

Sunday morning I went to Debajiados, a poor remote village, for a 9 am Celebration of the Word with Communion. I have a deep place in my heart for this village. It was a most appropriate place to celebrate Easter.

Until about seven years ago they had no pastoral presence. Suddenly one woman was experienced what she described as visits of the Virgin Mary with requests for people to come together and pray. Padre Efraín, the pastor at that time, sent me to talk with the woman. I found her a very simple, honest woman, without pretensions; though some aspects of what she told me seemed a bit odd, I could not deny her experience. Whether it was an apparition of Mary or a projection of this woman's desire for a presence of the church in the village is beyond me. But the results tell a story of grace.

Soon after we began to visit the village regularly, the visits of the Virgin stopped. Since then the life of faith has grown. They have several catechists and regular Sunday Celebrations of the Word led by a local Delegate of the Word. The life of faith has experienced a resurrection there. It was a great place to celebrate the Risen Lord. 

I’ve gone there for Good Friday twice before and I was there for a Mass on their feast day, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, last July – the day after my ordination as a permanent deacon.

While there in July I and a visitor, Phil, went with Juan Ángel, a thirty-one-year old catechist, and his oldest son, Ever, to bring communion to his parents who lived quite a distance away from the church. It was a great way to celebrate being a deacon.

Juan Ángel, who was also preparing to become an extraordinary minister of Communion, died of pneumonia in September. The community came together to help the widow and her four children, including arranging to get them rights to the land where their house was.

In my homily on Easter, I spoke of the mystery of Easter, where the apparent failure of Good Friday is transformed into the victory of love of the risen Jesus.

I mentioned several ways how, in the midst of pain and suffering, we can find the victory of love of the Risen Jesus. I started to mention Juan Ángel and I filled up with tears and couldn’t speak. I finally was able to say, in the presence of his widow and children, how even though he has died his life is bearing fruit in the community.

After the Celebration, I stood around for a few minutes as several musicians sang two songs of the resurrection in a very popular, traditional style. You can find one of them here on You Tube

Then I visited and brought communion to a lucid, but weak, ninety-five-year old man.

Then I was off to Gracias, Lempira, to have lunch with the Dubuque Franciscan sisters. I arrived late, as they were finishing dessert – with the local pastor and a neighbor. What a way to refresh my body (with great food) and my spirit (with great conversation.)

I got home about 6:30 pm – tired from too little sleep and lots of driving in the past week. A little to eat, prayer, a glass of wine, and bed.