Monday, May 29, 2017

Lightning strikes and a busy ministry

Lightning struck –very close – Saturday afternoon about 5:15. Of course, the electricity went off. It seems not to have affected my computer. The electricity returned about 8 pm but no internet signal. The company came this morning and changed the converter which had been burnt out by the lightning strike.

The rains were abundant; a barrel of rain water that catches the run off from my house filled in less than ten minutes! And then it kept raining throughout the night.

Such is the severe weather here in the mountains of Copán this time of the year.

The last week I have been plagued by what we call el mal de mayo – the ills of May. With the rains there are often intestinal problems, often brought by the rains affecting the purity of the water sources – usually mountains springs. 

I got a severe case – which included two types of parasites (including lombrices – pinworms), amoebas, and an intestinal bacterial infection. I’m finally feeling a bit better. But this has left me worn, distracted, and a bit bored when I have had to stay home.

Before I got sick I had two busy weeks on my return from the US.

I watched as a neighbor continues building his house and some school kids picked flor de izote near my house. I also noted the mangos which are right by my terrace. Some people eat green mangos. I'll try to wait until they are ripe.

In my ministry, I had two sessions of training with catechists in the first week I got back. Instead of sessions in each of the four zones, we had two sessions, combing zones -  a little less moving around for me. In all about 65 catechists participated.

The youth had a soccer tournament on Saturday, February 13. Four teams participated. One other came late and then left without playing; that’s a long story.

We were supposed to have an Alternatives to Violence workshop in the Gracias Lempira prison. Sister Pat and I prepared but there were not enough people signed up. This ended up being providential since I got really sick on the day we were supposed to end the workshop.

I have been regularly preaching, often when I accompany Padre German and when I go to a community on a Sunday to bring Communion. I did get to preach for the feast of Saint Isidore, the patron of farmers, int eh community of San Isidro La Cueva.

This week is busy.

Sunday morning I went to a community for the Celebration of the Word with Communion. Padre German asked me to go there because of some concerns on the pastoral situation there. After that I went to a nearby village for the Mass which Padre offered for a person who was killed there last week. Padre spoke movingly during his homily – calling for people to seek justice in the case but to avoid all violence, placing all at the cross.

 After that I visited a family that lost an 18-month old who drowned in a pail of water. That was not easy, but God helped me to provide a place where the extended family could reflect and pray on the tragedy they suffered. I was impressed with the shared concern of so many. I was especially impressed by a young couple, relatives of the child, who took care of the child as if she were one of theirs. The mother of the child who died is in prison – which is a whole other story – and so this couple aided the father in the daily care of the child. The young woman told me she felt as if a part of her heart had gone. I was deeply moved, especially as she explained how she tried to interpret the death to her own four-year old daughter who was asking where the dead child was. I learned a lot from that young woman.

Then, I set off to the Youth Group in Dolores. It was a busy day. They agreed to do a sociodrama on “dry bones” as part of the coming Pentecost Vigil Mass.

Monday, I’ll help transport workers from the parish coffee field. I’ll also await someone to come and fix the internet. I’m doing some revision of our religious education material, especially the materials for the catechumenate – for those over fourteen who haven’t yet been baptized.

Tuesday, there’s a clergy meeting in Santa Rosa. If I can arrange it, I may try to get to visit the youth in Delicias in the late afternoon.

Wednesday, I’ve invited the Dubuque Franciscan sisters to the house to celebrate my seventieth birthday - a day early.

Thursday, my birthday, there will be a Mass here in Plan Grande, but not for my birthday. A couple in their late seventies are going to celebrate the sacrament of Matrimony. I look forward to this.

Friday, I’ll go to Gracias in the afternoon to celebrate Sister Nancy Meyerhofer’s fiftieth year jubilee celebration as a Sister of St. Francis of the Holy Family (the Dubuque Franciscans). I’ve known Nancy for at least twenty-five years – first in El Salvador and now here in Honduras.

Saturday, I’ll return to the parish and head out to San Agustín. There, starting at 6 pm, we will celebrate the Pentecost Vigil – until 6 am on Sunday. (I’ll try to get a few winks in.)

I’m involved and Padre has asked me to preach at the Vigil. Somehow I’ll find time to prepare.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Third world

Today, resting at home, recuperating from parasites, amoebas and more, with no electricity from about 7 am, I decided to read – and do my laundry!

I picked up a newer version of a book I had read a few years ago on cultural challenges. I am realizing that one of my frustrations is not always being well-aware of the cultural differences here.

But what struck me was the authors use of the term “majority world,” something I had run across before. I also had heard the term “two-thirds world.” These are ways of trying to refer to what has often been called the “third world.” The term “third world” has become offensive.

In one way I can understand this. How can we refer to most of the world’s population, the impoverished majorities, in a way that doesn’t demean them, as third-class citizens.

In my work I don’t run across a “world.” I run across people and communities. There’s Xiomara and Mery, Isaías and José, Carlitos and Darlin, Wendy and Kayli. There’s Plan Grande, Dulce Nombre, Pasquingual, Delicias.

But in a way they are a “third world,” a world pushed to the margins, a world denied access to the world’s goods. The people are treated as third-class (or worse).

But they are more than their economic status. They are real people. This came home to me when I went to visit my neighbor and they told me that the father of a young catechist in a nearby village had been killed on Sunday. They are people who bleed and grieve, who suffer loss. They are people who are victimized – not victims; they are impoverished, not poor. And many of them have a resilience and a faith I cannot even dream of.

So now, with the electricity finally on, I will post this to help recall the real people who are all too often categorized as poor victims. No. They are real people.

Saturday, May 06, 2017


On my way back from a visit to the US I decided to stop in Mexico City to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

As I walked from the METRO (subway) to the grounds of the shrine, passing beggars and vendors of all sorts, I saw the old basilica at the end of the street – a welcoming sight.

Entering the grounds and approaching the new basilica, I could see the tilma of Juan Diego above the altar in the rather modernistic basilica. The image is smaller than I had thought and is high above the main altar.

I passed in front of the image a few times and then, after a visit to the shop in the basilica, I entered the basilica for the next Mass, which was accompanied by children and teachers from a Catholic school.

You cannot get very close to the image but have to pass on moving walks under the image. I passed there many times – but it seems strange craning your neck to see the image (and take photos).

Then I decided to walk around the grounds, visiting the various churches and the museum. I was deeply moved by the bright image of San Juan Diego above the altar in the Antique Parroquia de los Indios.

Then I passed to the Capilla del Pocito, the site of an ancient well. Entering the church and passing by the well there is a strong smell, possibly sulfur. The well shows the effects of earthquakes and other movements of the earth.

The church has paintings of the four apparitions. As I read the descriptions, I noted a classic translation fail. More on that later.

But then I walked to the area call La Ofrenda. There is a life-sized panorama of statues of the Virgin of Guadalupe with people, mostly indigenous, coming to pay her homage. I do not know how authentic they are, but I was moved especially by the man offering incense and the child offering lilies.

But then I walked nearby and came across an image of Juan Bernardino, the sick uncle of Juan Diego. On his woven mat, un metate, he is reaching out to the Virgin who appeared to him and healed him.

As I approached the area, I was three young people from Jalisco in native clothing taking pictures. I offered to take a picture of all of them and they gladly accepted. I was glad to see young people, conserving their indigenous identity and their Catholic faith. Passing them later, I heard them speaking a language other than Spanish.

As I reflected later that day, I was not very moved by what I saw except for the image of Juan Diego, the statues in La Ofrenda, and the young people I encountered. Even though I passed by the image many times, I was not moved by the image – as much as by bronze sculptures of Juan Diego by the moving walkways.


I think it was partly because I am more moved by the story and by the encounter of Mary and the Americas, in the person of Juan Diego than by an image. Also, I had no one to really share the experience with. 

But I decided to return the next day. I sat for Mass in a different place and saw the image from a different angle – with the cross at one side and an image of Juan Diego at the other. Sitting quietly, waiting for Mass, I felt much more connected to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe - who makes sense in the light of the Cross and in the light of the indigenous of the Americas. 

As I left I saw two people approaching the basilica on their knees in the plaza in front of the church. I had seen two during Mass the first day. 

During that second visit I experienced a peace that still pervades me, as I have returned home to Honduras.