Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas 2017

It's been a Christmas of coffee, baking, meals, Masses, Celebration of the Word, and caroling in prison.

Today, on the feast of Stephen, the first deacon, I’m sitting in a café in Santa Rosa de Copán, waiting for my car to me fixed. This past month or so, the pickup has been through lots of repairs. But that’s not as important as what has happened the past few days.

Last Friday and Saturday I helped with harvests in the parish coffee lands. About 200 parishioners, of all ages, showed up to volunteer their time, harvesting close to 5000 gallons of coffee berries. (I’m using US measurements. The “galón” they use to measure the coffee berries is a five gallon bucket.) It was a super-abundant harvest, the second this season. In about two or three weeks, we’ll have another harvest since there are still lots of green berries on the coffee plants. (Typically there are three to five harvests in each coffee field during the harvest season.)

I picked a little, but I mostly transported people to and from the field and took some coffee to the place where the seeds were separated from the pulp. I calculated that I drove five hours on Friday and six hours on Saturday. No wonder the pickup is in the shop.

Sunday I preached at the 7 am Mass in Concepción, Copán, and then went home to bake bread and cinnamon rolls.

Padre German had several Masses on December 24, Christmas eve, with a midnight Mass in nearby Candelaria, Concepción. He asked me to preach there. I tried to take a nap before Mass but no luck – too much anticipation and too many firecrackers (some quite loud).

After getting to bed after Mass at about 2 am, I got up early to go to the village of Grandillal, San Agustín, for a Celebration of the Word with Communion. The celebration started late but it was so good to be there. After the Celebration, they invited me to have pop and cake with the kids, but I told them I had a long trip for a big lunch.

After traveling 45 minutes from Granadillal to Plan Grande to pick up stuff, I headed to Gracias Lempira, almost two hours away. I brought the bread and cinnamon rolls (which were a great treat.) There with the five Dubuque Franciscan Sisters who are in Honduras, a sister from another Franciscan congregation, another US associate of the Franciscans (who lives across from them) and Padre Loncho, the pastor of Gracias, we had a feast. They even had a vegetarian quiche for me.

The sisters are a real support community for me. I find myself refreshed each time I visit with them.

Since I stayed overnight in their guest room, I joined them at about 4:30 for Christmas caroling in the Gracias prison. The sisters have been serving the prisoners since Sister Nancy arrived in Gracias. The director delayed the lock-down half an hour so that we could have time to be there.

We visited the three parts of the prison – the sentenced, those awaiting trial or sentencing, and the women. We walked in singing – to the surprise of the imprisoned. The sisters had a sheet with the words and invited them to sing with us. As we began with “Feliz Navidad,” I found myself almost overwhelmed by emotion. How could they have a happy Christmas there. But the sisters’ presence was welcomed with smiles and singing. I recognized a few, since I had helped Sister Pat with a few Alternatives to Violence workshops in the prison.

We got back to the sisters’ house about 6:30 and had a little to eat. I was full and so a brownie and a cup of hot tea were enough.

Today, I joined the sisters for Morning Prayer, as I do whenever I’m there. It was a great way to celebrate St. Stephen’s feast, with women who truly live the diaconal spirit.

The next few days will be busy.

Today there is another group finishing the harvest in the parish field. If my car is fixe, I may be able to help transport people at the end of the day.

Wednesday and Thursday we have the annual parish meeting for evaluation and planning. On Friday I have a pre-marriage interview. Then the weekend - and lots of firecrackers on New Years Eve.

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