Sunday, November 25, 2018

Celebrating Christ the King

The feast of Christ the King is a big celebration in our parish.

For many years we have had a morning Mass for all the parish in one of the towns or villages of the parish. In the past few years, these have included processions to the site of the Mass.

This year the Mass was held near the village of Plan Grande, where I live. It started about 9 pm with processions from two parts of the parish with people singing and praying along the way – with marching bands (which here they unfortunately call “Bandas de guerra” – war bands.)

The Mass this year was preceded by adoration of the Eucharist. After Padre German offered some prayers, he invited the Delegate of the Word present to offer a few prayers.

Christ the King Sunday is also celebrated as the day of the Delegates of the Word, the men and women who lead Sunday celebrations of the Word in their communities. The movement was started in the mid-1960s to help the many distant communities gather for a Sunday celebration, since the parish priest could not get to all the communities on a Sunday and it was very difficult to get to the main town for Mass.

After the prayer, Padre German took the monstrance with the host throughout the crowd. 

Here, there is a custom of touching the monstrance and then blessing oneself. I don’t know where the custom comes from, though I wonder if it is in some way related to the difficulty many have of going to communion (for any number of reasons). In my mind, it is very much an expression of the desire to touch God – to be in real contact with Jesus. It could at times become almost superstitious, but, watching the devotion, it seems to be the expression of deep desire for God.

After the period of adoration, we had Mass. I am coming down with a cold and so I can’t give a good report on the homily, though Padre German tried to connect the reading of Jesus before Pilate with the reality of people’s lives.

Since I was away all week at a seminar on the protection and care of minors and persons in vulnerable situations, I did not have much of a role in the celebration, which doesn’t bother me. I didn’t participate in the processions, but I did do my diaconal roles at Mass and helped move things after the celebration.

I spent a good bit of time before and after connecting with people, even arranging a few visits to communities in December. I also talked to at least four young people who are finishing high school this December. Several of them want to study in the university but that’s costly. So they may work for a while – or try to find a way to both work and study. There is also the difficulty of not finding the degree they want near here.

While visiting I found out that a neighbor had left for Spain last Sunday. She has a sister there and will probably be seeking work, to help pay off debts of the family. She leaves a husband a a two year old son. I also found out that one young guy who worked on my house was with the caravan. However, he crossed the border on his own and is presumably safe in the US.

The feast of Christ the King is important for us here – not least of all it is a contrast to the politics that we find here and in many places throughout the world. And so it is important to celebrate it – among the poor, who show us the face of the prisoner Jesus before the repressive and violent powers of this world.

So sorry

Friday I read that the brother of the president of Honduras was arrested in Miami on drug charges. There have been many rumors about this for quite some times as other members of the political and economic elites have been arrested in Honduras and the US for drug-related crimes.

Saturday morning I opened my Facebook page and found this post of a FB friend from the Te Apoyamas JOH FB page:

Nuestra admiración ante su postura y Valentia, pero de igual manera nuestra solidaridad por su dolor de hermano, estamos con vos, Juan Orlando.
Our admiration in the face of your posture and courage, and in like manner our solidarity for your pain as brother. We are with you, Juan Orlando.
I don’t want to comment, since this is almost too painful.

In the face of the thousands in the caravan fleeing the situation in Honduras, in the face of the rising costs of living in Honduras, in the face of violence in the cities, in the face of the lack of justice for victims of violence, in the face of the rampant corruption, in the face of thousands in prison waiting for long periods to go before the court – people feel sad and offer support for someone whose brother has been arrested.  Yes, it is hard when a loved one is arrested. But I know any number of cases where family members have been imprisoned and are waiting for months without much hope of justice. Where is the solidarity with them?

This type of propaganda is part of the problem of Honduras. I am not blaming those who do it since I presume that many may be doing it to keep their jobs. I know of some cases in which people had to put posts on social media to support the ruling party before the last election; otherwise, their work in public institutions (e.g., public hospitals) could be endangered.

There is a system here that seeks to sustain itself – a system of domination, fueled by the love of power and money by ruling elites. This is the problem.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Violence, insurrection, Honduras

Lest anyone misunderstand what I am writing, I want to make it clear that I am a Christian pacifist, rooted in the witness of the early martyrs Marcellus and Maximilian, of Saint Martin of Tours, of Saint Francis of Assisi, and, in our days, Dorothy Day.

Lest anyone think that I believe in a passive pacifism, my heroes include Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and the many people who peacefully risked their lives in campaigns for justice and the poor throughout the world.

Lest anyone think I am a hypocrite, my evidence is that I am prone to impatience and anger and have a hard time forgiving others. (Call that hypocrisy, if you will.) For these and other sins that are at the root of violence and are still in my life, I beg God’s forgiveness and help to

Lest anyone think I speak from an ivory tower, they should know that I speak from a nice house in a village in Honduras, a country with a reputation for violence, trying to accompany the people as a deacon, a servant.  I also spent time accompanying people in El Salvador during and after their civil war.

I condemn all sorts of violence. But I have to say that the most pernicious violence that I see finds its roots in the structures of power, domination, and institutionalized violence, that many states use to consolidate their power and to protect the interests of the moneyed few.

I understand why people may resort to violence but I do not justify it. I understand it, partly with the help of the word f Pope Saint Paul VI, in Progresio Populorum – The Development of the Peoples (30-31):

30. There are certainly situations whose injustice cries to heaven. When whole populations destitute of necessities live in a state of dependence barring them from all initiative and responsibility, and all opportunity to advance culturally and share in social and political life, recourse to violence, as a means to right these wrongs to human dignity, is a grave temptation.
31. We know, however, that a revolutionary uprising--save where there is manifest, long-standing tyranny which would do great damage to fundamental personal rights and dangerous harm to the common good of the country--produces new injustices, throws more elements out of balance and brings on new disasters. A real evil should not be fought against at the cost of greater misery.

For this reason, I am disturbed about the recent meeting in La Ceiba, Atlántida, Honduras. of LIBRE, the opposition part formed after the 2009 coup.

As reported in Noti Bomba, Former president, Mel Zelaya, stated: ““Tenemos derecho a la violencia, a la guerra y a la insurrección”- “We have the right to violence, war, and insurrection.”

He has called before for a peaceful insurrection – and I have few reservations about that. I do believe, however, that this must be the initiative of the people and not of political leaders and needs to be the fruit of grass-roots efforts of organizing and solidarity.

But I fear that Honduras is suffering from efforts of the elite to control the people and use them for their gain.

For me, it is obvious that the party in power, the National Party, is expert at this. Their consolidation of power in the three branches of government, their use of government jobs and services to assure (to buy off) their power base, their demonization of their foes, the massive militarization are way they “instrumentalize” their supporters, using them as pawns to maintain their party in power. And I won’t detail the variety of attacks on human rights supporters, environmental activists, and opposition journalists – including deaths – that have happened during their years in power.

But to call for insurrection, without facilitating the development of a critical consciousness in the people, can be another way for political parties to “use” their supporters. It can also be a way of putting them in danger for their lives.

What then?

Gandhi started with purifying and strengthening the people in the villages. Martin Luther King worked in the light of years of organizing and consciousness raising in the African-American communities.

Central to Gandhi’s protests was the constructive program, the efforts at the village level to make changes. This is empowerment from the base.

But what is also needed is a voice from the church that speaks from the side of the poor, that speaks clearly against all the forces that degrade the other, that resists all forms of violence while placing itself against all the forces of injustice.

In 1948, Albert Camus spoke to a group of Dominicans in France. When I first read his words when I was in college during the Vietnam War, they challenged me and I pray that they may still challenge me:

“What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest [person]. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today.”

And thus I reject all violence as I will try, in many small ways, to do what I can. As Camus said in the same speech:
“Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.”

The photo is not of Honduras, but of Bethlehem from a house in a Palestinian refugee camp that had been blown up by Israeli forces about December 1, 2004.