Friday, January 31, 2020

Celibacy and Holy Orders IV

Two new books for celibate clerics

I just finished reading two books that might be helpful for developing a spirituality and a theology of the celibate deacon.

James Keating’s Remain in Me: Holy Orders, Prayer, and Ministry is a masterful and challenging work on the spirituality of the cleric. He writes for the most part to married deacons and celibate priests, but much of what he has written has proved helpful for this celibate deacon.

Two quotes especially struck me:

“There is only one reasons God calls a man to celibacy: he wants the man’s full attention, so that he can satisfy the man’s need for love.” (Kindle location 1525)

“The mysticism of celibacy proclaims that in binding one’s life to God’s infinitely generous love, a man gives himself away with universal love for the “many” (see Matt 26:28.)” (Kindle location 1527)

My one concern is that there is almost nothing specifically addressed to the celibate permanent deacon but he refers to a few pages he wrote on the celibate deacon in The Heart of the Diaconate, which I had found very helpful.

 But I yearn for more – especially in terms of the celibate deacon who is wholly involved in a non-church job. I work full-time in a parish and so his remarks on celibacy for priests are very helpful, but I wonder if we need more reflection on the celibate permanent deacon in the world.

Luanne Zurlo’s Single for a Greater Purpose: A Hidden Joy in the Catholic Church might provide a few clues for at least part of this. Her work is really an apologia vitae for the “dedicated single,” the lay celibate who has no connection to a religious order or secular institute and is not a consecrated virgin. The first seven chapters are a thoughtful reflection on the vocation of the celibate. The remaining chapters are focused on her vocation as a "dedicated single."

One sentence, though, got me wondering about how this might refer to us celibate deacons.
“…someone called to a dedicated-single vocation is called to the lay state. And the laity are called to work in the world, as compared with the clergy or traditional religious orders, who are called to bring Christ to the world from outside the world.” (Kindle location 1435)

Where is the permanent deacon in this? Many, if not most, permanent deacons are called to work in the world and sanctify it from within. Their “worldly” jobs are places where they show the gospel. Yet, they bring this world with them when they assist at the Eucharist as deacons. Do they not, in some sense, break the duality of the world and the church, the workplace and the altar?

This is an aspect of the diaconate that needs to be more developed, both in terms of spirituality and practice.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The pastor is gone and the deacon is....

When the cat’s away, the mice will play.
But when the pastor is gone, the deacon is Juan.

Our pastor, Padre German Navarro, has been away since last Tuesday and won’t return until next Wednesday. It’s a break he really needed. So much fell on me.

However, this month is not as busy as most months. January is toward the end of the coffee harvest and so many people in our parish are going out to pick coffee berries six or seven days a week, usually earning from 25 to 30 lempiras ($1.02 to $1.22) a five-gallon bucket. Some good harvesters can pick seven to twelve buckets a day. It’s hard and dirty work. Some workers are trucked in on large cattle trucks; one I saw recently must have had more than sixty-five people jammed in. Since this is one of the few ways to earn cash, most people take advantage of these days. If we had meetings, I fear that few would come.

From February to November there are many more parish meetings – for catechists, for new catechists, for delegates of the Word and those aspiring to become delegates, triple ministry leaders from the villages, youth group leaders, communion ministers, social ministry leaders from the villages, and more.

But in January we only have had one major meeting – the meeting the delegates of the Word from all the towns and villages. The delegates of the Word are women and men who lead the Sunday celebrations in their communities. It was planned for Saturday January 25, from about 9 am to 2 pm. A week before our pastor informed me that I would have to do it all since he would be out of town. I ended up spending a few hours last week preparing; at least 93 showed up.

Tuesday and Wednesday the diocese had a meeting of priests ordained less than ten years. I’ve been invited and finally decided to go for part of the time. I have been reluctant to go since I am not a priest but a deacon. 

Tuesday was lunch and then the young priests were going to play soccer. I declined to play (age and bad weather) and went home. Wednesday I returned and went with them and the bishop to a place outside of Santa Rosa de Copán. The bishop spoke and we had lunch. I talked to the bishop about a conference on the permanent diaconate in Germany in March and we briefly talked about the future of the permanent diaconate. He’s the bishop in charge of priestly matters for the bishops’ conference and so is involved in the negotiations with the Vatican on the Honduran directory on the permanent diaconate. Then, in his presentation, he mentioned that as well as the importance of formation for the transitional deacons. He seems to want me to help in that!

At the meeting the bishop mentioned that there had been a break-in at the buildings of the Oblatas, the sisters who live in Dulce Nombre. The tabernacle had been broken into, hosts spilled on the floor, and the ciborium taken. I talked a bit with him and in the afternoon went to talk with the sisters. Sor Alba explained what had happened and we planned for a day of prayer in reparation.

On Thursday, we started with a Holy Hour, well-attended, at the place where the hosts had been spilled. I prepared some prayers and ended with Benediction and a procession to the little chapel which had the tabernacle that had been forced open. I exposed the Eucharist for Adoration, which lasted until about 6:45 pm.

I had hoped the bishop would help find us a priest for a Mass on Thursday evening, but that fell through. A visit to the bishop’s office and a few phone calls proved fruitless. So I went into Dulce Nombre for a Celebration of the Word with Communion in Casa Margarita, the sisters’ building.

Friday, I ended up going to San Antonio El Alto to visit the sick. It’s one of the few communities that don’t have a communion minister nearby and so I will be trying to visit every 4 or 6 weeks. I had planned to go on Monday, but I got a call at 6:30 am that the roads were really bad from all the rain; so we agreed that I would go on Friday. One of the delegates accompanied me and we visited five homes and I shared Communion with almost all of them. Finding joy in visiting the sick is one of the graces I have received from my diaconal ordination. I have to do it more.

In February I hope to visit San Agustín, San Antonio el Alto and the neighboring village of Granadillal. San Agustín, which is the center of a municipality, has only one communion minister and she has been experiencing some health problems. I went once in January and will go again in February. However, there are close to twenty sick or shut-ins in San Agustín and the neighboring village of Descombros. The communion ministers decided that we would have about eight communion ministers go on February 11, the Day of the Sick, to visit as many of the ill as we can. The local community will provide guides to take the ministers to the different homes. We’ll start with a prayer in the Eucharistic chapel in San Agustín. I am looking forward to this day.

Friday afternoon I finished preparing for the assembly of Delegates of the Word.

Saturday evening I went to Dolores for the evening Celebration of the Word with Communion. Sunday, I had a work-out: four Celebrations of the Word with Communion in fur different places. I don’t know how our pastor does this every weekend, since he usually has four Masses every Sunday and occasionally two more! But it is a blessing to be able to serve the people.

One of the surprises was the Celebration on Sunday morning in the chapel of San Antonio in Dulce Nombre. I’ve been there many times – sometimes for Mass and a few times for Celebrations of the Word with Communion. Sunday it was packed, with people standing. The other joy of celebrating together in San Antonio is that there is a choir of children. One of the parish musicians is working with these young people – and there is even one boy who is playing the guitar. It is wonderful to see such participation of children and young people.

Around the house, things are a little hectic. They are tearing down the building that was used for church meetings and building a new one. They didn’t tell me much and I am glad I was there when they started since they would have put the roof tiles in places which would have made my life a lot more difficult. I am not very good at responding immediately when there is something that affects my comfort; the sudden announcement by one person about where they would put the tiles and how the construction might make it difficult to park my car close to the house was a bit disconcerting, to say the least.

Monday, they cut down some trees near the house for the construction of a large building for meetings. They are supposed to finish taking down the old building this week – with heavy machinery! Lord, give me patience and trust!

This morning, I worked on the list of participants in the assembly of delegates last Saturday so that I can give the pastor an update.

I also went through some scholarship applications. For several years, the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa, has been helping with partial scholarships for students participating in alternative educational opportunities locally. There is a program called Maestro en Casa, mostly for what the US would call middle school and high school. The students have classes on the weekend but there are workbooks and radio programs that help them prepare for the weekend classes. This year the demand has increased. There are centers of Maestro en Casa in four places in the parish. There were 92 requests from students entering seventh to ninth grade and 56 for students entering tenth to twelfth grade. The partial scholarship aid is more than five thousand dollars!

It might be helpful to know that there are two other opportunities, that I know of, that students in our parish are taking advantage of.

A group of sisters, mostly Central American and Asian, in a community founded by a priest from the US, have two boarding schools in the Tegucigalpa area for students entering seventh grade. The students get full board and tuition for five years. The program also has elements of learning skills and trades. The girls’ school has classes in swimming and, I think, have an Olympic-sized pool.  We have about thirty students from the parish in the two schools: Villa de Niñas y Villa de Niños.

There is also a program in La Entrada, Copán, a lot closer than Tegucigalpa, for male students. They live in rooms at the local parish and have some activities together, but they go to a local school. This year we have six young men from our parish in the program (which has only about 25 young men involved.) I know five of them!

It is great to see that there are more opportunities for young people to study. It’s a shame that the public schools are so poor and that many programs for high school are far from where many young people live.

Tomorrow I have a meeting of the diocesan Social Ministry. I am hoping that we can move forward on some of the priorities established at the diocesan pastoral assembly in November – including care for creation, working for pardon and reconciliation, and responding to returning migrants. On Saturday, I was supposed to go to a diocesan meeting of the Ministry of the Sick but I had to lead the Assembly for Delegates of the Word in the parish.
Wednesday I’ll be doing more work on the scholarships. The rest of the week I have enough to do – mostly preparing for two major meetings in the parish. On Wednesday February 5 we have an assembly of catechists, to start off the year. On Monday, February 10, we have a parish session for those involved in social ministry in the villages.

I’ll also be visiting villages on some Sunday mornings and accompanying the pastor at Mass on Sundays and on some major feast days. February 3 is the feast of Our Lady of Suyapa, the patroness of Honduras. There’s Mass here in Plan Grande at 10 am as well as in several other places.

I am also planning to go to San Pedro Sula (a three and half hour drive). I want to buy several cartons of crayons for the catechists in the villages. They will also be helpful for a new catechetical program which we’ll be beginning in several places in the parish.

I will make it a two day trip, probably staying overnight a Amigos de Jesús, an extraordinary home for kids.

Life is busy – and God is good. 

And the view from the other side of the house is magnificent.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


Last night some persons entered the buildings of the sisters who live in Dulce Nombre, Las Oblatas al Divino Amor. There have been two previous forced entries into their building. The sisters enforced the bars on the windows, but this time they entered from the back of the buildings.

The intruders broke open the tabernacle in the chapel and stole the ciborium. They left the consecrated hosts on the floor in another room – on top of some folders.  The sisters recovered them and put them in their private chapel.

Thursdays in Dulce Nombre and in many other places in the parish there is adoration of the Eucharist all day long with a Holy Hour and Mass in the evening. We will have the Holy Hour in the room where the hosts were found, starting at 10 am, and adoration in the chapel where the tabernacle was forcibly opened. I asked the bishop to see if a priest could come for the 7:00 pm Mass, since our pastor is out of town.

The sisters are a bit shaken up – and I too feel saddened at this sacrilege. I wonder, too, what impelled the perpetrators to do this. How could they treat the holy the Body of Christ, as a mere thing, in order to get something that might bring them some money?

I do not want to undermine the seriousness of this but I cannot help think also about other cases where what is holy – a human person – is treated as a thing. In particular, I am thinking of cases of the violation of a thirteen-year old girl, the death threats a woman is receiving, and much more.

I find it hard to separate these atrocities. God is violated in too many ways.

Tomorrow, I’ll be at the Holy Hour and conclude it with Benediction and then placing the monstrance with the Eucharist on the altar of the chapel that was profaned. I will also be working on some efforts to protect children. 

I cannot help but keep them together in my heart.

I feel that this is another way to live out my vocation as a deacon. 

The chapel and the houses of the poor are related; both house the presence of God, in different ways. But God is there. The deacon can help show the connection – and open our hearts to God.

Eucharistic procession, Christ the King Sunday, 2019