Saturday, October 30, 2021

A visit to Iowa, a film, and a book

I was in Ames, Iowa, for a week, mostly to connect with the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas, our sister parish. Quite an experience.

As I entered the house of the couple I was staying with, this is what greeted me - the awe-inspiring beauty of fall in Iowa.
The highlight of my trip was being able to visit the dying father of a friend I’ve known for more than thirty years.

I arrived in Ames on Thursday night and went out to visit my friends and his father Friday morning.

His father was largely non-responsive, but when I entered I knelt by the side of his hospital bed in the living room of his home and talked and prayed with him. I thought I saw a smile (which my friend and his wife verified), but, most of all, I felt blessed to be able to be, once again, at the side of one who is on the road – to his new destination. 

Monday at 12:15 am, Bud passed on to the Lord. I now pray, what I prayed with him"
May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs – and the two Marys, Mary the mother of God and Mary his spouse – receive you and lead you to the holy city Jerusalem. 
I also got to see a number of other friends – and enjoy time with their children.

Late Monday afternoon I spent a few hours with a couple I’ve known since their undergraduate days and their six kids, five girls and one boy. He was the student who pushed me to organize a trip to help out in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. My experience there opened me and led to my leaving Ames for Honduras.

There were other persons I visited and I also met with the church committee which is supporting our parish here in Honduras, as well as members of the group importing coffee from here.

I also served as deacon at all the weekend Masses, as well as the Thursday night Mass on the day I arrived.

The visit was filled with opportunities to meet with people I don't see often and eat some good food - including a delicious strawberry rhubarb pie. (The one food I most miss in Honduras is rhubarb!)

But a movie and a book helped me make sense of the visit - and of my life.

The visit was sandwiched between watching a movie on the plane from Honduras and finishing a book last night. Both help me understand who I am and my mission. 

I usually read on planes, but I noticed that I could watch the film “In the Heights” on the flight from Honduras to Houston. What a joy. I laughed and cried during most of the film. It is set in Washington Heights in New York City and features mostly people from the Dominican Republic. I recommend the film. I have heard a few criticisms but I think they don’t realize that it’s a work of magical realism. I won’t give away a most important part of the movie but seeing a couple dance on the side of a building was pure joy – and pure magical realism.

While in Ames, a new book by Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, the founder of Home Boys in Los Angeles, was delivered to my Kindle, The Whole Language: The power of Extravagant Tenderness. (I had pre-ordered it.)
I started to read it – and, again, I laughed and cried through most of it. It’s not for everyone; if you can’t take strong and occasionally vulgar language or are tied into a sin-based religiosity, this will be a challenge. But if you want to see reality and its possibilities, if you want to see grace, read it. As Father Greg – G – writes on page xv:
Allow the extravagant tenderness of God to wash over us. Permit the lavishing of such love to surround and fill us, then go into the world and speak the “whole language.” This is the fluency of the mystic, who chooses to live in the soul, inhabiting the tender fragrance of love. The longing of the mystic is to be at home with yourself and then put the welcome mat out so that others find a home in you.
This is, in my mind, what a follower of Christ (and every decent human) is called to do: put out the welcome mat, open the space where people who are despised and rejected can recognize their inherent dignity, live with extravagant tenderness. For as Father Greg writes:
We are all meant to be in the world who God is: loving, compassionate, and kind.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The rulers of the nations and the Reign of God

This weekend I preached three times.
When I read the Gospel (Mark 10: 35-45), I thought of Martin Luther King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon on the text which he delivered two months before his assassination. It became the inspiration for my preaching.

Since I preached to people who are mostly not powerful, I had decided to concentrate on what King calls a new definition of greatness. Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.

I made a reference to the difference between the way of the Lord and the rulers of this world and cited a few paragraphs from the Honduran Bishops’ Conference statement on the elections. But I mostly wanted to help people recognize their dignity and their capacities to be great – by being servants – as King emphasized.

Yet my first experience preaching moved me to a stronger critique of the powers of this world. 

When I arrived in Dolores on Saturday night , I found out that I couldn’t park near the church. The central park and the area in front of the City Hall had been taken over for a large rally for the mayor who is running for re-election. She is a member of the National Party. (The previous mayor was her husband who was murdered.)

The noise was deafening. The crowds were dense with little efforts for biosecurity measures, despite the fact that the mayor is a nurse.
I parked by the house of a Delegate of the Word and asked his wife who was outside their house if there would be a celebration tonight – with all the noise.

I walked up to the church past the rally as they cheered the candidates and entered the church.

The noise pervaded the church. At times, the noise from the political rally was overwhelming. Thanks be to God, the church had a good sound system, and the musician put the volume on high. 
I was frustrated. I knew that there was a danger of speaking out of my frustration and becoming strident. So, I prayed that God would help me speak a word that would give hope to the people.

But I could not help making a reference to the distinction between the noise outside which symbolizes the noise of the rulers of this world and the yearning for quiet humility which is at the basis of the Reign of God.

How often the political parties, especially here in Honduras, are like the rulers of the nations who lord it over their subjects and oppress them. So I preached on the greatness in the Reign of God, where everyone can serve, paraphrasing Martin Luther King.

 I also read a section of the Honduras bishops’ message on the elections, which I have put below. 

I noted that I was reading it without commentary – but it is a very pointed critique of the way politics is run here – seeking power, at whatever cost, and manipulating the people. Those who know the recent history of Honduras will recognize what the bishops mean when they write about politicians involved in corruption, drug-trafficking and organized crime. (I’ll leave that discussion to another post.)

When I preached twice on Sunday morning, I began noting the situation in Dolores the night before – the political hubbub outside, promoting a political candidate, and the desire of the people inside, to live a faith that is based on a God who became flesh – Jesús who washed the feet of his disciples. 

I ended all three homilies with a pointed contrast. 

John and James asked Jesus to sit on his right and left side – like those who sit at the right side of politicians at the front table of meetings and meals, representing power.

But Jesus offers another way of living; at his last supper, he knelt before his apostles and wiped their feet.

At this point, I was somewhat overcome – and ended up on my knees before the people. 

We serve a God who washes feet, in service of all, who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for everyone. What a contrast.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Two funerals

Sunday, I saw a Facebook note from a young man from a parish village who is now in the US. He has recently reunited with his brother who’s been in the us for several years. 

Sunday morning he posted an image of his grandmother who had just died. As I read his post, I wondered if I’d be called upon for the funeral – since the pastor is away. On Monday I was supposed to go to Santa Rosa for some medical exams and a doctor’s appointment.

Sure enough, a message arrived in the late afternoon asking me if I could come. My question was when and how. They even said that they could make other arrangements, but I told them I’d make it. I know the family and the village and thought that it was very important to get there. We managed to work things out.

I went early to Santa Rosa for the exams and hurried back to the village, with plenty of time to spare.

As we were waiting, in the room of the house where the coffin, a woman approached me and asked me if we could also include the cremains of her twenty-four year old son in the service. Of course, I said. 

But it was much more complicated. Her son’s body had been found two years ago in the US, near Chicago, with his papers, but US authorities had to verify that it was his body. It took two years and at times she thought – hoped – that it had not been his body, but she had no idea what happened to him. Finally, last week, the box of his ashes arrived – and she finally had closure. 

But two years of insecurity and worry leave wounds that are open and sore.
Several times during the prayers I was close to tears. 

But I was almost bowled over when the little choir sang the “Lord, have mercy” of the Nicaraguan Campesino Mass.
Cristo, Cristo Jesús, identifícate con nosotros. 
Señor, Señor, mi Dios, identifícate con nosotros. 
Cristo, Cristo Jesús, Solidarízate 
no con la clase opresora que exprime y devora a la comunidad 
sino con el oprimido con el pueblo mío, sediento de paz. 
Christ, Christ Jesus, identify with us. Lord, Lord, my God, identify with us. Christ, Christ Jesus, identify with us. Christ, Christ Jesus, be in solidarity with us, Not with the oppressing class which crushes and devours the community, But with the oppressed, my people, thirsting for peace.
This version of “Lord, have mercy” is not used much here in Honduras. Probably because it is quite revolutionary (and I like it, as I like the “Lord, have mercy” of the Misa Salvadoreña). 

This hymn reminds us of how God made flesh totally identifies with the poor and suffering. 

What an important message, when the poor are not recognized. 

As I preached, I could not help reminding us in that room that, in the midst of the pain and the sorrows, Christ identifies with us, with them. We have a God who is in solidarity with us – becoming one with us, becoming poor with the poor.

As I write this, I am thinking  of the passage from Matthew that I often use with the sick: "Come to me, you who are burdened." I used it Tuesday visiting a sick man who is near death - barely conscious. 

But I think of the box with the ashes of the young man. 

When I picked it up, I found that it was much heavier than I thought it would be. Perhaps it reflects the heaviness, the sadness of the mother and the grandmother. 

So much pain, so much suffering – I don’t know if we could get through it without a God who identifies with our pain.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Masses, marriages, meetings, and more

The pastor is taking a nuch-needed short vacation (before I head to Ames, Iowa, on October 21, for a week at our sister parish.) So, I have a few things to do.


First of all, the pastor asked me to be available for what might happen as well as to serve at several places each weekend. Last night I had a Celebration of the Word with Communion in Dolores, Copán, and today, I had three in Concepción, Dulce Nombre, and San Agustín, Copán. Next weekend I’ll probably only have three celebrations. 

A priest will probably come from Santa Rosa for the Sunday night Masses, but otherwise we'll have Celebrations of the Word with Communion.


Last Wednesday was busy – and a bit stressful. For several years, a group of sisters in Tegucigalpa, las Hijas de María, have run what we might call boarding schools, for poor boys and girls from the countryside, to study for five years – completely free.

Though they have several hundred in each of the schools (one for boys, one for girls), there is a selection process, including examinations and interviews of the students with their parents or guardians. In the past, the sisters have gone out to various parishes, but this year it was all done virtually.

The pastor asked me to arrange the testing and interviews on Wednesday, the day the sisters had set. But I was still trying to figure out what to do while the kids were taking the exam – all 25 of them. I had to figure out how to arrange the interviews by Zoom.

Thanks be to God, the internet was working and I had brought my tablet as well as my computer and so we could have two interview sites (one for the 8 males and the other for the 17 girls).

It was stressful, since I had no idea exactly what I was supposed to be doing – and there were a few computer glitches.

I’m glad I had looked ahead and brought my printer/scanner so that I could scan the papers needed to be sent to the sisters. Otherwise, it would have been a near disaster. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about pulling out my hair – since there is so little of it. 

Thursday, I had the last of six meetings in various sectors of the parish to help people think through how to respond to any natural disasters. 

Last year, two hurricanes in November seriously affected a number of towns. The people responded fairly well in many places, but it was all unplanned. So, we decided to help the people look ahead and get organized in case of future difficulties.

Over 120 people participated in the sessions, but I was disappointed that some communities who had major problems last year didn’t participate.

But all least four the sessions were, I believe, very good. I started asking people what they had experienced last year and what they had done. Several times I was pleasantly surprised by what they did – without planning. In one community, forty persons gathered to help a family move from their home which suffered from the rain and the landslides. Getting forty people together to help is quite an accomplishment.

I shared some ideas and organizing tools with them to help analyze the risks and possible responses, as well as to begin to organize. Some folks are really enthusiastic – knowing that it might not be needed this year, but that it is good to think about how they can respond when there are serious needs in the communities. (It’s also a good way to help them see their capabilities and to wean them from dependency on politicians who use aid to control the people.)


I have mentioned in several blogs posts how I am involved in the final interviews for couples seeking to be married. I had one this Friday which was a blessing. 

I don’t serve as the church’s witness at many weddings, but this Saturday the pastor delegated me to be at a wedding, since he expected to be on vacation.

The wedding was at the main church in Dulce Nombre, even though the couple is from a distant aldea. There were less than thirty in attendance but it was such a joy to be with them. The couple had lived together for several years but decided to get married. Their two little sons had a part in the wedding.


One tradition here is the presentation of babies at Masses or celebrations when the baby is forty days old. (Think of the biblical story of the presentation of Jesus in the temple.)

In our parish, the baby is brought forward after the prayer after Communion; a prayer is offered, the baby and mother (and father, if he’s there) are blessed. This Sunday I had one at each of the celebrations.

I also noted at the 7:00 am celebration today at least three little babies in the congregation – two held by their fathers. I knew one couple (who had recently been married) and went to see their baby – which was so tiny, even though it was four months old. The baby had been born prematurely (1 pound, 4 ounces at seven months), but was slowly growing, now weighing almost four pounds. I was reminded once again of the fragility of life here. 


Friday afternoon I went out to El Zapote and spent time with one of the members of the coffee association that is exporting coffee to Ames, Iowa. I wrote about this in an earlier post. I left with mandarins that he had picked from tress in his coffee fields.
Adding these to oranges, bananas, and avocados that I had been given recently, as well as tomatoes I’m buying from a local grower, I am eating a little more locally than before.


I returned from Saturday’s wedding and saw a group, mostly young people, working on a shelter near the church in Plan Grande.

An older man, a little mentally unstable, who is Nicaraguan, lives there. He may have been in the Nicaraguan army and probably suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress, since, every once in a while, he begins shouting loudly, as if yelling at troops. He wanders about the village, virtually harmless to himself and others; people give him food and drink. The place where he has been staying was falling down.

The confirmation class decided to help erect a more dignified place for him to sleep. It was great to see the young people helping.


I had planned to spend Monday in Santa Rosa de Copán, getting medical exams (blood and urine tests) as well as a medical appointment.

I’ll do that, but it will be a bit complicated. I’ll go early for the tests and then go out to a rural community for a funeral. Then I’ll drive back to Santa Rosa for the doctor’s appointment. I know the community well and know some of the family; so it is important to be present. I should be able to do this easily.

And I’ll probably take part of Tuesday off to relax and recoup forces.


I spent about four weeks in Iowa in May and June – to renew my Iowa driver’s license, to get my Pfizer vaccinations, and for an eight day retreat. But I decided it would be good to get back when there are more people at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Ames and, especially, when there are more students.

So, I leave for Iowa on Thursday, October 21, and return early Thursday, October 28. It’s a lightning visit, but it will be good to deepen connections and let the people know what is going on here.


I don’t need to work hard to find things to do, but I hope to make at least two trips outside of Honduras in early 2022.

The first is for the beatifications of four martyrs: Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, two laypeople killed with Father Rutulio (Manuel Solorzano and Nelson Rutilio Lemus), and Franciscan Father Cosme Spessotto, on late January.

I’m also hoping to get to the East coast to visit friends and family whom I haven’t seen for more than two years.

Next year will mark my seventy-fifth birthday and my fifteenth year here in Honduras. I don’t have anything planned and I hope to be able to continue to do what I am doing. I have NO plans to leave. I’m here until God calls me somewhere else.

I should find some way to celebrate. I’m open to suggestions.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Honduras coffee in Iowa

In January 2014, the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas church in Ames, Iowa, came to visit the parish of Dulce Nombre de María, with two young men. One was very interested in trying to get something started with importing local coffee to the US.

We met with a few coffee producers. I proposed that this not be simply buying coffee but investing in a group of small coffee producers, importing their coffee but also making an investment to help them improve their production as well as the quality of the coffee.

In the aldea of El Zapote Santa Rosa, José Garcia got about fifteen producers together and they began to work forming an association, which they named “Café hacia el futuro” – Coffee toward the future. At first a group at St. Thomas Aquinas imported the coffee but later they formed into “Café El Zapote.” 

It’s been quite the journey – first finding ways to get small quantities sent as samples, then finding ways to export and transport coffee. There have been ups and downs – but the association has grown, has gotten help to improve their fields, as well as production processes.

They have even managed to build a “centro de acopio” – a place where the coffee will be collected and processed.
Marco Antonio pruning one plant

A few days ago, the head of Café El Zapote asked me to interview one of the producers whose high quality coffee had been purchased by a café in Tama, Iowa. They wanted some background for their customers as they market his coffee as "single source."

Here are some notes from time spent with the producer, Marco Antonio García; we were accompanied by Moisés García, the president of the association.
Marco Antonio and Moisés

Marco Antonio García Henríquez, Tonio, is 35 years old, married with three kids, one son who is 14 years old who helps and is also studying in the equivalent of junior high in an alternative program in El Zapote. There are two daughters, one who is ten years old and who accompanied us out to his fields. 

Marco Antonio's daughter finding some fruit to eat

Tonio was born in El Zapote Santa Rosa and has lived here all his life. His father also grows coffee and he worked with his father many years. He started helping in the coffee harvests when he was five years old – not uncommon here. He worked for years with his father but be began working on his own fields when he turned 18 years.

He has worked with the Asociación Hacia El Futuro for only two years. The association currently has 19 members (2 of whom are women). They are hoping to incorporate up to 7 more women, mostly spouses of the members) in the coming year. 

Tonio has three manzanas. (A manzana is about 1.7 acres.) The elevation of his fields is about 1350 meters.

When I asked him how he got such high-quality coffee, he said that he does all in the name of God and with passion and love, selecting the best coffee beans.

It is clear that he and his family live with a deep faith and with a passion for their work. He proudly showed me the flower garden at the side of his house which his wife and he tend to have flowers for the Catholic church in the village.
The association has worked with several organizations, including a Spanish foundation which worked through Caritas and Heifer International. With their help, as well as the help of El Zapote Coffee in Ames, they have been able to improve their farming, harvesting, and processing procedures. They also have been able to have solar coffee dryers. 

They are working toward a much more ecological approach to coffee production. The centro de acopio (collection and processing center) that the association is completing will have procedures to deal with the pulp from the coffee as well as the water used in washing and soaking the beans to avoid contamination of the water systems.
Centro de acopio of the association

Tonio does not use herbicides to deal with the weeds in the coffee fields (fincas, in Spanish). Instead, they clear out the weeds manually, with machetes.

However, one of the problems in the past few years, and one which has had a resurgence last year, is what is called roya, a type of leaf rot. They are working with developing natural fungicides for control of the roya.

Up to this point, Tonio has dried the coffee in the solar dryer by his home. He has stored the coffee in his house to avoid contamination by any odors.
Tonio and his son beside his small solar dryer

The harvests in this area are between November and April, because of the elevation. Producers will harvest several times during the harvest season, since the beans mature at different times. (There are several flowerings earlier in the year.) Tonio harvests up to six times in the harvest season. (Editors’ note: the first and last harvests do not usually bring in a good quality coffee, since they may have beans that are overripe or underripe.)

We went to see Tonio’s fields which are in two different locations.
He has been very careful to have a good number of trees in his fields – pine trees, guamos, fruit trees (including oranges and mandarins), avocado trees, bananas, and more. (I came home with a load of mandarins.) When he plants new coffee trees, he tries to avoid cutting down trees.
In at least one part of his fields, he has planted zacate (a type of tall grass) between the coffee rows – to cut down the erosion as well as to lower the temperature of the soil.
Tall grass between the rows of coffee

Tonio is not a man of many words and so when I asked if he had any message for those who will drink his coffee he was at a loss – just drink, enjoy, and buy more. As I left, he thanked all those who are helping him and the other coffee farmers in El Zapote.
Information on ordering Café El Zapote can be found here:

UPDATE - October 10, 2021: 

 Here's an image from the Facebook page of Ross Street Roasting Co.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Novena of Saint Francis Day 8

Francis and the performance of the Gospel Lawrence Cunningham speaks of Saint Francis as performing the Gospel life:
“Francis was more a performer of the Word of God than a commentator upon it.”
Here are a few random thoughts - to make up for several missed days.

Some of the early legends try to make this performance a type of reliving of the life of Christ in Francis. Some commentators place the birth of Francis in a stable. There is a tiny chapel in Assisi, near the Chiesa Nuova (which is over the site of Francis’s family home). Some say it was his birthplace; others claim it was his father’s textile shop.
Two years before his death, during a time of fasting and praying on Mount Alverna, Francis received the stigmata, the wounds of the crucified Jesus, on his body. 

Francis practiced poverty because he saw the Lord Jesus as poor.

Welcome the children

September 30 I went for the first time to the aldea of San Jerónimo for the Mass on their feast day.

It’s a small community and they are just getting re-organized. They have no catechist and for some time have functioned without a Delegate of the Word. When Padre Fernando, a newly ordained priest was with us for a few months, he went out once a month for Sunday Mass. Their church was not in very good condition but they are working to restore it. They have had donations from people in the village as well as those who’ve gone to the US. An albañil, more than a bricklayer – more like a construction supervisor, has worked for free.
There is also a real desire to rebuild the life of the church in the village. 

I noted a fair number of young people, but what I most noticed was a ten-year boy with multiple disabilities. He doesn’t walk and seems to have little motor capabilities. He doesn’t speak and it is hard to know how much he understands. But he is loved and cared for. 

When we got to the village, I noticed an older man hold him in his lap. When we were about to start Mass, I went and greeted the boy, Jefrey, and the man. During most of the Mass, the boy was held by his mother. I also noticed a young man, who was there with his wife and child, gently touching Jefrey’s arm.

Jefrey was also one of the seven celebrating his birthday. We have the custom of inviting all those celebrating birthdays that day or another day that month to come forward at the end of Mass. We sing the traditional birthday song, Las Mañanitas, pray with them and then pour a bit of water over their heads and then have them blow out a candle. In San Jerónimo there were seven celebrating their birthdays. The pastor had me pray and pour water. I poured a little water over Jefrey and two young children, but I soaked two older kids. (When it’s someone I know I often soak them with water. On my birthday, I often get a real shower.) 

Friday morning as I read the special Gospel for the feast of St. Theresa, the Little Flower, I thought of the community and of the importance of welcoming children.
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” Placing a child in their midst, he said “…unless you turn and become like little children you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven”.
Interestingly, this part of the Gospel is also being used today for the feast of the Guardian Angels and is the end of the Gospel for Sunday.

Seeing the care of the San Jerónimo community for Jefrey reminds me of my diaconal call to be attentive to the marginalized. It also helps me to make sense of what I often do when I see a child or a person with special needs. I don’t know how many times I feel pulled to respond, talking with the person, at times gently touching them – and trying to encourage the caregiver.

Becoming like a little child and welcoming them is central to our call as disciples.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Saint Therese of Lisieux and unbelievers

A few months ago, I read Tomáš Halík’s Night of the Confessor. I had bought it a while ago but never got around to reading it. Perhaps I wasn’t ready for it. I found it intriguing and helpful. After finishing it I began another of his books, Patience with God. I am now reading another, I Want You To Be

 This is a short and somewhat hurried reflection on an amazing insight he has written on St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose feast we celebrate today. 

Print of Ade Bethune

 In a chapter of Patience with God, Halík reflects on St. Thérèse of Lisieux and what some have described as her dark night of the soul. But for him, it is not merely her personal struggle but a path toward solidarity with unbelievers, in the dark night of nothingness. Might St. Thérèse’s experience and Halík’s reflections, combined with Pope Francis’ call to go to the margins, reveal an opening to a new path of faith and mission.

For me, it has been important to open spaces for those on the margin to encounter the presence of God. Most recently, it has been personally important to reflect on those times when God seems absent. Saint Thérèse is important for this. 

As Halík notes, she describes how Christ led her into a subterranean space “where no sun shines any longer.” She experienced months of darkness, even until her death of tuberculosis. 

But what is striking is what Halík describes:
“Little Thérèse's” principle was “to accept even the strangest thoughts” out of love for God. What is therefore most remarkable about Thérèse is the way she accepted and perceived her contest with God, with darkness and forlornness, her experience with the absence of God and the eclipse of her faith. She accepted it as a mark of solidarity with unbelievers.
“Solidarity with unbelievers” – unbelievers are not seen as threats or as opponents to be conquered. As Halík notes:  
However, if I am correct in my understanding of Thérèse and of her path through paradox and constant reinterpretation, then her concern was something else: not simply to draw these unbelievers back into the heart of the church, but rather to broaden that heart by including their experience of darkness. Through her solidarity with unbelievers, she conquers new territory (along with its inhabitants) for a church that has previously been too closed.
I get frustrated when people dismiss or minimize the concerns of atheists or agnostics. I get even more upset when people rail against secularism or blame it for the problems of lack of interest in the church. I wonder how much of discontent or opposition to the church flows from what those in the church have done, not only the abuses of many kinds, but even more the failure of many to take seriously the concerns of those outside.

I think Halík offers us a serious challenge.
“Hasn't the time come for Thérèse's spiritual path, and particularly “solidarity with unbelievers,” to be an inspiration as a hermeneutic key toward new theological reflection on present-day society, its spiritual climate, and the church's mission at the present time?”
We need to take the darkness of Saint Thérèse seriously. This cold lead us in a very different direction. As Halík notes,
I can't help thinking that the world and the church would look very different if there were more people willing to view the Council's call for solidarity with this world (including the world of the “unbelievers,” those who are most radically “other” and different), not as a cue to superficially modernize the rhetoric and external resources of “evangelization,” but as a profound awareness of God's hiddenness, of how He “reveals” Himself through the experience of “unbelievers,” as we were taught by Thérèse de Lisieux on her deathbed. Thérèse could only indicate the path—which is what any good teacher does in any case—and bequeath to us the task of thinking through and accomplishing the spiritual journey.
 Thomas Halík is a Catholic priest, who, while practicing as a psychotherapist in Czechoslovakia, was secretly ordained. After the fall of Communism, he worked with the Czech Bishops’ Conference and was an adviser to Vaclav Havel. He has been a professor of sociology and philosophy at Charles University and taught in other institutions.