Monday, February 01, 2016

Celebrating mercy and a centenary

Sunday, January 31, thousands of Catholics gathered in Santa Rosa de Copán to celebrate the opening of the Holy Door for the Year of Mercy in the cathedral as well as the hundredth year of the diocese.

The diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán was established on February 2, 1916, and includes the five southwestern departments of Honduras. The region is mountainous and includes some of the poorest municipalities in the country. The majority of the people live in small villages in the countryside and subsist on corn and beans – as well as the production of coffee in the mountains.

The celebrations started with a procession to the cathedral.

The Holy Door was blessed and opened by the bishop.

Mass followed with thousands receiving Communion.

After Mass, people flowed into the cathedral through the Holy Door.

May God bless the diocese with peace and a faith rooted in the Gospels and seeking to transform the world with the mercy of God.

Something new in Honduras?

Is something new happening in Honduras?

For about a week the National Congress has been trying to elect a new set of fifteen magistrates for the Supreme Court. As of this morning, only eight have been elected.

The blog "Honduras Culture and Politics" has a good analysis here of why it’s not a good process

In former years the process would have gone very quickly, carefully arranged by the two traditional parties that “shared” control of the government – the National Party and the Liberal Party. In previous years the party that controlled congress would have its way. In many ways this is what the National Party, which controls the Presidency and has a plurality in Congress, hoped for.

But some things are different this year.

On the one hand the US government is very interested in who are elected and the US Embassy has expressed it concern about some of the original list of candidates.

But there is another change, this time within the Honduran National Congress. There are now two parties that don’t accept the two-party monopoly, as noted by Leticia Salomón in an article (in Spanish).

LIBRE, established from the Resistance that grew up in response to the 2009 coup, and PAC, the Anti-Corruption Party, founded about 2013 by a former sports journalist, refused to go along with the machinations of the two parties. They have forced the process of elections in Congress to be more transparent and they have been more forthright in opposing certain candidates.

It’s not that theses parties are without their problems and continue the process of party control. As I understand it, LIBRE is trying to force all LIBRE congressional members to vote as the leadership tells them and has castigated at least one member who opposed this procedure.

But something new is happening even as some see the presidency and his National Party as trying to control all the organs of government and establish this control for the future by their appointments to the Supreme Court and other government institutions.

But my question is always, “What is happening at the grass-roots?” Are the parties, even LIBRE, really listening to them and responding to them?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ten days in January

The last ten days have gone by in a flash.

Much of my work has been at home, preparing material for the base communities, based on saints of mercy. It’s not easy work – since I try to make the material understandable to people with great faith but limited formal education. I also try to prepare questions that make them think about what they read in terms of their lives and allow them the chance to share. This is not easy since much of the educational system (as well as the religious education system) is oriented to the question-answer memorization method. I finally got the booklet done and got it printed. Now the distribution begins.

I was also busy several days reviewing scholarship applications. St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa, is providing funds for partial scholarships for student in the alternative program called Maestro en Casa, which provides classes on weekends for middle school and high school students. They listen to programs on the radio, fill out workbooks, and have classes one or two days each weekend.

Sunday January 24 was a good day. My neighbors’ children got married at the 9 am Mass in Dulce Nombre. I was glad to see them taking this step – which so many young people avoid.

After the Mass I met with twenty young people to try to begin the formation of leaders for youth base communities or groups in the parish. We only had representation from eight communities, but five of them have functioning groups. We have some activities planned and I need to get materials ready for them.

Monday January 25 was another good day.  

In the morning I took members of the small coffee producers association in El Zapote de Santa Rosa to Estu Café in Santa Rosa de Copán, a business that does cupping, roasting, and training of baristas. I thought only one or two would be coming, but eight showed up. I also thought that Estu Café would only take the coffee. But Juan Carlos and his staff spent almost three hours with the producers, talking to them about cupping, producing quality coffee, and giving them an abbreviated experience of how cupping is done. I am most grateful for the work of Estu Café.  

I will be forwarding the results to folks at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames to help them determine if and how much coffee they are interested in buying.

In the afternoon I got back in time to help transport some of the men who had been working on the parish coffee land, clearing the brush around the plants in preparation for fertilizing the field before the next harvest. I took about seven guys to their villages about twenty minutes away. Then back home for some food and rest.

Wednesday I made another trip to Santa Rosa, mostly to do some shopping. But the real joy was to spend lunch at Weekend’s Pizza with the Dubuque Franciscan sisters who now live in two places, Gracias and La Entrada. Visiting with them refreshes my spirits.

Thursday was the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. I decided to accompany Padre German to Mass in the village of El Zapote de Dulce Nombre. He praised Saint Thomas church up and down and prayed for the parish, ever grateful for their solidarity and aid.

After Mass he went to visit two bed-ridden old people to hear their confessions and celebrate the anointing of the sick with them. He had to rush to another village for Mass and so asked me to share Holy Communion with them and pray with them.

What a great privilege it was to be there with these two persons, people of faith. They were living in the home of some family members who cared to them. I asked them to pray for the parish, telling them that that is their mission.

I couldn’t help but remember caring for my dad is his last years. I spoke to the family and encouraged them to continue the loving care they were giving. In the first house I shared how seeing a poor family in El Salvador caring for a sick older family member helped me make the decision to care for my dad at home.

Friday, I stopped down to the parish coffee field where a small group was fertilizing a part of the field. I also spoke to Padre German about the base community booklet and then headed out to Santa Rosa- my third trip last week – to get copies made.

Today the dioceses celebrated the opening of the Jubilee year of Mercy and the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. That deserves a separate post which I’ll try to write later today or tomorrow – complete with photos. For a preview of the photos, check out the album here.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rosy-fingered dawn

The dawn now spreads its rosy dew
Hymn, Saturday Lauds
Benedictine Daily Prayer

We have had several days of bone-chilling cold and rain – down to the high-forties and only up to the mid-sixties.

But this morning dawned with promises of sun and warmth.

As I stopped to take some photos I recalled my Greek classes in high school, where we learned Greek starting with Homer. Homer, in the Odyssey, sings of ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς, the rosy-fingered dawn – and so it was.

Later the rising sun shone on the western hills and highlighted a bird chirping in a tree outside the house.

A great day to remind me of the hope that God gives us, even in the face of pain and suffering.


Here's the full quote from the Odyssey which appears several times, including the first line of Book II:
μος δ᾽ ἠριγενεια φάνη ῥοδοδάκτυλος ώς
When the early born one, the rosy-fingered dawn appeared,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Working at home

This week Padre German is gone and I have little to do in the communities. So there’s not a lack of work for me in the villages. But that doesn’t mean I lack for work.

Since the weather is cooler and we are having a bit of rain, I have tried to do a bit of wash whenever there is hope for sun.

On Monday, I spent most of the day reading – because the electricity was gone all morning.

Tuesday I went to Santa Rosa to get some supplies.

I have had to make a number of phone calls and to send and receive e-mails in regard to the coffee association project and another project.

I also had to deal with an infestation of zompopos, leaf-cutter ants, that did a job on my rose bush and a few flowers. Yuck!

But today I decided to stay here to do some work that I’ve been putting off.

I spent the morning going over scholarship applications for students in Maestro en Casa, an alternative education program that provides distance learning for the Honduran equivalents of middle school and high school. The students have texts, listen to radio programs, and meet on weekends. St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames has been providing partial scholarships for the past three years.

I still have to go through one more set of applications that I’ll probably review tomorrow morning.

In the afternoon I spent time working on a booklet I am preparing for the base communities.

Last year I prepared a set of readings and questions for Saints of Charity, since the diocese was celebrating a Year of Charity in preparation for the hundredth anniversary of the diocese this year.

Now I am preparing a set of questions for Saints of Mercy to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It’s not easy trying to find information in Spanish and English that I can use to write reflections and questions that will be understandable to our people.

I managed to finish a few and to put a dent in a few more but this will probably take me a few more days.

About 5:00 PM I decided to put these aside and went upstairs to pray in my prayer room.

But I was soon awe-struck by the sky, the clouds, and the sunset.

As I looked east I noticed the light on the mango tree right next to the house. Last year there were no mangos but this year there are numerous flowers that I hope will provide fruit for me and many others here in Plan Grande.

This evening I’ll take it easy after a light supper.

Tomorrow, unless I get a call from Padre German I’ll probably spend it here working on the scholarship applications and the base community booklet. I also have to work on a meeting with youth group leaders on Sunday. But I long to get out to the communities.