Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our Visit to Blessed Sacrament's Sister Parish of San Marcos in Honduras

By Blessed Sacrament parishioner Marybel Enriquez

(left to right) Cesarina Berrigan, Father Luis Alonzo, Father Anthony Killian, and Edgar Enriquez
On Wednesday, September 14, Father Anthony Killian, Cesarina Berrigan, Edgar Enriquez and I, traveled to Honduras. The experience began when we were welcomed at the airport by Father Luis Alonzo and Senor Danilo. We had the opportunity to visit some communities that are part of the parish of San Marcos (Saint Mark), the churches and lay leaders who work with Father Lonchito, as he is fondly called by his parishioners.

The visit lasted eight days; a time of discovery during which we found out about the organization of a parish with 75 villages in 3 municipalities: Belen, La Iguala and Gracias. The parish is full of the Holy Spirit and courageous lay leaders that respond to the challenge of evangelization and to the constant “yes” to the call of their pastor, Fr. Lonchito. He is a shepherd who feeds his flock.

We visited almost a dozen church communities, including Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Puerta de Ocote Community; Good Shepherd Church, Matazano Community; Sacred Heart of Mary Church, Quelac Community; Santo Niño de Atocha Church, Sarzal Community; Good Shepherd Church, San Isidro Community; Holy Rosary Church, Belen Community; Church of La Merced; The Church of St. Martin; Santa Lucia Church; San Marco Church and Risen Christ Chapel of Juan Manuel Galvez Hospital. In most churches there is also a chapel for the Blessed Sacrament.

(left to right) Marybel Enriquez, Bishop Luis Santos, Father Anthony Killian
Among the activities in which we participated were the procession of Our Lady of La Merced (Mercy); selection of Godmother for the Virgin of La Merced; visit to the parish radio station, Radio Caleb, and lunch with the staff: Ivan Gomez, Freddy Perez, Gustavo, Blanca, Ana Luisa; and meeting with Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos of the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán.

San Marcos has a Parish Council made up of representatives from the eight areas in which the parish is divided, as well as the coordinators of each of the three ministries, Prophetic, Liturgical and Social, as well as members of the Economic Council. There are 135 basic ecclesial communities in the parish of San Marcos, each community consists of 10 to 20 people who meet every week to pray, meditate on the Word and help each other. Father Lonchito is responsible for the spiritual growth of the leaders and members of the community.

On October 22 and 23, 855 candidates will receive the sacrament of Confirmation. Every ecclesial community is responsible for the formation in the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Marriage and Father Lonchito advises and organizes the celebration for each of the Sacraments.

We met and had dinner with Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, a total of 40, and we observed that the leaders working with the Father Lonchito have an agenda and use it to take notes of what is discussed at the meeting.  We also had dinner with those involved in the parish’s Prophetic Ministry who are catechists and kerygma leaders, were able to share their mission experiences in spreading the faith.

With the Social Ministry, we had the opportunity to attend two Masses at the Presidio (prison) along with the prisoners and be part of a group of members from different communities that assist with the lunch service (chicken, rice, salad, drinks and hot tortillas), which provides 600 meals to prisoners and guards. It was remarkable experience to visit a prison that houses 544 men, to see some of them participate in the celebration of Mass as members of the choir or altar servers, and together celebrate God's presence in a place where He can be worshiped and praised as well.

A young parishoner
The whole community welcomed us with a smile. We also shared time with some families including Juan and Maria Isabel Pineda, Mario and Rosita Cruz and the Franciscan Sisters Nancy and Brenda. They hosted us with all the comforts we could ask for: hot water, fans, hammocks and tasty coffee all day.

Surrounded by mountains and clouds we celebrated Mass every day and experienced the simplicity of our Honduran brothers and sisters involved in activities of faith, giving everything they can give, and responding to Christ's call to serve. We have great pride in being Catholics, and at the same time we realized that Blessed Sacrament is not indifferent to the needs of other parishes, specifically to our sister parish in Honduras. We were able to witness how resources are used to spread the Gospel through radio and different ministries which remind me of our early church which communicated the good news of God’s kingdom through spoken testimony.

On behalf of all our brothers and sisters of the parish of San Marcos in Honduras, we express our deepest gratitude for your generosity and prayers.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Words of Wisdom on God's Call to the Monastic Life

The following letter written by Abbot Robert Barnes came to the attention of Adoramus Te and we wanted to share it. Holy Cross Abbey is a Cistercian (Trappist) monastery east of the town of Berryville, Virginia, north of Route 7. The monks have a retreat house which many people visit to make a week long retreat.  In his letter, Abbot Barnes highlights the pressing need for men to hear God’s call to the monastic life.
Click here to read Abbot Robert Barnes' letter.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Our Lady of Victory

When I was a new graduate student at The Pennsylvania State University (that's Penn State for those with much less pretense), I had the option of joing a local Parish or becoming involved in Campus Ministry.  A number of my cousins had been baptized at a parish called "Our Lady of Victory," so I ended up joining and diving in as a CCD teacher.  It took me two home football games to appreciate the irony of the Catholic Church closest to Beaver Stadium, home of Joe Patterno's Nittany Lions, being called Our Lady of Victory.  It took me a year to appreciate who Our Lady of Victory is.  It happened that, in the fall of my second year of graduate school, I was to teach a CCD lesson at the beginning of what Blessed John Paul II had decreed to be the year of the Rosary.  It would also coincide with our parish feast day.

In preparing my lesson, I found out that Our Lady of Victory is a title of Our Lady given after the victory of European naval forces ("the Holy League") against an advancing Ottoman Empire at Lepanto in 1571.  In a five hour battle at the northern most edge of the Gulf of Patras (off the coast of Greece) Holy League forces had driven back the Ottoman Empire, securing the Mediterranean.  Before the battle, Pope Pius V had encouraged all of Europe to pray the Rosary for victory, and upon hearing of the victory at Lepanto credited Our Lady with safely leading the Holy League's forces to victory.  Hence, the title "Our Lady of Victory."  Over time, the title Our Lady of Victory became synomous with Our Lady of the Rosary.  

It seemed odd to me, at the time, that Our Lady of Victory and Our Lady of the Rosary were the same.  Honestly, I had a difficult time reconciling my mental image of 16th Century artillery fire with the quiet times I had spent saying the Rosary. Certainly, as a student at a secular university, I could identify with the Holy League, tossed about on an uncertain sea in a world that is full of traps.  I was, however, uncertain as to where the Rosary fit in until I found the writings of St. Louis de Montfort.  St. Louis said, amongst other things, that "The rosary is the most powerful weapon to touch the Heart of Jesus, Our Redeemer, who so loves His Mother."   

The "how" became clearer when I read Blessed John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae:
With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.
No one had ever explained to me that the Rosary was a meditation on the Gospel.  Sure, I knew the mysteries and I could recite a Hail Mary with as much enthusiasm as the next person, but the concept of entering into the Gospel?  Walking through salvation history?  Over time, it became easier to see how one, when daily meditating on the mysteries of salvation, might grow in holiness.  

As our current Pope, Benedict XVI, stated:
When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ's mission are traced. With Mary the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of his holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory.  [May 13, 2008, Recitation of the Holy Rosary, Address of His Holiness, Benedict XVI, St. Mary Major, Rome, Italy]
Through a daily Rosary, Christ becomes more and more the center of our life.  And if Christ is the center our life, it is much easier to fight against the temptations of the world.  "No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the Rosary" (Bishop Hugh Doyle), or as it says in one of my favorite children's books, "Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow."

And, as we  are transformed by the Rosary, Christ will use us to transform the world.  It might not be as dramatic as an unexpected victory at sea, but it has the potential to be far greater.    

If you have never prayed a Rosary, start today.  If you aren't ready to commit to a daily Rosary, say one once a week.  Can't make it through the whole Rosary?  Start with a decade.  Ask Christ, through His Beloved Mother, to inspire you with a love of the Rosary.  Watch a decade turn into a whole Rosary.  Watch a weekly Rosary become a daily Rosary.  And see how Christ becomes the center of your life.

Click here for more on the history of this Feast.
Click here for more information on how to pray the Rosary.

The author, Laura Itle, is a Blessed Sacrament parishoner.