The Missions: San Francisco and San José

Unless the mission is oriented by charity, that is, unless it springs from a profound act of divine love, it risks being reduced to mere philanthropic and social activity...Consequently, being missionaries means loving God with all one's heart, even to the point, if necessary, of dying for him. - Pope Benedict XVI

you gotta love these twin juggernaughts, but you gotta love even more that they are named juan (john) and juancito (little john)...

what an outstanding day:

i arrive at el corbano (about 10 minutes off the main road) to find a completely locked up chapel. "what the heck," (or words to that effect) i say to the kids on the other motorcycle. so, we drive about 3 minutes to the end of the community and find this:

notice the light fixtures (they're about 10 years from having power, but you gotta love the optimism)...also witnessed a fight between two guinea hens - those guys really go at it. it was a natural fight, not spurred on by any human desire for riches...

this morning has dawned (well, the sun has yet to peek over the horizen, but i'm awake) with that odor which arrives in the spring in virginia - a little moist and "warm", if such may be said about a smell - that kind of morning that stirs a man's desire to fish for bass. unfortunately, i won't be fishing, but rather celebrating three Masses in three different places all for the national feast of our Lady of Altagracia (the highest grace). i have no idea what the day will bring. but the country takes two days off, yesterday and today, in order to celebrate. it's the kind of morning just loaded with anticipation and surprise - i'll make sure and fill you in on anything noteworthy.

the 10 day episcopal adventure has ended. the local ordinary has returned to his see. this particular parish priests breathes a sigh of relief. the parish at large rejoices in newfound hope.

i must say, the bishop of san juan, jose grullon estrella, a diminutive (even more-so than i) priest of 35+ years , possesses the magnanimity of a saint. he visits every parish in his diocese twice a year - once for the patronal feast, and once for at least 5 days to visit every district within every parish to say Mass, hear confessions, celebrate weddings, and confirm the young and old, distribute first communion, and meet with the leaders of the community.

we worked the schedule out to basically cover two districts per day. i would arrive in advance to hear confessions and prepare the people. one time, after i had been hearing confessions for an hour and a half, he drove up, saw the line, grabbed two chairs and said to me, "bishops need to hear confessions too."

he never tired, although i think he has learned how to nap mounted on a mule...he never complained - even after having eaten yuca too often, tramping through mud, having people argue with him, broken trucks, lost luggage, unprepared confirmandi. he always responded with a smile or a joke or a blessing. all told, a remarkable bishop.

sacramental statistics for today:

Masses: 2 totalling 3 hours

Confessions: who knows how many totalling 3 hours

Marriages: 2

Confirmations: 8

Anointing: 1

that's right, a 5 sacrament day. i'm bushed - that doesn't include all the driving and the meetings. at least i only have 2.5 days til the schedule reverts to semi-normal with the departure of the bishop...

back safely from the mountains:

tara, annie, and i left pedro santana after the bishop and the nuns on wed afternoon, with the intention of arricing at la pena and then walking the 2 hours to guayuyal to make it before nightfall. unfortunately, it was raining on the way, and the truck, with it's bald tires, couldn't get up the last bit of steep hill. i avoided sliding the truck off the side of the mountain, but just barely. so there we were, stuck and late when another truck shows up and i guy jumps out and says that he works on the road all the time and can get us up. i hop on the tailgate and he starts fishtailing the truck - about 50 feet later we start sliding backwards and he brings it to a halt and declares it impossible. so, we get on the radio and call ahead to the bishop's vehicle, which had been waiting in la pena. he sends it back to us and he takes off to guayuyal. when the bishops suv arrives, we tied a rope to the back and it hoisted us up the hill. we then headed off to our desitination of foot, with one mule to carry the load. as we descended to the river we realized that we would have to travel up muddy, slippery, trecherous mule trails in the dark...thankfully the moon was full and provided a light, since in my haste i left my flashlight in the car...

when we awoke the plan was to hike 6 hours, say Mass and have the "meeting" then hike 6 more...dumbest plan i've ever heard. but the views were spectacular, as you can see from the following pictures:

on the way to sierracita, we stopped in the along the river and i took this picture of the bishop, myself, the two nuns, and the seminarian who accompanies the bishop:

when we finally got to the place where we were sleeping we realized that the bags hadn't made it down - so that left no food or bedding...we sent two guys off on mules in the dark, and they miraculously returned in 4 hours with the goods...other than that the trip was rather uneventful, except for the time sister fell off the mule - she forced me to give her my backpack and i took out the camera to take a picture and 30 seconds later i hear this crash and ran over to see her on her back like a turtle, and her only comment was "it's a good thing i had this backpack on, it saved me."

happy feast of the Epiphany!! that's correct, we actually celebrate it on the 6th of january...listen folks, we have a huge 12 days here at the mission: tonight a sea-can arrives, tomorrow the bishop arrives and we take off for the mountains, followed by 10 days of meetings and Masses. a nice 10 day pastoral visit. i'll be offline from wednesday-friday, but the antics in the mountains should provide some worthwhile photos and stories...


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