Vocero Franciscano

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal
Central American Edition

Winter 2008
Published biannually
 
A Marian Country
by Fr. John Anthony Boughton, CFR

 

Once in a while a person arrives in a place in which he has never been, yet finds himself feeling very much at home. So it is for me as we begin our new friary here in Matagalpa Nicaragua. At the writing of this we have yet to even name theOur Lady friary, which is appropriate because it really does not exist yet.  We will have to build a proper friary for our use from the ground up.  Providentially, just as we received an official invitation to come to this diocese, and permission from Cardinal Egan to go, the diocese of Matagalpa was given land by two brothers who wanted a Catholic presence on a poor mountainside barrio overlooking the city. It is perfect for us. Whatever we build, it will be by the benefaction of donors, and owned by the diocese, as is our custom.  Presently we are living in a vacant office building.  But these happenings are superficial, and do not affect this sense of being home that strikes so deeply.

I have tried to put my finger on why this sense of being at home is so strong, and I find so many varied things.  There is the Spanish Colonial flavor, which reminds me of my Texas roots, as does the gregarious, self confidence of the Nicaraguan people.  Nicaraguans have a wonderful sense of their cultural identity.  They are quick with songs and poems that describe their beloved homeland.  There is also the centuries old Franciscan presence here.  Thus, within the living cultural memory of the people is the vivid remembrance that the Faith was brought here at great personal expense by men such as Venerable Antonio Margil, OFM.  (Please look up his history online. We want to see his cause for canonization furthered.)  The fact that a Friar is more often than not recognized for what he is, makes one feel accepted, and makes the quizzical looks and stares that still come from those who do not know us, more tolerable. 

Another homey aspect of the place is the ring of high rugged mountains all around the city that often remind me of other places where I have enjoyed living for a time, such as New Mexico, and Herzegovina in Bosnia.  Like Bosnia where I lived and worked for two years during the war there, Nicaragua has also known very recent revolution and long civil wars, especially here in Matagalpa. There is that knowledge of a people with deep wounds whose mostly unspoken fears of a re-ignition of open conflict lie very near the surface. Yes, this too is quite familiar. Every one of these elements adds to this sense I have of being at home, but none touches the heart of it directly. 

Recently, however, I came to understand, why.  Just as Our Lady has supposedly appeared in these last years in the hills of Herzegovina in Medjugorje, so too, she has appeared here in Nicaragua in the 1990´s. So too, she calls her children to draw on that Peace that can only be found in her Son Jesus.  In this thought my mind and my heart meet and say, “Of course…, home is where Mama is!”

Nicaragua is a decidedly Marian nation.  She was consecrated to Our Lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception long ago, just as the Croatians of Herzegovina officially named Mary as the ever reigning queen of their land.  The national devotion to her here is very strong.  In Managua, for instance there is a massive statue of her placed in the center of a roundabout on the major highway through town.  Appropriately, because where one finds her, one soon encounters Jesus, and there is a massive statue of Him on the very next roundabout.  These statues were paid for with public funds.  Similar images can be seen in most towns that I have seen.      

True Marian devotion always draws one to her Son, so it is not surprising that the nation also has an intense devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Thus, every Thursday in virtually all the parishes, there is all day Adoration going on with processions. And with devotion to the Eucharist, there naturally follows a desire for sacramental confession.  Fr. Francis Mary, Fr. Terry, and myself were happily surprised when we showed up, unannounced, to hear a few confessions one Thursday afternoon at the cathedral and only surfaced some three and a half hours later.  What a wonderful problem to have!  We will make this a weekly apostolate, now.

Yes, living in Nicaragua feels very much like home, because Our Lady is so present here, and she is so accepted. It feels like home because there is still a large vibrant part of the nation that is unafraid to proclaim their faith, and to try and fight for what is true, good and just.  It is thus no surprise that, recently, 98% of the votes were cast to keep abortion illegal, and despite the heavy pressure of foreign governments and NGO’s to change that.

    

This is not to say that Nicaragua is paradise on earth.  There is deep poverty here after years of civil war, and major natural disasters every couple of decades.  The economy is supported from outside. The political scene is volatile, at best, like most Central American countries.  Alcoholism, which is fostered by the poverty, is rampant.  These things are real problems.  They are signs that this is not in fact our final home. Similarly, Bosnia, Herzegovina suffered for centuries under regimes of the Turks, Nazis, and Communists that tried desperately to squelch all signs of faith in Jesus. 

    

Having a Marian nation does not mean being a people unfamiliar with conflict. Quite the opposite is true.  In fact, it should be no surprise that where Our Lady is, the enemy is close at hand trying to thwart anyone from gaining the Peace that her Son offers.  It is biblical, after all.  The enemy is “furious at the Woman and [goes] off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus”?  (Rev 12:17) Being in a state of conflict should be familiar to all of devotees of Mary precisely because we bear witness to her Son. I have often reflected on my time in Medjugorje that the war in Bosnia was only a physical manifestation of the spiritual battle being waged all over the world.  Happily, it is usually not an armed physical combat, but it is real, and constant, nonetheless. 

    

Mary calls us never to shy from the fight, but rather enter into it armed with the only weaponry that works, peace itself.  Jesus says to us, “My peace I give you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid….” (John 14:27).  Later He tells us the world will hate us. “You will have trouble in the world but be not afraid, I have overcome the world.” Being peaceful comes when we get close to Jesus through prayer.  “Pray, pray, pray!” has been the constant cry of Mary in Medjugorje. Peace itself is the weapon with which we wage our battle against the forces of darkness.  Peace comes to those around us when we are peaceful, in and through Him.

    

Home for a Christian will only be found in Heaven. That is our only Home.  But we can have foretastes of it despite the earthly struggles.  Ours is to fight with the weaponry of the King of Peace so that all around us will have a foretaste of home. The feeling of being at home here in Nicaragua, however, speaks to me of the fact that this is a nation where the things of faith still matter.  It shows that many hearts are directed toward our true home.  The problems here do not overshadow the fact that something beautiful is alive in the faith life of so many. 

 

I know that many people from many different nations will read this reflection.  Know that Jesus is calling you personally through it to fight and make your nation not just one that is without war, for the mere absence of war does not define peace. Rather, you are called to be one who makes your homeland homier by being a conduit of peace to the people of your nation directing them toward the one true homeland…Heaven.  Therefore, I invite you to that which Mary has called us to from Medjugorje, and from here in Nicaragua…. pray, fast, read the Scriptures, confess your sins, and convert.  These are the weapons of peace.  Use them and you will know that peace which passes all understanding. Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus, come!

 

 

 

 

This was a very special day indeed.  Fr. Gregorio Wierzba, (center) made his profession of perpetual vows as a CFR in the Friary in Honduras.  With him are pictured Br. Damiano Vaissade, Fr. John Anthony Boughton, Fr. Juan Diego Sutherland, and Br. Matteo Marie Dengler. 

Fr Gregorio Final Vows

Hikes and conversations about the Lord were a mainstay in the John Paul II’s ministry.

Br. Paul Donnely is doing the same with a group of the boys he ministers to regularly from the boys’ home called “La Granja.” 

Br Paul hiking trip


Fr Juan Diego and child
Dr Carlos with patients

In October of 2008 a major flood hit Honduras.  Everyone teamed together to help those who were displaced from their homes.  Such collaboration between many groups saved the day. (above left) Fr. Juan Diego Sutherland poses with one of the hundreds who were given shelter in our Casa Guadalupe.  (above right) Dr. Carlos Suazo the medical director at our San Benito José Clinic worked many long hours seeing patients at local drop in centers during the disaster.  (below left) Br. Matteo Dengler and some of the Honduran military help people into the truck that will take them back to their homes after it all was over . (Below right) Therese Floyd, a nurse working with the Missioners of Christ, checks on and cheers up one of the victims of the flood. 

Br Matteo working with military Therese with children

 

to Nicaragua
Dariela at Baptism

 

(above left) Fr. Francis Mary Roaldi, Fr. John Anthony Boughton, Br. Antonio Maria Diez de Medina, and Br. Justin Alarcon are loaded up and ready to drive to Nicaragua to found the new friary. 

(above right) We love to see forward movement toward our heavenly Home. Last year we made a special plea for prayers for an emergency heart surgery for little Dariela.  We are happy to tell you she healed with miraculous speed.  Now we are happy to say she, and the rest of her family, are making the steps for a life of spiritual growth.  Here she is dressed for the occasion of her baptism.   

 

two families with new homes

If a home is not built on Jesus, it will not stand. We build homes for those in need, but our desire is always that they get closer to Jesus in the process.  Above are two families who received homes that were built with the help of our benefactors.  They are pictured with Fr. Gregorio and Br. Damiano.  Both families were received into the Church this summer.

Central America friars

The Friars of both the Honduras Friary and that of Nicaragua sit on the steps of the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras which they visited on their way to a pilgrimage in Esquipulas,, Guatemala.  From top left are, Br. Antonio Diez de Medina, Fr. Juan Diego Sutherland, Fr. John Anthony Boughton, Fr. Francis Mary Roaldi, (center) Br. Dismas Kline, Br. Justin Alarcon, Br. Damiano Vaissade, Fr. Gregorio Wiezba, (front) Br. Paul Donnely Fr Terry Messer, and Br. Matteo Dengler.

 

Fr. John blesses house a man and his castle

Benefactors are always a blessing to us, so we like to bless them.  Above, Fr. John Anthony blesses the home of the Eduardo and Lucia Salvo, in Managua.  Enrique Salvo, next to Fr. John ,is a seminarian for the diocese of New York.

A man´s home is his castle, even if it is a modest one.  But flood waters are a mighty foe against any fortress.  Here one of the many thousands of Hondurans effected by the flood assesses the damage to his home.