...On a Trip to Central and South
THIS IS AN E-MAIL THAT FATHER JACK RATHSCHMIDT SENT
TO ALL THE ATTENDEES AT THE MARCH 11th, 2006, LENTEN DAY
RETREAT AT MARYKNOLL SEMINARY, OSSINING, NY. BELOW
IS A WONDERFUL STORY HE SHARED WITH US.
Thanks for a wonderful day last Saturday (3/11/06). I
really enjoyed being with you. A couple of additional
items. I should have
mentioned that a good way to take 5 or 10 minutes for
prayer each day is to go to
http://www.sacredspace.ie/ each day.
It is an
internet site that helps each of us pray the scriptures
of the day. Very well done and easy to use.
Secondly, I will attach my most recent letter about my
work in Central and South America with a couple of
pictures. You may want to post them on your website.
And lastly, I have a new book (Doorways to Holiness)
which the men might enjoy. You can buy it at a reduced
price from Amazon
Thanks again for being such an open group of faithfilled
On Friday evening last (2/24), after a very intense
trip to Central and South America, I returned to the
U.S. renewed and
grateful both for what we have here at home and for the
goodness and faith of so many poor people that I met.
started badly. The snows that paralyzed the Northeast on
February 12 and 13 led to the cancellation of my
American Airline flight through Miami into San Salvador.
The only alternative offered me, if I did not want to
wait three days, was an evening flight through Los
Angeles, and overnight to Salvador. Itís never fun to
fly through the night, but at least it got me to
Salvador and, after a three hour drive with Larry
Webber, ofm Cap., to Honduras. A two hour nap refreshed
me enough to follow Larry back to the car for a visit
with our brothers
Ray Richard and John Clermont in San Marcos, Honduras.
After a lovely supper we went to bed since the next day
we had a 71/2 hour drive planned into the mountains of
Central Honduras and the state of Opalaca. Our novices
were there having an "experience" of living among the
indigenous. Thank God Central Honduras was beautiful
because the roads were not. The last segment of our
trip, only a mile long, took almost two hours to walk.
Straight up through mud and rutted roads. The friars had
arranged for a horse to meet and carry me up the
mountain, but after falling off twice as a I tried to
mount, walking seemed like a far saner choice.
I had never met the indigenous people of Honduras, but
like so many other groups of poor people, they impressed
me with their hospitality and faith. Small (average
height 4'8"), their hearts were big. Almost as soon as
we sat down, people were walking into the friary, a
small house with dirt floors and no electricity,
bringing gifts of tortilla and eggs.
Their visitors had to eat even it meant they would do
without! One woman literally crawled to bring us her
gifts. Without legs after a childhood accident, she
lives about 50yds from the friary by herself. Still she
manages to pull herself along with her hands, especially
if she is bringing someone else a gift or going to
That evening we prayed the Eucharist and the novices
shared their reflections about their insertion
experience. Pious, like novices everywhere, nevertheless
their focus was not on what they had received or the
struggles of living with so little, but on the goodness
of the people they had met. How right they were.
The following morning, while the novices did an extended
evaluation of their experience, I went to the local
Church/gathering hall to celebrate the Eucharist. About
150 indigenous people came, entering the space quietly,
greeting all the others individually, then sitting in
gentle silence waiting for Mass to start. Finally, Larry
Webber invited everyone to stand and sing the entrance
hymn. For the homily, rather than comment on the
readings, Larry asked those present to tell me what it
is like and what it means to be indigenous in Honduras.
Two hours later, I was left breathless (and a little
tired) by the faith and power of their witness.
One woman told me that she and about 30 women walked
barefoot for 8 days, not once but three times, to
Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, to visit the
President and ask him for their basic human rights. She
assured me that what strengthened them was the justice
of their cause and the rosary which they prayed
constantly, especially when they had to face the
military who tried to keep them out of the capital city.
"When we held up our rosaries," the old woman told me,
"the military put down their guns. We were not afraid
with Mary on our side." Story after story helped me
understand that they are happy people, but needy, and
seek not to invade the cities, but to live in the
mountains as long as they have clean water, enough food,
and education and health care for their children.
Returning to Salvador the next day, I left for Bolivia
via Miami! Go figure. The best way south is to go north.
A wonderful visit with my niece Beth and her friend
Terry preceded the worst trip of my life. After flying
all night from Miami to La Paz, Bolivia, I deplaned only
to learn that my morning flight to Cochabamba had been
cancelled. That meant 12 hours in the La Paz airport, at
13,500 feet. I couldnít breathe, had
overwhelming headache, needed oxygen three separate
times, drank enough Coca tea for 10 people, felt
claustrophobic, and finally arrived in Cochabamba at 8
pm that night, after leaving Salvador the previous
morning at 11 am. During this ordeal I tried to pray,
especially for those of you are sick, but could only say
to God: IF I live, I will never complain again about the
weather. God laughed.
Cochabamba was wonderful. Bright, sunny, warm and
inviting, I spent four days with Lake Herman, a friar
studying Spanish at the Maryknoll language school and
living with the Franciscan friars. Lake is doing
wonderfully, not only learning Spanish but adjusting to
life in a place where English is spoken only rarely. I
also had the delight of visiting with nine former
students of mine at Maryknoll. With three families and
two young men, all of whom I admire greatly for giving
at least three years of their lives to service of the
poor, Lake and I went to a local pizza place run by
immigrants from Italy. Great food, and by our standards,
inexpensive. This visit was altogether too short, but it
was time to take another 17 hour trip to get back to
Finally, someone remind me next time, that I am not 40
anymore. Though I so enjoy the privilege of traveling
and visiting with friends and communities of faith in
the third world, I gotta stop stuffing so much into a
few days. Still, thanks to all for your support of the
Capuchins and me in particular. Without your financial
help and prayers none of this would be possible.
Happy Lent. I hope to see you all soon.
Love and prayers,
by Fr. Jack Rat Rathschmidt