Death and Life

Change is coming. Life will not be the same. The culture of life is forming in the hearts and minds of these beautiful young people. Yesterday we encountered the disgusting history of the Holocaust at the American Holocaust Memorial. For most, reality became tangible. The atrocities and disgusting disrespect of human dignity during the Nazi regime was not only seen but felt. Emotions such as those create very powerful memories and desires, desires to never let the happen.

This visit was preceded by prayer in front of the main Planned Parenthood facility in Washington D.C. Two hundred and seventy-five teenagers in front of this facility was a great witness. We prayed for the intercession and power of the woman who said, ‘Yes’ to life incarnate, the life of the world. From there we walked in prayer to the White House where we continued to pray especially for all who are at work in there administrating this country. Many hearts there are in need of conversion and a deep encounter with Love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

After such an emotionally draining experience, we brought all that we experienced to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. There we reencountered life through the various manifestations of Mary’s love for her children. The Shrine is a great evangelizer for the culture of life. It shows the pinnacle of human work in the glorification of the One Who is Beautiful through beauty. The building’s majesty and expanse are a witness to the grandeur of God. The different images of the Virgin Mary showed us that we are part of something universal in the Catholic Church. The images of Our Lady of LaVang, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Sorrows, etc bore for us the love Christ has for his church. He doesn’t leave her orphaned. He sends His mother to protect her and keep her safe, to lead her to the truth, to lead her members back to Him.

That she did. Our visit to the shrine prepared our hearts to welcome Christ, in His Eucharistic presence, at our hotel. After preparatory praise music, Christ entered adorned in gold flanked by men He is calling to His priesthood. I am convinced that more than any other force on earth, the Eucharist changes hearts. After a day such as this one, encountering Christ as His beloved helped to re-form the hearts of the youth of New Orleans casting aside and in some cases destroying the lies of the culture of death.

The call and response St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle taught his students is apt.

Life Jesus in Our Hearts
Forever

To Be Pro-Life We Must Die

Deacon Kyle here again. This time I’m traveling with youth from throughout the Archdiocese of New Orleans to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life. There are 275 teenagers, chaperones, teachers, deacons, Nashville Dominican Sisters, and priests.

We are currently on the bus on the way to Washington. We’re watching Lion King coming soon for our dinner stop.

We aren’t just on a trip; we are on a pilgrimage. We have been praying and reflecting on what it means to be pro-life, on what we’re taking to D.C., what we’ve left behind, what we desire to be changed.

As I’ve been reflecting, I’ve come to a certain basic principle about being pro-life. To be pro-life we must die. This might not make sense, but bare with me for a moment. We recognize the dignity of each person only when we die to our own selfishness and see in each person, from conception to natural death, the image of God. To be pro-life is to be selfless and go out of oneself for the sake of another. This fundamental principle informs each human interaction and shines forth a culture of life.

Let us begin.

What Do We Do Now?

We have now taken eight days out of the immediate experience of the United States. We encountered people in Nicaragua. I don’t mean that in some generalized way. One of the insights from one of guys was that when we left, we left relationships that we had created and fostered. We didn’t come down as powerful, selfish, look-at-me Americans in a world in desperate need. We came rather as Christ and in so doing we met with and came to know persons, Ramón and Juan Carlos, Walter and Padre Marcial, Rogerio and Doña Patrona. We are now connected by relationship. We gave ourselves down in Nicaragua and so now that we have returned we left part of ourselves down there.

At the same time though we received the great love of the Nicaraguan people a love that manifests itself through suffering. We come back with a much better understanding of the cross and much better understanding of the sacrifice of the mass that redeems through sacrifice. We come back men better formed for priestly ministry.

Yes, some of us have no longer take for granted what we have after walking into a home of 6 the size of our measly dorm rooms. Yes, some of us came back with a greater desire to serve the poor. Yes, some of us have returned with a greater sense of the universality, the catholicity of our great Church. Most of all, we have come back with an understanding that the priest goes out. He does not stand still or wait for the people to come to him. He lives the Incarnation with his ministry by going out a proclaiming the witness of his being, his actions, his words. He encounters the people of God where they are: in their homes, at the movie theatre, at Bud’s, at Herbsaint, in the schools. He takes to heart the words he proclaims at the end of mass, “Go forth the Mass is ended.”

Your brother in Christ,

Deacon Kyle Sanders

Christ in the City – Nicaragua

On Wednesday, we visited the infirm and sick of the parish in which we are working. This is the first relational experience with the poorest of the poor for these guys. It is an incredibly humbling experience to bring Christ in the Eucharist to those whose house is the size of my meager dorm room at the seminary. Made of sheet metal, various pieces of wood, and straw, their abode is very different than my own.

 

Yet, when Christ in the priest or deacon or seminarian, enters into the humble abode a joy incomparable manifests itself in their faces. For us bringing Christ, it is also a very humbling experience. Christ has chosen me, in my brokenness to bring Him to these broken people. Carrying the Eucharist through the dirt streets cluttered with trash, it felt like a small unassuming Corpus Christi procession. It puts a new spin on ‘Christ in City.’

The Churches of Granada

Tuesday morning, we spent the morning in a little inculturation experience. We walked around Granda touring their churches. It reminds me a lot of New Orleans. There are many parishes in the city within walking distance of each other. Some are run by the diocese and others are run by religious orders. The Salesian Parish is arguably the most beautiful in the city. The outside is stucco painted a Marian light blue alternated with white. Inside, the church’s distinctive dark wood monopolizes your eyes. The arches sustaining the roof and the pillars are of thick dark wood imaging the fact that the Church is built on the cross.

 

The Jesuit parish had a famous guest nearly hundred years ago now. Bl. Miguel Pro visited the parish not soon after he was ordained a priest. He returned to Mexico to commit himself to the heroic work of bringing the sacraments to Mexican Catholics during the Masonic run Mexican government. Padre Moises, the rector of the parish, allowed the seminarians a unique view of the city of Granada. At the top of the rectory, they had a panoramic view of the whole city. One seminarian said, “The churches are looking of the city like Christ looking over his flock.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe

20111212-121722.jpg

It is apropos that we go on mission on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas. She is a uniting force that can bring us the Church together. She was the primary evangelizer to the native peoples of Central America. By her appearance, the ancestors of the people Nicaragua enter into the faith being baptized in droves. She is the glory of the people of America, a shining example of how Christ, in the womb of our hearts, can shine forth to the world.

It is an Anglo perception that tends to over intellectualize things and in some sense depersonalize things. Mary, in the faith of many Americans, is a theological concept. She is the mother of God. It was through her that God became man. We then owe her adoration and ask for her intercession.

In the faith of the Nicaraguan, she is a person, the mother of their faith. She is the protector, the guide, the love of their lives. They as their patron image, the Immaculate Conception. During the celebrations on December 8, they cry {WHO CAUSES US JOY!} {THE VIRGIN MARY!} This call and response is a communal cry of joy for the great gift of Mary in their lives.

Part of a mission is to compare, not in a self-conscious way, but in a way that allows for reflection on differences. This particular difference can excite within us Americans a deeper trust and relationship with Mary, the Mother of God. We don’t have the gift is this particular inculturation. It, then, becomes more difficult for us, but the effort to grow in relationship with her can only be more fruitful.

Your brother in Christ,
Deacon Kyle Sanders

Prayer Before Mission

There are many ways to start a mission trip, but there is only one proper way. It begins with prayer. Without connection to Christ, the mission fails. It’s such a witness to see the semiarians praying their breviary in the airport. Their holding a book foreign to the current airport fare of
Hunger Games and Steve Jobs. It has ribbons and a leather cover.

20111212-120039.jpg

We began as we begin all things as Catholics in prayer. This experience will provide great opportunities for deep encounter with Christ, but first we need to be open to letting him in the home of our hearts like Zaccheus. We will be walking like Christ hoping to encounter our own Zaccheuses who are sincerely looking to encounter Christ. In our own gringo way, we can be Christ to small children on Christmas break playing in the streets, We can be Christ to the invalid who only receives the Eucharist once a month when the extraordinary minister comes to bring her communion. We can be Christ to a community very different our own like St. Thomas the Apaotle was to those in India.

To be Christ, we need to be rooted in Him. If we don’t pray, we don’t witness. If we don’t witness, we fail in our mission.

Please keep us in prayer as we go to the poor of Nicaragua to be a source of hope and joy in their lives. Pray for us that we may be open to the movement of the Spirit as we encounter Christ in each person we meet.

Your brother in Christ,
Deacon Kyle Sanders