Being 'Friends of Jesus,' as our name indicates, means it is safe to say that 'Semana Santa' (Holy Week), and 'Paschua' (Easter) are very important for us. In Honduras, it is normal that most places are closed for the whole duration of Semana Santa, and here at Amigos it is no different. While we are not "closed," all the kids have the week off from school which they use to celebrate the Paschal Triduum and participate in several Semana Santa traditions we have at Amigos: our excursions and the one-night camp-out.
Starting the Friday the kids get off of school, groups go camping at a nearby site. The groups are broken up based on age and gender and are accompanied by 'padrinos,' 'madrinas,' and us volunteers. As we all know, typical camping activities include lots of good food, a ton of snacks, and always a campfire. Each group only goes for one night, but the kids can explore, enjoy some time relaxing, and of course drink plenty of 'fresco' (soda).
The next tradition is that each 'hogar' (house) goes on an excursion to either San Pedro Sula or Santa Rosa. We leave around 8 in the morning and return around dinner time the same day. The kids who go to San Pedro typically arrive, eat lunch, and then go straight to the theater. Accompanying the movie, of course, are plenty of snacks. The kids who go to Santa Rosa can do a variety of things. There is always lunch at a nice restaurant, but after that it is up to the group. The older boys typically want to play soccer while the girls might walk around and see the stores. A visit to the central park where there is a nice cafe is also typical. For my group, we ate a delicious lunch and then went to the cafe in the park to enjoy coffee and granitas (a Honduran frozen coffee). Then we walked around the central park and finished by getting snacks for the ride home.
Even though all of this was very fun, the Masses were the highlight of the week. This year was special because we had both Father Den and Padre Patricio. Padre Patricio was ordained last June so this was his first Semana Santa as a priest. Not only a beautiful week for him, but also beautiful for us because we had two priests here at the same time! To begin, we had the Holy Thursday Mass where Padre Patricio gave a homily on how we as an Amigos family need to serve each other just as Jesus served his disciples by washing their feet. Following the Mass, Padre Patricio processed with the Blessed Sacrament around the chapel, and after allowed time for the kids to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament in silence. The chapel was open until the last kid left. It was incredible to see so many kids fervently praying and reluctant to leave the chapel - even when it was several hours after their bedtime.
Next was the Good Friday Service and the Easter Vigil. On Friday, we had a Living Stations of the Cross, where all of Amigos met and walked around the 'hogar' while several kids acted out the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion. Padre Patricio and Father Den offered confession all day until the service. The highlight, though, was the Easter Vigil. We began the night with the lighting of the Easter Candle, and a procession into the chapel while we all sang. We all had candles and entered the chapel in silence as the night began. We read the readings with only one light on, but then came the time to turn all the lights on and sing the Gloria as a song of Christ’s victory over death! The chapel had been decorated all day by several of our kids and our lawyer Suyapa, so when we finally turned the lights on and uncovered everything, it was truly a sight fit for the splendor of the Resurrection! The best part was seeing the handful of kids who were dressed completely in white and were either baptized or received their First Communion. Seeing those baptisms and the resounding applause afterward was truly a moment bordering on miraculous.
Easter Sunday, while not as grand of a celebration, was certainly filled with beauty. Amigos has a tradition that all the men who turn 18 in a single calendar year get a Mass and 'fiesta' (party) dedicated to their transition into manhood. We had nine men dressed up in slacks and ties, and they all sat up front in the chapel. Father Den gave an incredible homily about how it is spiritual blindness that prevents us from maturing and growing closer to God. His homily was directed to the men to always be humble and willing to admit your faults - even though it can be painful. We concluded the night with each young man crossing the bridge with his 'padrino' and 'madrina,' and then we all ate dinner outside the 'comedor' together before ending the night with a dance party and cake.
As Father Den once put it, "the resurrection is all around us." While Semana Santa and the Easter Season in general is an obvious reminder of that, Amigos in whole is a daily reminder of the Resurrection. Seeing all the kids enter into the great mystery of Christ's resurrection was incredible, but even more incredible is the fact that every day at Amigos the breath of the Resurrection is breathed out upon each one of these kids. No matter what a kid has gone through, we accept them and love them, and to me, that is the glory of the Easter season fulfilled.
- Clay Mathews, 2018-19 ADJ Volunteer