Thursday, February 14, 2013

Image of the tiny Virgin of Suyapa, carried in procession.
In the week following the Pan de Vida retreat, I helped out with the heavy weekly Mass schedule of the cathedral parish, celebrating the Eucharist in the chapels of San Judas Tadeo, Nuestra Señora de Fátima, Suyapita and San Pablo. It was a special blessing for me, though, to be present in Honduras for the celebration of its national patroness, the Virgin of Suyapa on February 3.

Candlelight procession of local Catholic school students (above and below)
following the vehicle bearing the image of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The image of Our Lady of Suyapa is a tiny, 6 cm (2.36 in) wooden carved statue of the Virgin Mary found in 1747 by Alejandro Colindres, a campesino laborer forced to sleep out in the open in a dry river bed on his way back home working in the fields. He and his family at once recognized in this unusual discovery the hand of God and the presence and love of the Virgin Mary for the Honduran people. The original is kept in the chapel/basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa in Tegucigalpa. There are many replicas throughout the country. One of the chapels connected with San Isidro Cathedral Parish is Suyapita, which celebrates Feb 3 with special solemnity.

The vigil celebration of the solemnity began with a procession originating at the cathedral and continuing ten blocks to the chapel of Suyapita. The Virgin of Suyapa was arrayed with lights and flowers and borne on the back of a pickup truck. Hundreds of Catholc school students carrying candles, a marching band, military personnel and hundreds of other Catholic faithful followed. Hundreds more were waiting for the procession at the outdoor stage where Mass would be celebrated.

Platform for the large, outdoor Mass.

Members of the Honduran Air Force standing guard
near the image of Our Lady of Suyapa, who is their special patroness.
Bishop Michael Lenihan celebrated Mass, which included lots of lively music, a vibrant offertory procession, and the "presentation" of a 40 day old infant girl with the name "Suyapa."

Bishop Michael Lenihan, OFM, and servers preparing to begin Mass.

The bishop receiving an offertory gift from a Garifuna dancer.
(The Garifunas are an Honduran ethnic group of African descent.) 

Bishop Michael presenting 40 day old "Suyapa" at the Mass.

Pilgrims praying at the Suyapita Chapel.
Because it is a national solemnity, the celebration continued the next day, Sunday, in the various chapels of the diocese. I celebrated at the cathedral and the chapels of Inmaculado Corazón of María and La Guadalupe.

Fr. Herald with a woman and her children after Mass
in the chapel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, El Sauce, La Ceiba.

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