The Servant Priests tell of their experience blessing the homes in Guayaquil (Ecuador).
Every Friday, we have the opportunity to talk to the kids in two elementary schools in our neighborhood here in our parish Church of Our Lady of Loreto in Guayaquil, Ecuador. As we enter into the different classrooms, the kids come running up to us, embrace us, and say: “Father! Father!”. It´s astonishing how affectionate and enthusiastic the kids are towards the priests and religious. The same goes for the adults and younger people as well. They also too tend to show respect towards the priests. It’s beautiful to see that this culture has still maintained a healthy Catholic relationship with her priests. It’s a relationship that makes us truly appreciate our father figure, a figure that unfortunately has been undermined in many ways.
During these past few months, we have gone to bless the homes around our parish. Blessing the homes is also an opportunity to reach out to those who do not regularly attend Sunday Mass, to the couples that are living in a free union, or to those who are not interested in baptizing or singing their sons and daughters up to receive their first holy Communion. The blessing of the homes is a great way to help awaken the faith of our neighbors. It is a Sacramental that helps “prepare men to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life” (CCC 1677). During the blessings of houses, we are accompanied by the altar boys, who carry pamphlets with information regarding the parish so that each family may be well informed, as well as by missionaries, who go door to door asking if the family desires their house to be blessed.
The parish consists of 9 different sectors adding up to 18.000 inhabitants. Unfortunately, only about 5% of the population attends Sunday Mass. Therefore, it’s even more necessary that we use the blessings of houses as a means to invite them to Sunday Mass, as well as to show our concern for the children who have yet to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. We also invite them to come and see the ongoing changes that the parish is undergoing. We try to encourage the family members to visit the new Adoration chapel, so that they may come into contact with Our Lord. As St. John Paul II said, we want to arouse in them this “Eucharistic amazement” that come from discovering that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. One of the most important tasks we have while blessing these homes is to incite in the faithful the devotion of Eucharistic Adoration. We truly believe that the health of this parish will augment or decline inasmuch as its parishioners visit our Lord in the blessed Sacrament. To help us with this initiative, we give out free Eucharistic devotion booklets to every household.
We are convinced that if they come into contact with Our Lord in the Adoration Chapel, then Our Lord can infuse in them the desire to receive Him in Holy Communion. Thus, they would then recognize the importance of being married in the Church to be able open that door to receive Him in Holy Communion. It seems as though in our neighborhood the grand majority of the couples are living in a free union. On one hand, it´s very encouraging to see so many children, but, on the other hand, it´s unfortunate to see many couples living together without being married in the Church. Thanks be to God, the parents do not resort to abortion; rather, they take full responsibility of their actions. However, when we are hear of couples that are married in the Church, it is a great consolation for us, after hearing son many times: “No, Father, only by the State.” We try to encourage the few couples that are married in the Church to be witnesses for the majority that are living in a free union.
It´s also a very humbling experience to enter into certain homes where the families have very little. In many houses, the walls are without cement, dry wall, paint, etc. In some houses, there´s merely a rocky dirt floor, without tiles nor anything of that sort. There are no walls dividing the rooms. The dining room, bedroom, kitchen, etc., are all one open room. Despite the material poverty, many of these people are happy with the bear minimum. This simplicity of life allows them to be receptive to God. On the other hand, when one tends to have all the comforts in life, as we see in some houses, there is more indifference towards the faith. These riches replace God in the heart of man. Jesus said: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God” (Mt. 19, 24).
Overall, during our experience of the blessings of the homes, we have seen that there is a friendly and affectionate openness and respect towards the religious; however, there is a crisis of faith in the Sacraments. For example, one lady told me that her spouse is a strongly devout Catholic; however, he does not attend Sunday Mass, neither is he married in the church with his spouse. Therefore, there is a sense of urgency to instruct the families on the sacraments. We must teach these people that one should receive the sacraments not merely out of tradition, but that that our Mother Church has given us the sacraments so that God´s grace may transform and make us holy.
Only when one is conscious and convinced of the treasure that we have in the Catholic Church can he go forth and evangelize. It is frustrating to see that although we have the fullness of the truth, many chose to do nothing, while the evangelicals and Jehovah´s Witnesses are flooding the streets. Maybe we need to spend more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, reading the Word of God, to help inflame within us a zealous love for God and our neighbor. So, what are we doing to evangelize?