This past week I was able to travel to the village in the mountains of Guatemala and share with them the devotional medal project I had been working on ever since I left the village in March. If you recall, these villagers had a priest, Padre Hermógenes López Coarchita, who unhesitantly fought for their basic rights. Consequently, on the night of June 30, 1978, while returning from a visit with a sick woman in the mountains, he was assassinated by the government. I pulled out the bronze medals that held a relief of his face and read “ruega por nosotros” on the back with the date of his martyrdom. I explained to them how their faith had inspired me to begin work immediately upon returning home; the project began as a humble pewter casting that I’d support on my own. In speaking with various persons, receiving funding from my alma mater, and meeting a master jeweler, the project grew to a more advanced and sophisticated production that could have a larger impact.
It was simply a stand in solidarity that was graced by the hand of God. Upon coming down from the mountains and returning to the main church in San José Pinula, I spoke with the pastor about the project. As I handed the molds and the silver master to Fr. Marco, the very priest that currently holds the same position that Padre Hermógenes held, he looked up and said, “My people are a very basic and simple people but they deserve this.” He continued saying, “I know a jeweler, and we’ll have more cast by the time you return in March.” Oh how God is good all the time. I just happened to meet a jeweler when I did who subsequently happened to open his studio to me and provide the means so that then in December I might be able to hand molds to a different jeweler so that he could continue the project for their Guatemalan martyr.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful gifts of this trip was the moment I learned that the tomb of Padre Hermógenes is at the church in San José. Don’t ask me how I missed this the first time I was there, but what an incredible blessing to be able to pray in front of his tomb after nine months of studying the contours of his face and working to translate his diary. I was falling in love with his life work and it was such a blessing to be able to be present with him. Sixty-eight bishops from across Central America had just made a pilgrimage in November to this small church in San José Pinula while ten thousand people walk down from the mountains every year on the anniversary of his martyrdom to commemorate his life. It was terribly humbling to have that time alone in front of his tomb.
There’s something very special in this small parish in Guatemala as they work to canonize their Servant of God. A lot if not all of what is written about Padre Hermógenes is in Spanish, but I invite you to look up the story of his life and the subsequent devotion nonetheless. Pray through him often, as there is something very striking about this martyr that has inspired such a devotion.