Pastors are responsible for continually educating the people in the faith, because otherwise they could “lose the vineyard,” Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga said during the Oct. 3-6 annual convention of the National Association of Hispanic Priests.“What we lack is mission,” said the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras), “and I’m not talking about going to Africa, but being in mission throughout the whole Church.”During a 90-minute keynote speech delivered the second conference day, sprinkled with jokes and a colorful demonstration of his knowledge of Church history and Vatican documents, the Honduran cardinal emphasized the importance of the Lectio Divina (divine or spiritual reading), and the significance of the Eucharist, the “banquet where the Mother Church invites us to attend every Sunday,” he said.“It is the moment of the intimate dialogue between God and His people, the act of the new covenant sealed with the blood of Christ,” he told the assembled priests. “It’s the supreme work of the Word, offered as food in His sacrificed body. It’s for this that we are made priests!”For four centuries, he explained, Church leaders took the Bible out of the parishes, fearful that parishioners would misinterpret it. He urged the priests to start bringing the Bible back to the “house of the Lord.”Asserting that the message of many homilies is stagnated at “first Communion level catechism,” he urged the priests gathered at the Kyoto Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to review their homilies, which he described as the “the highest point of the Word of God when the priest should become a prophet who takes the place of Jesus Christ.“We should deliver the message even if it means giving up our lives,” said Cardinal Rodriguez. He suggested reading a document of the fifth General Conference of Latin American and Caribbean Bishops (CELAM) of Aparecida, regarding disciples and missionaries.“People should become disciples following the example of Mary, seated at the feet of Jesus, listening. You need to start by teaching the lectors how to read clearly,” he said. “Otherwise, they will remain as disciples of television and of media owners, disciples of politics, economy, newspapers and of the Internet.“We should give people the opportunity to read and go deeper into the Word,” he said, urging priests to “win the heart” of the faithful through prayer, contemplation, reading, meditation and action, “such as James suggested.”“The Word is dialogic; it’s not a dead word. It asks for an answer,” he stated. “We need to practice it in our reencounter with our brothers and sisters. The Word was not made to stay inside its house, in the temple. Instead, it goes on a pilgrimage, seeking truth, justice and peace.”Cardinal Rodriguez reiterated that the faithful are hungry for the Word and said priests should make sure that each person has a Bible — not to use as a decoration or out of superstition, but to really learn to apply the Word of God in their lives.He urged priests to consider technology as a way to deliver the Word and suggested “Leccionautas,” an Internet program sponsored by the American Bible Society in partnership with other organizations, which encourages Spanish-speaking youth and young adults around the globe interested in missionary work to read the Lectio Divina. “It’s a matter of having apostolic zeal,” said the cardinal, after giving an example of how a poor parish in Nicaragua delivers the Lectio Divina to its parishioners through cell phones.He asked the priests to develop creative ideas of delivering the Word, citing as an example the Bar Mitzvah, when Jewish boys officially read the Torah in public when they turn 15.“Maybe we could do that during confirmation or when celebrating the Quincea√±era — have teenagers read the Word in public during liturgical services or at home,” he observed. “It’s not eliminating Jesus and the Gospel that we are going to solve the problems, but it is regenerating ourselves in the Gospel that we can give way to a new culture.”Puerto Rican Fathers David G. Sanchez (Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky), Luis Pacheco Sanchez (Archdiocese of Milwaukee) and Rafael Carballo (Archdiocese of Atlanta) concurred that there is an increasing need to share and educate the faithful on the Scriptures, especially the youth.“Instead of focusing on statues and images and developing superstitions, people need to focus on Jesus Christ,” Father Pacheco said.“We need to recover those 400 years through evangelization,” added Father Carballo. “Not only practice traditions and pray the rosary, but talk about the living Christ.”In responding to a priest who said the orthodox formation in seminaries many times forces priests to stick to dogma delivering “boring homilies,” the cardinal said many priests lack self-criticism. “There is no need to be dogmatic (doctrinal) in order to be kerygmatic (vivid presentation of the Gospels),” he noted.Citing the example of Don Bosco, who read his homilies to his illiterate mother before making them public, he suggested as a “good teaching exercise” forming small groups of priests who meet to listen and criticize their homilies before taking them to the ambo.Local priests welcomed the suggestions presented by the cardinal.“I agree that parishioners are hungry,” said Father Jose Maga√±a, pastor of Long Beach’s St. Anthony Church. “We need to dialogue and rethink the actions we take. I will take this to our parish council.”“I’m interested in the Leccionautas,” said Msgr. John Moretta, pastor of Resurrection Church in East L.A. “Might work in our church.” Msgr. Moretta was honored at the convention with its “El Buen Pastor” award for exemplary service.For more information about the National Association of Hispanic Priests, visit{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/1014/hisppriests/{/gallery}