Prayerful witnesses to justice and love

Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife, Brazil, may not seem to be have much in common, but they were both faithful and prayerful witnesses of God’s care for the poor and marginalized.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity,  was born on August 27, 1910. To many she is a symbol of care for the poorest of the poor. Some, though, have questioned whether she realized the presence of structural injustice. But once she said:

 “Let us not use bombs and guns to overcome the world. Let us use love and compassion. Let us preach the peace of Christ as He did. He went about doing good. If everyone could see the image of God in his neighbor, do you think we should still need tanks and generals?”

On August 27, 1999, Dom Helder Câmara, retired bishop of Recife, Brazil, died. He was an outspoken advocate for the poor and against the injustices of the world, as well as a witness to Gospel nonviolence. One of his most quotes is:

“When I gave food to the poor they called me a saint. When I asked why they were poor, they called me a communist.”

But this commitment to the justice was not separated from a deep spirituality:

 “Personally I have so many mysteries which I have not succeeded in understanding. . . . When I arrive at the House of the Father I will have a series of questions to ask the Lord. But that won’t be in the first moment, because I will be crazy with joy to contemplate the Lord face to face and encounter my brothers and sisters. But I’ll get to it in a few days… Naturally this is only a way of speaking, since I know that when I am face to face with the Lord, all the obscurities will blow away like smoke.”

It is so easy to try to separate and compartmentalize the works of charity, the struggle for justice, and a deep relationship to God. Both Dom Helder and Mother Teresa – as well as Dorothy Day – show us that we should strive to integrate all these aspects in our daily lives if we seek to follow Jesus.

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