Monthly Archives: October 2011

In Majorca Alfonso watched the door

Today is the feast of the Jesuit brother Alfonso Rodríguez who died in 1617. He was the porter of the Jesuit College on the island of Majorca. But he became the inspiration for many, including St. Pedro Claver who went to become a missionary in what is now Colombia. He shows the value of the simple values of listening, hospitality, and faith. He opened doors – and opened hearts to God.

Among his writings is this meditation:

“Jesus, love of my soul and center of my heart!
Why am I not more eager
to endure pans and tribulations for love of you,
when you, my God, have suffered so many for me?

This is my happiness, this my pleasure:
to live with Jesus, to walk with Jesus,
to converse with Jesus,
to suffer with and for him,
this is my treasure.”

There is a beautiful poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., on Brother Alfonso, that can be found here.



An African bishop martyr

“There are things that can be seen only with eyes that have cried.”
Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa, S.J.

Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa, S.J., (1926-1996) archbishop of Bukavu, Zaire, protector of Hutu and Tutsi refugees, proponent of democracy and reconciliation, was assassinated by Rwanda soldiers in Bukava, on October 29, 1996.

Here are a few quotes that reflect his deep spirituality:

“God’s mercy, which breaks the chain of vengeance, is hurtful to militants on every side. But in reality, that is the only thing that can definitively shatter the infernal circle of vengeance.”

“Despite anguish and suffering, the Christian who is persecuted for the cause of justice finds spiritual peace in total and profound assent to God, in accord with a vocation that can lead even to death.”



Human rights

El Salvador, as many Latin American countries, has had many human rights advocates murdered for their witness. Herbert Anaya Sanabria, president of the Salvadoran nongovernmental Human Rights Commission (CDHES, no-gob), was assassinated on October 26, 1987. He once said:

“It is the lack of basic needs that most violates human rights…. As hunger intensifies and housing deteriorates the people make organized demands and these demands are met with repression…. Hunger will not be solved through handouts, but through social transformation. Repression will prolong, not resolve, the crisis. Whatever germ of inequality is planted also nourishes the seed of social justice and the determination to transform society. With our final breath we will continue our work. This isn’t heroism. It is simply doing what we have to do.”


“We must look for peace by purging the very sources of war — false ambitions and evil desires. As long as individuals serve their own personal interests, the common good will suffer. Let them examine the self-evident fact that this world of ours is the Fatherland of the entire human race.”

This quotation comes from The Complaint of Peace of Desiderius Erasmus, the Renaissance humanist who was born on October 27, 1466.

This Dutch-born scholar was a friend of saints and scholars of his time, especially St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. Besides working on the scripture and the Fathers of the Church, he wrote works on various topics, including church reform and peace.

He had a barbed tongue, as witnessed by his satiric work,  The Praise of Folly.

He died in 1536.

NOTE: The date of birth was corrected.


Among the poor

Henri Perrin, who died on October 25, 1954, was one of the worker priests, an experiment of priests who lived and worked with the poor working class in Europe. They lived in working class districts and had jobs among workers, especially in factories.

The movement was subsequently suppressed by the hierarchy who was afraid and scandalized that the priests were involved in unions and some were even asked to be part of the leadership. The problem for the Vatican was that some unions were allied with Marxists and Communists.

Yet the movement opened up the masses to the church, for a while.

Henri Perrin expressed the charism of the movement:

“The presence of priests really living among the masses seems to me a necessary condition of reform and progress.”

Thanks be to God, after Vatican II many priests and religious moved from their rectories and convents and lived and worked among the poorest, especially in Latin America.

Now there may be fewer  who do this, but there are always those who live the radical poverty of the Gospel and share the lives of the poor, imitating poor God-man of Nazareth.

I am not among those who live this radical poverty, but they challenge me.



John Paul II and church property

Today the Catholic Church celebrates, for the first time, the feast of Blessed Pope John Paul II. In 1987, he wrote a challenging encyclical, On Social Concern, or, in its Latin title,  Sollicitudo Rei Socialis.

With reference to his distinction between identifying oneself by what one has rather than by who one is, he includes these prophetic words in paragraph 31:

… part of the teaching and most ancient practice of the Church is her conviction that she is obliged by her vocation — she herself, her ministers and each of her members — to relieve the misery of the suffering, both far and near, not only out of her “abundance” but also out of her “necessities.” Faced by cases of need, one cannot ignore them in favor of superfluous church ornaments and costly furnishings for divine worship; on the contrary it could be obligatory to sell these goods in order to provide food, drink, clothing and shelter for those who lack these things. … here we are shown a “hierarchy of values” — in the framework of the right to property — between “having” and “being,” especially when the “having” of a few can be to the detriment of the “being” of many others.

In a world where there is massive inequality, not only in countries like Honduras, where I serve, but also in the United States, the “having” of a few is to the detriment of the “being” – the existence – of the many. That’s why Hondurans want to refound their nation with a new constitution, and that may be why “Occupy Wall Street” has become a national – maybe even international – phenomenon.


A martyr of Solidarity

October 20 is the celebration of the feast of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, (1947-1984), a Polish diocesan priest, supporter of Solidarity, abducted, October 19, and killed, on October 20, 1984.

It was by chance that he became involved in Solidarity, but he began celebrating monthly Masses for the country. At the December 1982 Mass he preached these words:

“Do not fight by means of violence. Violence is a sign of weakness. Whatever cannot win by influencing the heart tries to win by means of violence. The most splendid and lasting battles known to history are the battles of human thought. The most ignoble and the shortest are the battles of violence. An idea which needs weapons to survive will die of itself. The idea which prevails merely through the use of violence is perverted. A living idea conquers by itself. It is followed by millions.”

A prophetic voice

“…what is most fundamental is the courage not to turn away from the eyes of the poor but to allow them to break our heart and shatter our world, to let them share with us how their children suffered preventable early deaths, how they spent the winter without heat, how their whole village has never seen a doctor.”

Dean Brackley, S.J.

Yesterday, October 16, Jesuit Father Dean Brackley died of cancer in El Salvador.

Fr. Dean had left the US in 1990 to join the faculty of the Salvadoran Jesuit Central American University to help “replace” the Jesuits who were killed these in November 1989 by Salvadoran government forces.

Dean became an important life of the university community and the parishes he served. He also became the bridge and interpreter for many who came to visit El Salvador. He was also a friend with whom I occasionally corresponded.

Dean wrote an impressive book which I highly recommend: The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola.  It has also been translated into Spanish: Espiritualidad para la solidaridad: nuevas perspectivas ignacianas.  It makes the Spiritual Exercises real for the twentieth century – for “our tribe” of North Americans, as he put it.

He will be missed for being the prophetic voice he was. But he lives in the Lord.

Pray for us, all you holy prophets and witnesses.

Giving one’s life

Richard Michael Fernando, S.J. (1970-1996), a Filipino Jesuit seminarian at the Center of the Dove, Bantesy Prieb Technical School for the Handicapped, Cambodia, was killed on October 17, 1996, protecting the students from an angry student threatening to lob a grenade. In his January 3, 1996 retreat diary he wrote:

I wish when I die, that people remember
not how great, powerful, or talented I was,
but that I served and spoke for the truth.
I gave witness to what is right.
I was sincere with all my words and actions.
In other words, I loved and followed Christ.

Real heresy

Today the Catholic church celebrates St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop who was martyred in Rome in 107. In his letter to the church of Smyrna, he identified attitudes and actions that reveal false notions about the faith – failure to care for the poor and the oppressed and failure to recognize Christ in the Eucharist.

“Pay close attention to those who have wrong notions about the grace of Jesus Christ, which has come to us, and note how at variance they are with God’s mind. They care nothing about love: they have no concern for widows or orphans, for the oppressed, for those in prison or released, for the hungry or the thirsty. They hold aloof from the Eucharist and from services of prayer, because they refuse to admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ who suffered for our sins and whom, in his goodness, the Father raised from the dead.”