Fr. Guadalupe, the name he took in Honduras, was a World War II veteran, a graduate of the University of Detroit, a Jesuit, who spent years in Honduras, serving the poor in the northern Honduras missions of the Jesuits.
He identified with the poor so much that he renounced the privilege of his US citizenship and became a Honduran citizen. But a few years later his Honduran citizenship was revoked before of his identification with the struggles of Honduran peasants.
He spent a few years in Nicaragua but in 1983 he returned to Honduras clandestinely with a small group of Honduran guerrillas, as their chaplain. The group was soon captured by the Honduran military.
Before he left for Honduras, he gave a manuscript to relatives, detailing how he had arrived at this point. It was subsequently published as “To Be a Christian Is… to Be a Revolutionary”: The Autobiography of Father James Guadalupe Carney.
The editors placed a 1971 letter Padre Guadalupe had written at the front of the work, a letter he had written to US friends and colleagues to explain himself who might think he was “a strange fellow.”
I cannot see myself taking the same option as he did – partly because of my beliefs that Christ calls us to be nonviolent revolutionaries. Yet, one paragraph from his letter struck me as a challenge, not only to people in the US, but also to me. (I have reformatted it a bit.)
I’m really a lover, even though I often don’t act like it. I love people, all kinds of people.
Also I’m a contemplative. My greatest joy is to contemplate what God’s loving Providence does in this world, especially n people I meet or read about and in my own life.
I think I sincerely love the poor, not only out of pity for what they are forced to suffer and out of rebellion against the system that forces them to be poor, but as lovable persons in themselves, as bits of God, of Christ.
With Charles de Foucauld, I say that I don’t know about others, but as for me, I can’t conceive of true love that doesn’t want to share the life of the beloved.
To love Christ is to try to live as he lived. If I love the poor as Christ did, I, too, freely choose to become one with them, live with them, share their lives, besides trying to use my talents to help and teach them.
To live as bourgeois, comfortable, well-dressed white people, and then try to help the poor is okay, I guess, but it’s not my kind of love, and it’s not what Christ did.
He freely chose to become one of the masses of poor people of the world, of the eighty percent of the world who “have not.” rejecting the comfortable life of the twenty percent who “have” (Even though he loved them too). And he tore into the system, and those who held the masses in the bondage of ignorance and poverty.
He cursed them, and said,” Woe to you hypocrites, you priests, and to you rich, and to you who are honored and accepted by the world.” And he was killed for it.
To be killed for my following of Christ would be my greatest joy.
And so the question haunts me: “How can I really identify with the poor Christ?” That’s a critical question for middle-class people like me