Hear this, you who trample on the needy,
to do away with the weak of the land…
I will turn your festivals into mourning,
and all your singing into wailing.
Amos 8: 4, 10
While the US celebrates Independence Day with its proper lectionary readings, the universal church continues reading the prophet Amos, with his warnings against oppressing the poor.
Today the universal church also celebrates the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal, a queen who was a peacemaker and a lover of the poor.
St. Elizabeth, the daughter of the king of Aragon was given in marriage to the king of Portugal. As a queen she cared for the poor and needy, founding hospitals, orphanages, and homes for homes for “fallen women,” She cared for her children as well as the children of her husband’s affairs.
But she is known as the patroness of peace for her efforts to reconcile warring parties, many of whom were her relatives.
After her husband’s death, she lived as a poor Franciscan tertiary near a convent of the Poor Clares, but continued her work of reconciling enemies and preventing wars.
As noted in Robert Ellsberg’s Blessed Among All Women, she once said:
Do not forget that when sovereigns are at war they can no longer busy themselves with their administration: justice is not distributed; no care is taken of the people; and this alone is your sovereign charge: this is the main point of your duty as kings.
All nations, especially the US, should take her words into account as well as the warning of the prophet Amos.
I dare say that Thomas Merton had it right when he wrote more than forty years ago:
It seems to me that there are very dangerous ambiguities about our democracy in its actual present condition. I wonder to what extent our ideals are now a front for organized selfishness and systematic irresponsibility. If our affluent society ever breaks down and the facade is taken away, what are we going to have left?