Tag Archives: Dean Brackley

The Will of God

This morning before getting up from the bed, I found myself praying, “Here I am Lord; I come to do your will.”

After fixing coffee and showering – in that order,  I sat down to pray and read the first reading for the day, Hebrews 10: 1-10, in which the author cites, twice, a passage from Psalm 40: “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”

Then in the Gospel, Mark 3: 31-35, we find Jesus saying that “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Wow! Doing the will of God must be central to our life of faith.

In our parish, when the candidates for baptism or confirmation are introduced, we ask them to respond to their name with the phrase, “Aquí estoy, Señor, para hacer tu voluntad” – “Here I am, Lord, to do your will.” Some respond forcefully, even with a fist bump, but others, perhaps a bit more shy, barely say it above a whisper.

But the question is “How do we know we are trying to do the will of God?” All too often I confuse my will with God’s, thinking that I know what he wants and it’s what I want.

This points me to the real need we have to learn and teach discernment. All too often I find that our teaching of the faith and the moral life seem more aligned with a black-and-white, law-based approach.

Discernment is hard in such a climate. That’s why I want to spend more time this year learning how to discern better and learning how to assist the people I serve with learning the practical wisdom of discernment.

Many years ago, as I considered coming here to Honduras, I re-read Dean Brackley’s The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspective on the Transformative Vision of Ignatius of Loyola. I’m thinking of re-reading it, perhaps for Lent, as a way to deepen my life of faith. (It’s also now available in Spanish, from UCA editores in El Salvador.)

I would also appreciate any suggestions for other resources – books, articles, activities – in English or Spanish, to help our ministry here.

And keep discerning – it’s a life long project.

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Dean of Solidarity

Dean Brackley, a Jesuit priest, died of pancreatic cancer in San Salvador on October 16, 2011. I feel privileged to have met him several times and to have profited from his wisdom. His book of Ignatian spirituality, The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola, helped me discern my decision to come to Honduras.

Dean had worked in the South Bronx and at Fordham University before going to El Salvador and teaching at the Jesuit University there – the UCA, the Central American University. He had volunteered after the killing of the Jesuits there on November 16, 1989. Besides working in a parish he taught at the University and welcomed groups from the US that came to visit El Salvador and the UCA. Every so often, Dean returned to the US to speak as well as to teach at a Jesuit university.

Dean is an embodiment of the solidarity that Christ calls us to. He was a bridge between the world of the poor in El Salvador and the world of those of us who have much.

I like to share his essay “Meeting the Victims, Falling in Love” with people who come to visit. Here is an extended excerpt:

These people [the poor] shake us up because they bring home to us that things are much worse in the world than we dared to imagine. But that is only one side of the story: If we allow them to share their suffering with us, they communicate some of their hope to us as well. The smile that seems to have no foundation in the facts is not phony; the spirit of fiesta is not an escape but a recognition that something else is going on in the world besides injustice and destruction. The poor smile because they suspect that this something is more powerful than the injustice. When they insist on sharing their tortilla with a visiting gringo, we recognize there is something going on in the world that is more wonderful than we dared to imagine.

It seems that the victim offers us the privileged place (although not the only place) to encounter the truth which sets us free. The poor usher us into the heart of reality. They bring us up against the world and ourselves all at once. To some extent, we all hold reality at arm’s length — fending off intolerable parts of the world with one hand and intolerable parts of ourselves with the other. The two go together. As a rule, our encounters with the world place us in touch with internal reality, as well. In particular, when the world’s pain crashes in upon us in the person of the victim, the encounter dredges up from within us the parts of ourselves that we had banished. The outcast outside us calls forth the outcast within us. This is why people avoid the poor. But meeting them can heal us. We will only heal our inner divisions if we are also working to heal our social divisions.
The victims of history — the destitute, abused women, oppressed minorities, all those the Bible calls “the poor” — not only put us in touch with the world and with ourselves, but also with the mercy of God. There is something fathomless about the encounter with the poor, as we have said — like the opening of a chess game with its infinite possibilities. If we let them, the poor will place us before the abyss of the holy Mystery we call God. They are a kind of door that opens before that Mystery.

A copy of the full article can be found here.

The faithful insecurity of Father Dean Brackley

Two years ago today, Father Dean Brackley, SJ, a friend, died in El Salvador. I had gotten to know him in El Salvador and had found myself inspired by his example and aided by his book on Ignatian spirituality, The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola.

In 1990, Dean had volunteered to leave the insecurity of work in the South Bronx and teaching at Fordham University to the insecurity of teaching at the Jesuit University of Central America in San Salvador, where six Jesuits and two women had been killed in November 1989 by government forces. In addition, on the weekends he served in the mountain parish of Jayaque where one of the martyred priests had served.

I live in Honduras, a country which many (including the US State Department) consider “insecure,” in part because of the high murder rate, especially in the major cities and along the north coast. Many, including the US government, see militarization of the police as the answer.

And so these words of Father Dean strike home:

What makes us secure? The “war against terror” demonstrates every day that military force can no longer make us safe, if it ever could. Instead, traditional military action is making everyone, including the U.S., less secure.

… The word of God is eloquent on these matters. Security comes from God, not from Tomahawk missiles or oil. “Trust in Yahweh and you will be secure” (2 Chr 20:20)….

It is important to recall, especially in affluent countries, that the vast majority of people who have ever lived (and all poor people today) have struggled daily to stay alive in the face of dangers: natural disaster, sickness, scarcity and social violence. But the practical  measures people take to address these threats never eliminate insecurity altogether. So, throughout history, people have turned to gods. Gods are supposed to provide security. In Israel, we have a unique situation: the people are to trust in only one God, Yahweh, for all their security needs. Only Yahweh provides real security and prosperity- shalom….

Jesus demands “total” faith: Do not fear those who can kill the body. Do not worry about what you are to eat or to wear. Do not worry or be afraid of anything. Do not let fear – a normal enough reaction to danger – dominate your lives. Instead, seek first the Reign of God and its justice. The rest will take care of itself….

It is essential to unmask the official lies that would justify imperial conquest and violations of human rights. It is crucial to promote the road of nonviolent peacemaking and to advance in our ethical thinking as a church. However, the present situation suggests to me the fruitfulness of proposing questions like these: Is the war on terror making us more secure or less so? What really can make us secure? What does our faith say to this? Can we be secure if half the world lives in misery? What idols do we rely on for national security? What idolatrous rituals does our nation engage in? How do these idols enslave? What victims are we sacrificing to them as a nation?

In the face of obsession about security, it is important to recognize that the quest for absolute security (an impossibility) can lead us to an idolatry that paralyzes us.

Fear and the pursuit of security can enslave us, but Jesus shows us another way, as Hebrews 2: 14-15 notes:

Now since the children share in blood and flesh, [Jesus] likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.

Will we live in the radical insecurity of the reign of God or rely on the gods of power and might?

 

 

 

 

Father Dean Brackley

Last year, on October 16, Jesuit Father Dean Brackley died in El Salvador. Dean joined the faculty of the Central American University in San Salvador after six Jesuits were killed there in 1989.

I got to know him there – and I would occasionally try to have visitors visit with him. Here’s a part of a reflection he wrote, “Meeting the Victims, Falling in Love”:

These people [the poor] shake us up because they bring home to us that things are much worse in the world than we dared to imagine. But that is only one side of the story: If we allow them to share their suffering with us, they communicate some of their hope to us as well. The smile that seems to have no foundation in the facts is not phony; the spirit of fiesta is not an escape but a recognition that something else is going on in the world besides injustice and destruction. The poor smile because they suspect that this something is more powerful than the injustice. When they insist on sharing their tortilla with a visiting gringo, we recognize there is something going on in the world that is more wonderful than we dared to imagine.

It seems that the victim offers us the privileged place (although not the only place) to encounter the truth which sets us free. The poor usher us into the heart of reality. They bring us up against the world and ourselves all at once. To some extent, we all hold reality at arm’s length — fending off intolerable parts of the world with one hand and intolerable parts of ourselves with the other. The two go together. As a rule, our encounters with the world place us in touch with internal reality, as well. In particular, when the world’s pain crashes in upon us in the person of the victim, the encounter dredges up from within us the parts of ourselves that we had banished. The outcast outside us calls forth the outcast within us. This is why people avoid the poor. But meeting them can heal us. We will only heal our inner divisions if we are also working to heal our social divisions.
The victims of history — the destitute, abused women, oppressed minorities, all those the Bible calls “the poor” — not only put us in touch with the world and with ourselves, but also with the mercy of God. There is something fathomless about the encounter with the poor, as we have said — like the opening of a chess game with its infinite possibilities. If we let them, the poor will place us before the abyss of the holy Mystery we call God. They are a kind of door that opens before that Mystery.

 

 

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.