Tag Archives: Dorothy Stange

Fasting from war and injustice

Dresden

Dresden, 1945

See the fast that pleases me:
breaking the fetters of injustice
and unfastening the thongs of the yoke,
setting the oppressed free
and breaking every yoke.
Isaiah 58: 6

Isaiah 58 is one of the most important chapters for taking Lent seriously. It contrasts fasting from externals and the fasting that changes oneself and one’s nation.

On February 12, 1945, US and British air forces began the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, in which more than 22,000 people were killed.

Eileen Egan, a close associate of Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day, worked in Europe after the Second World War for Catholic Church relief work. She saw the results of war first hand.

An ardent advocate of peace she once wrote:

“Instead of feeding the hungry, we destroy the fields that produce the food; instead of clothing the naked, we bomb factories that produce clothing; instead of giving drink to the thirsty, we bomb reservoirs. In war, the enemy is dehumanized and is no longer seen as a child of God. As Christians, we must penetrate the disguise and see Jesus in the enemy. Then, we would not kill and destroy.”

Would that we would pay attention to her words and the words of Isaiah and make of this Lent a time of real conversion – at all levels: personal, community, and world.

Would that we turn from war and violence and injustice and seek the God of mercy and justice.

Today we can also remember a woman who did that, living and working in the Amazon. On February 12, 2005, Sister Dorothy Stang was killed for her defense of peasants and small farmers. See my blog post a year ago.

Sister Dorothy saw the face of Christ in the poor. As she prayed:

I light a candle and look at Jesus on the cross and ask for the strength to carry the suffering of the people. Don’t worry about my safety. The safety of the people is what’s important.

Eileen Egan asked us to see the face of Christ in the enemy.

What better way to spend Lent – contemplating the face of Christ and responding in mercy and solidarity.

 

A martyr to give us hope

Dorothy-StangTen years ago today, a 73-year old US Sister of Notre Dame de Namur was gunned down on a rural path in the state of Para in Brazil. Sister Dorothy Stang had spent almost forty years as a missionary in Brazil.

She worked with the Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission and had worked for many years with the rural villagers and workers, accompanying them as they faced the onslaughts of ranchers, loggers, and other powerful economic interests. She recognized that this was a struggle not only for the land, the environment, but also for the people on the land.

She had received death threats as early as the 1990s but she continued her work, accompanying the people and denouncing the injustices they were suffering.

She knew that it was dangerous but she felt that God called her there.

I don’t want to flee, nor do I want to abandon the battle of these farmers who live without any protection in the forest.  They have the sacrosanct right to aspire to a better life on land where they can live and work with dignity while respecting the environment.

The story of her death seems to come out of the early stories of martyrs.

She was on her way to a meeting in a rural community when her path was blocked by two hired gunmen. She took out her bible and began to read the Beatitudes. At that point she was shot and killed. She had to know that they were going to kill her, but she responded with such peace –

Blessed are the peacemakers…

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice…

Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice…

Blessed are those who have the spirit of the poor…

I pray and hope that I may have the same peace and presence that she had when she faced death.

I think the way that I can prepare myself is to pray as she did:

I light a candle and look at Jesus on the cross and ask for the strength to carry the suffering of the people. Don’t worry about my safety. The safety of the people is what’s important.

I do believe that accompanying the people and looking to the suffering Savior are keys to peace and to a life of love.

So today I want to celebrate the death of a modern martyr – with a renewed commitment to mission.

I do it with joy, and hope, realizing that Sister Dorothy was killed near a settlement named Boa Esperança – Good Hope.

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A short biography of Sister Dorothy can be found on her congregation’s site: here.