Feast of Joao Bosco Burnier (October 13)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Germane Region of Brazil

Scanned and Cropped by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

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JOÃO BOSCO PENIDO BURNIER (JUNE 12, 1917-OCTOBER 12, 1976)

Brazilian Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1976

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The history of salvation is nothing more than the accumulation of the responses of individual men and women to the call of their baptism.

–João Bosco Burnier, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 443

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João Bosco Burnier comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997).

Burnier led a life defined by love of Jesus and his fellow human beings, especially “the least of these.”  He, born in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Brazil, on June 12, 1917, was the fifth of nine children.  Our saint, who joined the Society of Jesus at age 19, graduated from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.  He, ordained in Rome in 1946, wanted to be a missionary in Brazil.  First, though, he had other assignments.  Burnier was the Jesuit Assistant for Latin America (-1954).  Then our saint was the Jesuit Vice Provincial for the province that spanned the states of Goias, Minas Gerais, and Espiritu Santo (1954-1959).  Next, Burnier was a novice master and spiritual director (1959-1965).  He, as a member of the Brazilian Roman Catholic Indigenous Missionary Council (CIM), advocated for the rights of indigenous people.

Finally, in 1966, Burnier got to become a missionary.  He, based in the region of Mato Grosso, carved out of the Amazon rain forest, ministered to the Bakairi and Xavante people in the state of Minas Gerais.  Our saint understood how to succeed as a missionary in his context:

We must adapt ourselves to the culture of the Indian in order to transmit the gospel, or to discover within the life of the Indians the gospel values.

–Burnier, quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 444

Burnier also conducted his missionary work in the context of the military dictatorship (1964-1985).

One of Burnier’s allies was his bishop.  Pedro Casaldáligo (February 16, 1928-August 8, 2020) was the Bishop of São Felix do Araguala (1971-2005).  Casaldáligo lived simply.  He defended the rights of the poor and of the indigenous peoples.  The bishop also embraced Liberation Theology and openly opposed the military dictatorship.  He was, according to enemies, a communist.  (Communism had a flexible definition, depending on who was calling someone else a communist, apparently.)

I have, by the way, added Bishop Casaldáligo to my list of people to consider seriously for inclusion on this Ecumenical Calendar.

In October 1976, Father Burnier and Bishop Casaldáligo were traveling together after having attended an ecclesiastical meeting.  They were visiting towns and villages, and enjoying doing so.  On October 11, the duo arrived in the small town of Ribeirão Bonito, Mato Grosso.  While there, they learned that police were torturing two peasant women in the jail.

The priest and the bishop did what any decent Christian men would do; they went immediately to the jail and confronted the police officers.  The officers accused Father Burner and Bishop Casaldáligo of being communists.  One officer pistol-whipped the priest.  Then the officer shot the priest in the neck.  Burnier died in the neurological unit in Goiania, Goias, Brazil, the next day.  Our saint was 59 years old.

Local peasants erected a memorial to Father Burnier on the site of his shooting.  On a cross they inscribed (in Portuguese, of course):

On 11 Oct. 76 in this place of Ribeirão Bonito, Mato Grosso, was assassinated Father Joāo Bosco Burnier, for defending the liberty of the poor.  He died, like Jesus Christ, offering his life for our liberation.

–Quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 445

Jesus said:

Take up your cross and follow me.

Jesus said:

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s brother.

Jesus also said:

When you did it for the least of these, my brethren, you did it for me.

Father Joāo Bosco Burnier laid down his life for two peasant women he never met.  He did this without hesitation.

No greater love, indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT TIKHON OF MOSCOW, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF JAY THOMAS STOCKING, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MONTFORD SCOTT, EDMUND GENNINGS, HENRY WALPOLE, AND THEIR FELLOW MARTYRS, 1591 AND 1595

THE FEAST OF RANDALL DAVIDSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Gracious Lord, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives for the message of your love.

Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel

[like your servant João Bosco Burnier]

whose faithfulness led them in the way of the cross,

and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives

to your Son’s victory over sin and death;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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