Archive for the ‘Martyrs of Latin America’ Category

Feast of the Martyrs of El Mozote (December 11)   1 comment

Above:  Flag of El Salvador

Image in the Public Domain

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MARTYRED IN EL MOZOTE, EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 11 AND 12, 1981

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They did not die.  They are with us, with you, and with all humanity.

–English translation of the inscription on the memorial, El Mozote, El Salvador; quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 541

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The El Salvadoran Civil War started after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero on March 24, 1980, and lasted until 1992.  The U.S. Government supported the repressive El Salvadoran government, which had ordered the murder of Romero, among many others.  The  number of dead civilians during the civil war was about 75,000.  Many Roman Catholic priests, lay people, and religious who advocated for the poor and oppressed were among the targets of official repression; they were allegedly communists.   They were actually following Christian morality.

There were also Protestants in El Salvador.  Many of them became targets of official repression, also.  Some of them lived in the village of El Mozote, about half of which was Protestant.  Many of these Protestants, living in the guerrilla-dominated province of Morazán, vainly attempted to be neutral.  Soon they learned horribly that, as Howard Zinn said,

You can’t be neutral on a moving train.

The population of the village increased because of the influx of refugees.  In December 1981, at the time of the massacre, about 1000 people lived in El Mozote.

Atlacati Batallion, created at the infamous School of the Americas, Fort Benning, near Columbus, Georgia, U.S.A., was conducting the ironically named Operation Rescue.  They were searching for guerrillas whom they suspected of hiding in El Mozote.  The questioning of villagers on December 10 yielded no information, for no guerrillas were present.  During two days (December 11 and 12), the soldiers brutally murdered all but one inhabitant.  They raped, decapitated, dismembered, et cetera.

The sole survivor was Rufina Amaya (1943-March 6, 2007), who watched as her family died terribly.  She also overheard soldiers discussing the faith of their victims.  Soldiers raped and shot one young girl repeatedly.  She sang until soldiers hacked her neck with machetes.

The massacre at El Mozote was the worst and largest massacre in modern Latin American history.  Rufina told her story.  Many journalists investigated and reported it.  The Reagan Administration and many conservative allies in the private sector downplayed the massacre, criticized the guerrillas instead, and sought to discredit journalists who reported the events of the massacre.

Rufina lived in Honduras from 1985 to 1990 then returned to El Salvador.  She never returned to live in El Mozote, however.  The village, abandoned for years, eventually became an active community again.  Rufina, who became a Roman Catholic lay minister, died on March 6, 2007.  Forensic evidence confirmed her reports, despite what the Reagan Administration, et cetera, claimed.

The blood of the martyrs cries out from the earth and belies the claims of those who defended the government of El Salvador.

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God of the martyrs, the oppressed, the poor, and the downtrodden,

we respond with justifiable moral outrage at accounts of massacres,

such as the one at El Mozote, El Salvador, in 1981.

We also recoil in disgust at the indifference of the United States Government

to that atrocity and to federal support for that brutal regime.

May we translate our anger and disgust into positive action,

demanding that our governments live up to the highest ideals of moral conduct at home and abroad.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Jeremiah 17:14-18

Psalm 10

Revelation 6:9-11

Matthew 2:13-18

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WASHINGTON GLADDEN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF FERDINAND QUINCY BLANCHARD, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY MONTAGU BUTLER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JACQUES FERMIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

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Feast of Maura Clarke and Her Companions (December 2)   4 comments

Above:  Flag of El Salvador

Image in the Public Domain

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MARY ELIZABETH CLARKE (JANUARY 3, 1931-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

ITA FORD (APRIL 23, 1940-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

DOROTHY LU KAZEL (JUNE 30, 1939-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

JEAN DONOVAN (APRIL 10, 1953-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

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U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 2, 1980

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What do you do when even to help the poor, to take care of the orphans, is considered an act of subversion by the government?

–Jean Donovan, December 1, 1980

One becomes a martyr.

These four women served God faithfully, especially among poor people, and followed Jesus to death.  Each one took up her cross and followed Christ.

The Cold War made for morally untenable compromises.  During U.S. presidential administrations of both major parties, the federal government supported brutal military dictatorships that targeted those who worked among the desperately poor.  The rationale for supporting such repressive regimes was that at least they were not communists.  One of these governments ran El Salvador.  Military death squads executed many, who in the name of Christ, worked with the poor, as well as many of those poor civilians, all in the name of fighting communism.

Dorothy Lu Kazel (1939-1980) had been Sister Laurentine of the Ursulline Sisters of Cleveland, Ohio, since 1960.  The native of Cleveland had taught at the Sacred Heart Academy in East Cleveland (starting in 1965) and taught catechism to deaf students at the St. Martin de Porres Center, Glennville, Ohio.  After serving as a missionary to the Papago tribe in Arizona in 1969, Kazel returned to Cleveland and earned her M.A. in counseling (1974).  That year she worked briefly at the Beaumont School for Girls, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  In 1974 she joined a mission of the Diocese of Cleveland to El Salvador.  In that country Kazel, workin with the poor in dangerous circumstances, became “Madre Dorthea.”

Jean Donovan was a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in El Salvador.  She, born in Westport, Connecticut, on April 10, 1953, had been a business consultant in Cleveland, Ohio.  Donovan, having earned her M.A. in Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University, had gone to work for the firm of Arthur Andersen.  She had also begun to  volunteer with poor people in Cleveland.  The call to serve God in the poor took precedence.  Donovan quit her job, joined the Maryknolls, and trained to become a missionary.  She arrived in El Salvador in July 1979.

Donovan and Kazel worked together in El Salvador.  They were some of those who kept vigil with the casket of St. Oscar Romero (1917-1980) in March 1980.  They witnesses the military attack on the large crowd at his funeral on March 30, 1980.  Hundreds suffered injuries and forty-four died.  Donovan and Kazel knew the risks they took daily, and that each day could be their last.

Donovan was no fool, especially about U.S. military helicopters.  Her father build them for a living.  One day in November 1980, Donovan, 27 years old, riding her motorbike, noticed a U.S. military helicopter following her.  She recognized its name and model.  When Donovan asked the U.S. Ambassador about the helicopter, he denied the presence of any such equipment in the country.

Maura Clarke and Ita Ford were Maryknoll Sisters.

Clarke, born in Queens, New York, New York, on January 13, 1931, was a daughter of Irish immigrants.  She joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1950 and made her vows in 1953.  After graduating from the Maryknoll Teachers College in 1954, she taught at St. Antony’s Parish School, in the Bronx.  Then Clarke spent 1959-1977 working with poor people in Nicaragua.  She spent 1977-1980 in the United States as part of a Maryknoll Sisters World Awareness Team.  She worked mostly on the East Coast.  Our saint returned to Nicaragua in 1980.  There she remained consistently until August.

Ita Ford, born in Brooklyn, New York, New York, on April 23, 1940, joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1961, having graduated from Marymount College.  Failing health forced Ford out of the order in 1964, but she returned seven years later.  She worked as an editor at Sadlier publishers from 1964 to 1971.  She rejoined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1971.  The order sent Ford to Chile in 1973, shortly after the CIA-sponsored coup d’état that over threw the Allende government and installed Augusto Pinochet, who terrorized the civilian population for 18 years.  She left Chile for El Salvador in 1980, shortly after the assassination of Archbishop Romero.  In El Salvador Ford worked with Sister Carol Piette (September 29, 1939-August 23, 1980).  Piette and Ford were escorting a recently released prisoner to his home when they became caught up in a flood.  Piette gave her life to save those of Ford and the former prisoner.

Ford joined with Clarke in Nicaragua later that month.  Ford returned to Chalatango, El Salvador, with Clarke replacing Piette.  Later the women returned to Nicaragua briefly.  They returned to El Salvador on December 2, 1980.  Kazel and Donovan met them at the airport.

Soldiers abducted the women, beat all of them, raped Kazel and Donovan, and shot each woman in the back of her head.

The U.S. Government’s response was inconsistent.  The Carter Administration, set to expire in just over a month, suspended military aid to El Salvador.  Its policy toward brutal governments in El Salvador had been inconsistent, despite Carter’s pronouncements about the importance of human rights in foreign policy.  The Carter Administration had long been aware of the El Salvadoran death squads.  Archbishop Romero’s martyrdom in March 1980 had prompted international outrage.  The Reagan Administration, which did not link human rights to foreign policy in Latin America, restored military assistance and never pressured the government of El Salvador to respect the human rights of its citizens or those of the United States.  At least the government of El Salvador, with its death squads, was fighting communists, right?  The Carter Administration’s hypocrisy and the Reagan Administration’s indifference regarding human rights in Central America were both objectionable, but the former was preferable to the latter.

Clarke reflected,

One cries out, “Lord, how long?  And then too what creeps into my mind is the little fear or big, that when it touches me very personally, will I be faithful?”

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 526

All four women were faithful to the end.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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Almighty God, who gave to your servants Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan

boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of the world, and courage to die for this faith:

Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us,

and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2 Esdras 2:42-48

Psalm 126 or 122

1 Peter 3:14-18, 22

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 713

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Feast of Ignacio Ellacuria and His Companions (November 16)   5 comments

Above:  The Flag of El Salvador

Image in the Public Domain

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FATHER IGNACIO ELLACURÍA (NOVEMBER 9, 1930-NOVEMBER 16, 1989)

FATHER IGANCIO MARTÍN-BARÓ (NOVEMBER 7, 1942-NOVEMBER 16, 1989)

FATHER JUAN RAMON MORENO PARDO (AUGUST 29, 1933-NOVEMBER 16, 1989)

FATHER AMANDO LÓPEZ QUINTANA (1936-NOVEMBER 16, 1989)

FATHER SEGUNDO MONTES MOZO (MAY 13, 1933-NOVEMBER 16, 1989)

FATHER JOAQUIN LÓPEZ Y LÓPEZ (AUGUST 16, 1918-NOVEMBER 16, 1989)

JULIA ELBA RAMOS (DIED NOVEMBER 16, 1989)

CELINA MARICET RAMOS (1973-NOVEMBER 16, 1989)

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ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR, NOVEMBER 16, 1989

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This is my country and these are my people….The people need to have the church stay with them in these terrible times–the rich as well as the poor.  The rich need to hear from us, just as do the poor.  God’s grace does not leave, so neither can we.

–Father Segundo Montes Mozo, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 500

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These saints come to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1989).  Perhaps Holy Mother Church will formally recognize these martyrs eventually, but I do so today.

In this post I choose to focus on making a few comments and to leave the biographies to a source that provides ample information.  Follow this link for that invaluable information, O reader.

During the El Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992), the U.S.-supported government of El Salvador, as a policy, murdered 75,000 civilians.  The list of martyrs of El Salvador is, of course, lengthy, including Father Rutilio Grande Garcia (1928-1977) and Archbishop Óscar Romero (1917-1980), who died before the civil war, and these eight martyrs, from late in that conflict.  The U.S. government supported that violent government in the context of the Cold War, for the El Salvadoran regime was fighting communist rebels.  However, far-right wing elements within the El Salvadoran military defined “communist” to mean anyone to their left who criticized them.

Six Jesuit priests, living on the campus of the (Jesuit) José Simeon Cañas Central American University, San Salvador, El Salvador, had made themselves thorns in the side of the government, with its policy of murdering civilians.  The priests’ faith required that they speak out against such violence.  In the early hours of November 16, 1989, military personnel murdered the six priests, their housekeeper (Elba Ramos), and her 16-year-old daughter (Celina Ramos).  Ironically, the Ramoses had sought safety from bombings and from violence in the streets; they had hoped to find security with the priests.

These murders backfired on the El Salvadoran government, which initially blamed communist rebels.  International disgust and pressure, including from the U.S. government, led to the negotiated end of the civil war in 1992.

These priests lived their faith.  They lived the incarnation during a civil war.  Their faith led them to martyrdom.  They could have said (and probably did) with Archbishop Helder Camara (1909-1999),

When I feed the poor, they call me saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.

These Jesuit priests and the Ramoses stood in line with Hebrew prophets, Jesus, two millennia of martyrs, Father Grande, Archbishop Romero, Archbishop Camara, and radical Australian Baptist minister Athol Hill (1937-1992).  All of the above stood with God on the side of justice.

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Loving God, why do the just and innocent suffer?

We read and hear ancient theological answers to that question.

Regardless of the truth of any of those answers, they fail to satisfy.

Hasten the age of your justice, we pray, so that

the meek will inherit the earth,

we will beat our swords into plowshares and learn war no more,

artificial scarcity will cease, and

nobody else will have to suffer or die for the love of one’s neighbors.

In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.  Amen.

Joel 3:9-16

Psalm 70

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 6:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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This is post #1700 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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https://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/proper-for-christian-martyrs/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/proper-for-christian-martyrs/

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Feast of James Carney (September 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  Honduras and Nicaragua, 1957

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

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JAMES FRANCIS CARNEY (OCTOBER 28, 1924-SEPTEMBER 16, 1983)

U.S.-Honduran Roman Catholic Priest, Missionary, Revolutionary, and Martyr, 1983

Also known as Padre Guadeloupe

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To be a Christian is to be a revolutionary.

–Father James Carney

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The national security policy that justifies everything that is done in terms of U.S. security is an evil policy.  Father Carney got in trouble because he fell in love with poor people.  Other people get in trouble because they fall in love with riches and power and glory and pomposity.

–Joseph Connolly, brother-in-law of James Carney

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James Francis Carney took up his cross and followed Jesus to his death.

Carney, born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 28, 1924, grew up in a devout and middle-class Roman Catholic family in the Middle West.  He was an altar boy, a football player, and a member of the St. Louis University High School Class of 1942.  Our saint attended St. Louis University on a football scholarship.  While playing the sport he injured a knee; he had a bad knee for the rest of his life.  Myopia and a bad knee did not prevent conscription into the U.S. Army during World War II.  He, serving in the European Theater as a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, found living piously in the military difficult.  The frequent profanity proved especially disturbing.

Carney’s life changed after the war.  In 1946 he resumed studies at St. Louis University for a year.  Our saint matriculated at the University of Detroit, to study civil engineering, in 1947, but left after a year.  Religious life was calling.  While at Detroit Carney first read Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.  He spent the rest of his life synthesizing Christianity and Marxism.  In 1948 our saint matriculated at St. Stanislaus Seminary, Flourissant, Missouri.  Carney joined the Society of Jesus.  He served as a missionary in British Honduras (now Belize) from 1955 to 1958 then studied at St. Mary’s College, St. Mary’s, Kansas.  He became a priest in 1961.

Honduras has a sad political history.  The economically underdeveloped country has a long record of military dictatorships and corrupt and repressive governments.  Poverty is rampant, entrenched, and intergenerational, and institutional.  As in other parts of the former Spanish Empire, relatively few people own most of the land, control the majority of the wealth, and resist attempted at the redistribution of land, wealth, and political power.

From 1961 to 1979 Carney was a missionary priest in Honduras.  He, devoted to Our Lady of Guadeloupe, preferred that the peasants (campesinos) among whom he ministered call him “Padre Guadeloupe.”  Our saint, not content to stop at administering sacraments, became a social and political revolutionary for justice.  He identified with the peasants and lived as they did.  He became active in the peasants’ union, advocated for land reform, became a Honduran citizen, and came to identify as a “Marxist-Christian.”  He criticized the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Honduras for their close relationship with the United Fruit Company, which paid far below a living wage, thereby exacerbating poverty.  Our saint also condemned U.S. imperialism in Latin America.

Carney, after spending a few weeks at St. Louis University in 1979, moved to Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas had recently deposed Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the U.S.-backed dictator.  After spending a few years as a member of a revolutionary society, Carney decided to return to Honduras.  Doing so was dangerous.  The U.S.-supported government there arrested or executed alleged subversives–including leftists, liberals, and union activists.  Death squads were active in the Honduran Army.  This was the government that, according to U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1983, was promoting democracy.  The Honduran government was not promoting democracy while murdering or arresting its politically troublesome citizens.  It was, however, providing a base of operations for the U.S.-backed, anti-Sandinista Contras.

Carney, who resigned from the Society of Jesus in June 1983, had become a committed revolutionary.  He regarded the wealth of the Vatican with disgust and recoiled at bourgeois Christians who supported causes he considered antithetical to the faith.  His pacifism was gone; some violence was sadly necessary, Carney understood.

On July 19, 1983, Carney returned to Honduras as the chaplain to a small band of guerrillas.  The Honduran Army captured or killed the unit quickly; Carney disappeared.  There were, over the years, various proposed fates for Padre Guadeloupe.  The most likely one was that, on Friday, September 19, 1983, the Honduran Army, having tortured Carney, threw him out of a helicopter above a mountain.  Perhaps the priest died when he hit the ground.

Officially, nobody recovered Carney’s physical remains–just his stole and chalice.

Carney’s family has attempted to learn of his fate and what the U.S. Government knows about it.  A federal judge, citing national security, dismissed a lawsuit.  Requests under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed answers, but mostly indirectly.  In 1999 the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) released many pages of documentation; 75 of those pages were entirely blacked out.  Members of the the family have also had good reasons to suspect that the federal government has tapped their telephones.

The truth of the matter seems clear, especially considering the many redactions and the appeals to national security:  The Honduran Army executed Carney with the support of the U.S. Government, which does not want to admit this.

Carney, in his 1983 autobiography, “The Metamorphosis of a Revolutionary,” wrote:

Since my novitiate, I have asked Christ for the Grace to be able to imitate him, even to martyrdom, to the giving of my life, to being killed for the cause of Christ.  And I strongly believe that Christ might give me this tremendous Grace to become a martyr for justice.

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 404-405

The United States of America is, unlike many other nation-states, a country founded on high ideals, which the U.S. Government and society has a long record of trampling, unfortunately.  Human nature makes no exceptions because of U.S. citizenship.  When my country is at its best, it seeks to live those ideals, embodied most nobly in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, especially the Fourteenth Amendment.  The case of James Carney’s fate and the subsequent cover-up of U.S. Government knowledge of if poses a difficult question:  If a government founded on high ideals consistently makes a mockery of them, how are citizens supposed to respond to that hypocrisy?

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God of the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless,

we confess our sins, which we have committed either in knowledge or ignorance,

and which have harmed those less fortunate, many of them far away.

We acknowledge that, despite our best intentions,

we are complicit in the sins of our society, governments, institutions, and corporations.

We have the blood of innocents, many of whom we will never encounter, on our hands.

As we praise you and thank you for the moral courage of Father James Carney to take up his cross and follow Christ,

we also pray that you will forgive us and grant us the necessary grace

to confess and repent of our sins, and to act, as you lead us, to help the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless.

We pray through Jesus of Nazareth, executed unjustly as a criminal and a threat to imperial security.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Amos 8:4-8

Psalm 15

Revelation 18:9-20

Luke 6:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH PAYSON PRENTISS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JEREMY TAYLOR, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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This is post #1600 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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Feast of St. Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador (March 24)   5 comments

assassination_of_oscar_romero

Above:  The Scene Immediately After the Assassination of Archbishop Romero

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT OSCAR ROMERO ARNULFO Y GALDEMEZ (AUGUST 15, 1917-MARCH 24, 1980)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador

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I have frequently been threatened with death.  I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection.  If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.

Martyrdom is a great gift from God that I do not believe I have earned.  But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life then may my blood be the seed of liberty, and a sign of the hope that will soon become a reality….A bishop will die, but the church of God–the people–will never die.

–Archbishop Romero, quoted in All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 133

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This feast exists in various denominations.  From Roman Catholic websites I know of the beatification of Romero on May 23, 2015, and of the fact of decades of official suspicion that he was a Marxist.  And, based on my library, I know the following statements to be accurate:

  1. The Episcopal Church observes the feast of “Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, 1980,  and the Martyrs of El Salvador.”
  2. The Church of England keeps the feast of “Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, Martyr, 1980.”
  3. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada observe the feast of “Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Bishop of El Salvador, 1980.”

Furthermore, Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints (1979), places Romero’s feast on March 24, the same date of the saint’s feast on the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Church of England calendars.

Addendum (09/09/2018):  Pope Francis will canonize Romero on October 14, 2018.

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Archbishop Oscar Romero became a martyr for challenging the repressive government of El Salvador which had death squads that targeted civilians.  The U.S. Government, for reasons of Cold War politics, provided military aid to this regime during the Carter and Reagan Administrations.  The Cold War provided cover for a multitude of murders, apparently.

Romero, born at Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel, El Salvador, on August 15, 1917, became an apprentice to a carpenter at the age of 13 years.  The following year our saint discerned a vocation to the priesthood; he began to prepare for it.  Romero studied in El Salvador at in Rome.  Our saint, ordained a priest on April 4, 1942, became a parish priest in his homeland.  He also served as the diocesan secretary at San Miguel.

The episcopate summoned.  On April 25, 1970, Romero became the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador.  He left that post on October 15, 1974, to become the Bishop of Santiago de Maria.  There he began to liberalize.  Romero had been suspicious of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) and of the call (from 1968) of Archbishop Helder Camara for the Church to advocate for social justice for the poor and the oppressed, not to identify with those who oppress them.  Despite Romero’s gradual shift to the left (in progress), he remained relatively conservative when he became the Archbishop of San Salvador on February 3, 1977.

Romero’s move to the left accelerated soon after he became archbishop.  On March 12, 1977, government gunmen assassinated Father Rutilio Grande, a priest committed to social justice for campesinos.  The following Sunday the archbishop suspended Masses in the capital city and demanded the punishment of the guilty.  Romero became a vocal opponent of the regime, which killed civilians as a matter of policy; he was the “Voice of the Voiceless.”  The junta that seized power in 1979 did not cease the repression.  Early in 1980 our saint wrote President Jimmy Carter and requested that the U.S. Government halt military aid to the government of El Salvador.  This did not endear the archbishop to the Salvadoran regime, of course.

On Sunday, March 23, 1980, in a homily, Romero effectively signed his death warrant.  He said in part:

I would like to appeal in a special way to the men of the army, and in particular to the troops of the National Guard, the Police, and the garrisons.  Brothers, you belong to our own people.  You kill your own brother peasants; and in the face of an order to kill that is given by a man, the law of God should prevail that says:  Do not kill!  No soldier is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God.  No one has to comply with an immoral law.  It is time ow that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin.  The Church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of the dignity of the human person, cannot remain silent before so much abomination.

We want the government to seriously consider that reforms mean nothing when they come bathed in so much blood.  Therefore, in the name of God, and in the name of the longsuffering people, whose laments rise to heaven everyday more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God:  stop the repression!

–Translated by Nena Terrell and Sally Hanlon; quoted in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, editors, Cloud of Witnesses (2005), pages 278-279

The following day, Monday, March 24, 1980, Romero preached his final homily at a hospital chapel in San Salvador.  He said in part:

“God’s reign is already present on earth in mystery.  When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection.”

That is the hope that inspires Christians.  We know that every effort to better society, especially when so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.

–Translated by James R. Brockman, S.J. and quoted in The Violence of Love:  The Pastoral Wisdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero (San Francisco, CA:  Harper & Row, 1988), page 242

A government gunman assassinated Romero after the completed that homily.

Civil War began later that year and continued until 1992.  The government of El Salvador (the one receiving military aid from the United States Government) killed more than 75,000 civilians as a matter of policy.  Among those murdered by death squads were Roman Catholic priests, members of Roman Catholic orders, and lay people associated with them.

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Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,

If thou wouldst my disciple be;

Deny thyself, the world forsake,

And humbly follow after me.

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Take up thy cross; let not its weight

Fill thy weak spirit with alarm;

My strength shall bear thy spirit up,

And brace thine heart and nerve thine arm.

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Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,

Nor let thy foolish heart rebel;

The Lord for thee the cross endured,

To save thy soul from death and hell.

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Take up thy cross then in his strength;

And calmly every danger brave;

‘Twill guide thee to a better home,

And lead to victory o’er the grave.

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Take up thy cross and follow him,

Nor think till death to lay it down;

For only he who bears the cross

May hope to wear the glorious crown.

Charles William Everest (1814-1877), 1833, altered

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Oscar Romero took up his cross and followed Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION, WITNESS TO THE CRUCIFIXION

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Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor,

and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope:

Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador,

we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life,

even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,

be praise and glory now and for ever.  Amen.

–Isaiah 2:5-7

Psalm 31:15-24

Revelation 7:13-17

John 12:23-32

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 287

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Feast of Rutilio Grande (March 12)   2 comments

rutilio-grande

Above:  Father Rutilio Grande Garcia

Image in the Public Domain

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RUTILIO GRANDE GARCIA (JULY 5, 1928-MARCH 12, 1977)

Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr in El Salvador

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It is a dangerous thing to be a Christian in our world.

–Father Grande, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 113

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Father Rutilio Grande Garica, born into an impoverished family at El Paisanal, El Salvador, on July 5, 1928, identified with and worked among the poor and the oppressed, who were numerous in El Salvador, a nation-state with a long history of repressive military rule and a veneer of representative government.  His activism cost him his life.

Grande knew when he was an adolescent that he had a vocation to the priesthood.  At the age of 17 years he joined the Society of Jesus.  Our saint, ordained a priest in 1959, thought at first that his priestly vocation was to model perfection.  During the 1960s, however, he changed his mind.  His priestly vocation, he concluded, was actually to model loving service and self-sacrifice.

Grande became a leftist priest unpopular with the conservative Roman Catholic establishment that supported the repressive governments of El Salvador.  In 1965 he began to serve as the director of social action projects at the seminary in San Salvador, the capital.  Our saint, who held that position for nine years, used it to encourage future priests to not to seek prestige but instead to spend time with the rural poor and to identify with them.  This alarmed enough prominent people to lead to our saint’s reassignment as parish priest in the small town of Aguilares.  There he trained catechists and preached against social injustice, such as that of the variety that was government policy.  This angered local elites, who sought to have him silenced.

Grande preached a crucial sermon at a Mass in honor of Father Mario Bernal, a Colombian-born priest whom the government had recently arrested and deported without charges.  On February 13, 1977, our saint condemned the government of El Salvador, the feudal conditions under which it condemned the majority of the people to live, and the hypocrisy of professing Christians who tolerated these realities.  He said, in part:

I’m quite aware that very soon the Bible and the gospel won’t be allowed to cross our borders.  We’ll get only the bindings, because all the pages are subversive.  And I think that if Jesus himself came across the border at Chalatenango, they wouldn’t let him in.  They would accuse the Man-God, the prototype of man, of being a rabble-rouser, a foreign Jew, one who confused the people with exotic and foreign ideas, ideas against democracy–that is, against the wealthy minority, the clan of Cains!  Brothers, without any doubt, they would crucify him again.  And God forbid that I be one of the crucifiers!

–Quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), page 114

Within a month Grande was dead.  He was driving a campesino and an adolescent boy in his van when government gunmen used machine guns to kill them.  This was the first time the El Salvadoran government had murdered a priest; it was certainly not the last.  Grande’s death prompted his friend, Oscar Romero, the new Archbishop of San Salvador, to speak out against government brutality toward the people.  Romero followed our saint in martyrdom three years later.

Our Lord and Savior commanded his followers to take up their crosses and follow him.  Rutilio Grande Garcia took up his cross and followed Christ to his own Golgotha, one with bullets, not nails.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Rutilio Grande Garcia,

to work for justice among people and nations,

for the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Antonio Valdivieso (February 26)   Leave a comment

map-of-the-world-1596

Above:  Map of the New World (1596), by Theodor de Bry

Image in the Public Domain

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ANTONIO VALDIVIESO (1495-FEBRUARY 26, 1550)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Leon and Martyr

Antonio Valdivieso, born at Burgos, Spain, in 1495, was a Spanish Dominican priest and a disciple of Bartolome de Las Casas (1474/1484-1566), who also defended the rights of indigenous people.  Valdevieso arrived in Nicarague in 1544.  He confronted the governor and other colonial officials who oppressed the native people.  Our saint went so far as to return to Spain and express his concerns to King Charles I/Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1516-1556) in person.  The monarch made our saint the Bishop of Leon and sent him back to Nicaragua in 1545.  Valdivieso suspected that this was effectively a death sentence.  He was correct.  Our saint continued to oppose the governor and his administration in person.  Valdivieso, based at the cathedral in Leon, made himself a thorn in the side of officialdom.  On Ash Wednesday (February 26),  1550, the governor and some henchmen killed our saint and two other Dominicans.  Valdivieso became the first bishop in the Americas to die for the rights of indigenous people.

He was one of many Roman Catholic clerics to lay down their lives for that just cause.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Ever-loving God, by your grace and power your holy martyr

Antonio Valdivieso triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death;

strengthen us with your grace that we may faithfully witness to Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Amen.

2 Chronicles 24:17-21

Psalm 3 or 116

Hebrews 11:32-40

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), pages 680-681

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