Monday, August 27, 2007

Hélder Câmara, died 1999

Hélder Câmara, 1909-1999

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist."

His friends called him Dom Helder. His enemies called him the Red Bishop. Even today, the Red specter still haunts our political discourse. For example, if you talk about universal healthcare in the US, some might invoke the specter of "socialized medicine".

His uncompromising commitment to the church of the poor gave us courage to challenge our own culture of middle-class religion. His courage in the face of Brazil’s military regime inspired us to take on the militarism of our own country. And his firm commitment to nonviolence, particularly his political analysis of the "spiral of violence," grounded us in a theory and practice of revolutionary struggle without arms.

Ched Meyers, writing for Sojourners magazine in 1999.

When he died in 1999, the National Catholic Reporter called him a "lover of the poor."

Rosemary Radford Ruether, also a Sojourners writer, tells us that many Latin American bishops came in conservative, and were radicalized by the extreme poverty, violence and suffering. The Roman church has, to its disgrace, silenced many liberation theologians. Câmara focused his seminary on grassroots ministry to the poor, only to see that work and others undone by his right-wing successor.

In the language of Latin Americans who remember the martyrs with the cry "presente!" Helder Câmara, although dead, still lives. He rises again in our remembrance of him to continue to inspire followers.

—Rosemary Radford Ruether

But Pope John XXIII, the guy who started Vatican II, said,

"We are not on earth to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life."

Professor Jeanette Rodriguez put it a bit differently, "God is always pregnant." Gardens flourish, mothers give birth ... God, in other words, is always at work. God cannot be stopped. Câmara knew that. He was content.

"The Spirit of God breaths life into the Abrahamic minorities that already exist in the womb of all races, all religious, all countries and all human groups. Whoever hopes against hope, like Abraham, and decides to work, even sacrifice for a more just and humane world, belongs to these Abrahamic minorities."

Please pray for:

The poor.

All people who seek to advance God's agenda of liberation.

All the above, especially Roman Catholics, who are persecuted by church or secular hierarchies.

The rich, that our ignorance and selfishness may come to an end.

No comments: