Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Hour and Time for Mental Ecology

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

On February 2nd, 2007, in Paris, upon hearing the results of the study on global warming released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), then President Jacques Chirac said: "As never before, we must take the word "revolution" literally. If we don't, we jeopardize the future of Earth and Humanity." Before him, other voices like Gorbachev and Claude Levi-Strauss -- shortly before he died -- warned: "Either we change civilizational values or the Earth could continue without us."

This is the hidden point in the global forums, especially in Copenhagen. If openly acknowledged, it would involve self-condemnation of the type of production and consumption with its current world culture. It's not enough for the IPCC to say that, for the most part, the now irreversible warming is caused by humans. This is a generalization that hides the real culprits: the men and women who formulated, implemented and globalized the mode of production of material goods and consumption styles that involve the depredation of nature, a glaring lack of solidarity between the current and future generations.

There is little point wasting time and words on technical solutions and policies to reduce levels of greenhouse gases if we continue this type of civilization. It is as if a voice were to say: "Stop smoking, or else you will die" and another voice says otherwise: "Continue smoking since it helps production which helps to create jobs that help ensure the wages that help consumption that helps increase the GDP." And so merrily, as in the days of old Noah, we are going towards a pre-announced flood.

We are not so obtuse as to say we do not need policy and technology. We need them a lot, but it is illusory to think that the solution is in them. They must be included in a different paradigm of civilization that does not reproduce the current evils. Therefore, an environmental ecology that sees the problem in the environment and on Earth, is not enough. Earth and the environment are not the problem. We are the problem, the true Satan to the Earth, when we should be its guardian angel. So it's important to create a revolution, as Chirac said. But how to create a revolution without revolutionaries?

They need to be raised. And how we lack an ecological Paulo Freire! He wisely said something that applies to our case: "It is not education that will change the world. Education will change people who are going to change the world." We need revolutionary people, else let us prepare for the worst, because the prevailing system is completely insane, it has become stupid, arrogant and blind to its own shortcomings. It is the darkness and not the light of the tunnel in which we find ourselves.

In this context we invoke one of the four trends of ecology (environmental, social, mental, integral): mental ecology. It works with what's in our mind and heart. What is the worldview that we have? What values guide our lives? Do we cultivate a spiritual dimension? How should we relate to each other and with nature? How do we preserve the vitality and integrity of our shared home, Mother Earth?

A few lines are not enough to outline the main design of mental ecology, something which we have done in several books and videos. The first step is to assume the legacy of the astronauts who saw the Earth from outside and realized that Earth and humanity form a single and inseparable entity, part of a cosmic whole. The second is to know that we are Earth that feels, thinks and loves, which is why homo (man and woman) comes from humus (fertile land). Third, that our mission among all beings is to be the guardians and those responsible for the happy or tragic fate of this Earth, which has become our Common Home. The fourth is that along with the natural capital that ensures our material welfare must come the spiritual capital, which ensures those values without which we do not live humanely, such as goodwill, cooperation, compassion, tolerance, right measure, containment of desire, basic caring and love.

Here are some of the axes supporting a new civilizing attempt, lover of life, nature and Earth. Either we learn these things out of conviction, or we'll do it by suffering. This is the path that history is showing us.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Remembering Mary Daly

by Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Un Manament Nou Blog
January 7, 2010

Mary Daly, a doctor of theology and philosophy, a pioneer of radical feminism and feminist theology with her The Church and the Second Sex (1968) has died at age 81 after two years of illness.

I met her only once, while studying in the USA. It must have been in 1996. Daly was still a professor at Boston College then and came to give a speech at the Harvard School of Theology. I had been studying a year there and was overwhelmed by the politically correct armor found there. Daly's speech was a breath of fresh air, a moment of epiphany as simple and neat as herself.

She was rather short, with the look of a friendly and harmless aunt until she started talking. I remember that I stared incredulously at her "cowboy" boots with metal ornaments, while I heard her speak of the snake-shaped vibrations connecting the audience with the speaker or the students with the teacher and in general, all those who carry on a conversation. I have heard and seen these snakes many times. Sometimes I experience them as a spiderweb that wraps around me and limits movement and sight, other times they are real rays of light that are dancing all around and they uncover heights and hollows where everything seemed flat.

Mary Daly was a philosopher-poet. Calling her a philosopher-poet is redundant -- even though she was a professor of philosophy and not of poetry, it is not possible to be a philosopher without it.

Mary Daly loved the word and admired its ability to create worlds without falling into subjectivism, without ever losing contact with the material world and its nature. I think it is on the back cover of Pure Lust that Daly appears, stroking a black cat, laughing, backed into a tree trunk and with a finger clearly pointing to the earth, like Aristotle in Raphael's famous painting. Like her, I too have been moved by the novelty that Aristotle represented in the classical world and Thomas Aquinas in the medieval world. I think this innovation contains the core of so-called Western thought and even the dignity of what is material and anti-spiritualism. It includes the dignity of the body and is specific - as Daly has taught us while correcting her teachers and maintaining her position without giving an inch on respect for women's bodies. Basic, fundamental respect which is the pending issue of every generation, even in the 21st century. Respect without which the respect for the bodies and work of children, subordinates, immigrants and the poor is not possible. Respect for women's bodies without which social justice is not possible and what is proclaimed in the Eucharist would be a lie: that God has a body to which we belong without exclusions or subordinations whatsoever and that it is through this body and its wounds that we are writing our history.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sr. Teresa Forcades: The Christmas Eve Program

Sr. Teresa Forcades participated in a Christmas Eve edition of the l'Ofici de Viure program on Catalunya Radio with Eva Juan in which they talked about communication difficulties in families during the holidays and Teresa also answers questions about how her fame has affected her life and about her plans for the upcoming year. At the end of the program, Eva Juan thanks Teresa for being a "sign of hope". We concur. Those who understand Catalan can listen to the program here:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

U.S. Bishops Announce Push for Immigration Reform in 2010

The announcement is out and conservative media are already focusing on an alleged division between the hierarchy and the faithful supposedly reflected in a poll conducted by Zogby International on behalf of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies. The America's Voice blog was quick to point out CIS' lack of objectivity and cast suspicions on the integrity of their poll.

And now from the USCCB:

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on January 6, announced steps to push for the enactment of immigration reform legislation in 2010. Bishop John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah, and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, bishop of Albany, New York, and chairman of the International Policy Committee of the USCCB, made the announcement.

“It is our view, and that of others, that the American public, including the Catholic and other faith communities, want a humane and comprehensive solution to the problems which beset our immigration system, and they want Congress to address this issue,” said Bishop Wester.

Steps announced by Bishop Wester include:

  • The launch of a nationwide postcard campaign under the Justice for Immigrants campaign, with 1.5 million postcards already ordered;
  • The launch of two Web sites, a new Justice for Immigrants Web site with tools for parishes (, and the National Migration Week Web site, which provides other resources (; and
  • A nationwide action alert asking for Congress to enact immigration reform as soon as possible.
Bishop Hubbard, chairman of the International Policy Committee, spoke to the root causes of irregular migration and how the long-term and humane solution to the problem is integral human development.

“The first principle of the U.S. bishops with regard to immigration is that migrants have the right not to migrate---in other words, to be able to find work in their own home countries so they can support their families in dignity,” he said. “Migration should be driven by choice, not necessity.”

Sister Rita Mary Harwood, a Sister of Notre Dame and Secretary for Parish Life and Development in the Diocese of Cleveland, spoke about support for immigration reform in Ohio, where nearly 300,000 postcards will be distributed throughout the state.

“In the end, to stand with those who are frightened, alone or in danger; to educate, to speak with and for, and to pray---this is the message of the Gospel and the work of the Church,” she said.

Sister Mary Beth Hamm, justice coordinator of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Philadelphia, outlined what her religious order and other orders are doing to support immigration reform.

Bishop Wester concluded that the Church will work to make sure that legislators act on this issue in the near future.

“We remain committed to moving immigration reform as soon as possible,” he said. “We hope to make sure that our federal legislators are committed to that goal as well.”

Towards a humble Church

This is the second of a two-part talk by Timothy Radcliffe, OP to priests in the Diocese of Dublin which has been beset by child sex abuse scandals, and reproduced in The Tablet (1/2/2010). The first part of the talk, Our burden to be shared (12/19/2009), is available only to subscribers.

Friendship with Jesus – intimacy – means learning to be gentle and lowly of heart. Then we shall find rest for our souls. But if one thinks of the Catholic Church, the first word that springs to mind might not be “humble”.

I have given retreats for dioceses in 15 countries since I finished my term as Master of the Dominican Order in 2001. The vast majority of priests and bishops whom I have met are simple and unpretentious people who just wish to serve the people of God. But this personal humility has to be sustained in the teeth of a clerical culture, common to all Christian denominations, which stresses rank and power.

This terrible crisis of sexual abuse is deeply linked to the way that power can corrupt human relationships, which is why it touches all the Churches, even if the Catholic Church happens to have been more in the spotlight recently. Celibacy is not, I believe, the source of the crisis, otherwise it would be the case that Catholic priests have a higher rate of offence, which, it seems, we do not. We shall only really address this crisis if we learn from Jesus who is “gentle and lowly of heart”, and find ways of embodying authority which honour the equal dignity of all the baptised, and cherish the weak and vulnerable. Careful vetting of candidates for the priesthood and child-safety procedures are necessary, but they will not get to the root of the problem.

Every institution always seeks to preserve and augment its power, but the philosopher Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age, has traced the genesis of “a culture of control” from the seventeenth century onwards. Society is seen as a mechanism rather than an organism, which needs to be adjusted and manipulated.

Monarchs claimed absolute power even over the Church. Imperial powers took possession of the world; millions of people were enslaved and treated as commodities. Once society has ceased to believe in God’s gentle providential government of the world, then the state must take his place and impose its will. This culture of power is perhaps one reason for the widespread abuse of children in our society. The Church, alas, has often been infected by this same culture of control. This happened partly because the Church has for centuries struggled to defend itself against the powers of this world who want to take it over. From the Roman Empire at the time of its birth until the Communist empires of the twentieth century, the Church has fought to keep hold of its own life, and often ended up by mirroring what it opposed.

We will not have a Church which is safe for the young until we learn from Christ and become again a humble Church in which we are all equal children of the one Father and authority is never oppressive.

At the end of the Middle Ages, the priesthood was in crisis. It was unable to respond to the challenges of a new world of widespread literacy. The parish clergy were poorly educated, sometimes barely able to celebrate the Mass, often living with concubines. The response to this crisis led to an extraordinaryrenewal of the priesthood, with a new spirituality, new seminaries, a more profound theological formation, a new strict discipline. Without this, the Church would have found it hard to survive the rise of Protestantism.

But this Tridentine understanding of priesthood is in its turn showing signs of crisis, of which the sexual abuse scandal is just a symptom. Its stiff clericalism and authoritarianism, unsurprising perhaps in the context of our past battles, do not help the Church now to thrive and be a sign of God’s friendship for humanity. And so we need a new culture of authority, from the Vatican to the parish council, which lifts people up into the mystery of loving equality, which is the life of the Trinity.

Crises are not to be feared. It is through repeated crises that God drew closer to his people. Israel’s worst crisis was the destruction of the Temple and the monarchy, and exile to Babylon … Israel lost everything that gave her identity: her worship, her nationhood. Then she discovered God closer to her than ever before. God was present in the law, in their mouths and hearts, wherever they were, however far from Jerusalem. They lost God only to receive him more closely than they could have imagined.

Then that difficult cross-grained man, Jesus, turned up, breaking the beloved law, eating on the Sabbath, touching the unclean, hanging out with prostitutes. He seemed to smash all that they loved, the very way that God waspresent in their lives. But that was only because God wished to be present even more intimately, as one of us, with a human face. And at every Eucharist, we remember how we had to lose him on the Cross, but again only to receive him more closely, not as a man among us but as our very life.

In the Office of Readings for the first week of Advent, we heard: “For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up and high; against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan; against all the high mountains, and against all the lofty hills, against every high tower, and against every fortified wall” (Isaiah 2:12-15). But this was so that God could dwell again in the midst of his humbled people: “Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed, over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain” (Isaiah 4:5-6).

Painfully, the Lord is demolishing our high towers and our clerical pretensions to glory and grandeur so that the Church may be a place in which we may encounter God and each other more intimately. Jesus promises rest for our souls. Often we priests are consumed by a destructive activism in our service of the people. Indeed, this crisis of sexual abuse may aggravate the temptation to show that we at least are wonderful priests incessantly devoted to our work, always available on our mobile phones. That is salvation by works and not by grace.

Thomas Merton believed that this hyperactivism was a collusion with the violence of our society: “The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence.”

If we let this implicit violence infect our lives, then it will come out somehow. It may overflow into violent words. We may do violence to ourselves through drink. We may fall into sexual violence, and be caught in the horror of abuse of the vulnerable.

So if we face this terrible crisis of sexual abuse with courage and faith, then it may precipitate a profound renewal of the Church. We can discover Jesus’ commandments not as a heavy burden which crushes people but as the invitation to his friendship. We can be liberated from harmful ways of using power in the Church, which are ultimately rooted in secularism, and become more like the Christ who was lowly and humble of heart, and we shall find rest for our souls.

In Memoriam: Feminist Theologian Mary Daly

One of the pioneering Catholic feminist theologians, Mary Daly, has died at 81. Dr. Daly, a professor at Boston College for many years, authored several of the classics in feminist theology: The Church and the Second Sex, Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation, and Gyn/Ecology, the Metaethics of Radical Feminism. There are a growing number of obits out there on Mary. We like this one from Mark Vernon of The Guardian (1/6/2010):

Mary Daly, uppity theologian

Mary Daly, the feminist theologian and philosopher, has died . She was an audaciously creative spirit; an awkwardly witty, deadly serious writer. She arguably did more to stretch what is possible to think in contemporary feminist theology than any other.

Here's a taste of what she was prepared to say. In books like Gyn/Ecology and Beyond God the Father, she envisaged the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the all-male three in one – as an eternal homosexual orgy. She argued that to call God "father" is to make fathers gods, excusing all kinds of horrors from religious totalitarianism to domestic violence. "The character of Vito Corleone in The Godfather is a vivid illustration of the marriage of tenderness and violence so intricately blended in the patriarchal ideal," she wrote in Beyond God the Father. She sought to cause offence, no doubt, though not for it's own sake or to stir a sensation. Rather, her radical reinterpretation dares you to think differently.

I was advised to read her by a professor at Boston College, the Catholic university with which she was uneasily associated for more than 30 years. That's a story in itself, which she wrote about in Amazon Grace: Re-Calling the Courage to Sin Big. My advisor was a Jesuit priest, a man who'd never heard her speak as she banned men from attending her lectures, arguing the act was a just reflection of the long silencing of women. Her performance was as striking as her words.

(It's worth adding that the Boston Jesuits were pretty fearless towards Rome too. Whilst I was staying with them, a missive was issued from the Holy See that had the effect of censoring Catholic institutions. The Jesuits reading of it in their breakfast newspapers protested with the theological equivalent of two fingers. "Rome's a long way from Massachusetts," I recall one saying.)

Theologians have contested Daly's claims, not least feminist theologians who have remained within the Christian tradition. They point out that alongside the male images of God as Father and Son are the more ambiguous ones of God as Spirit. In the Hebrew Bible, the Spirit of God is envisaged as a wise woman, Sophia. Sophia has even been aligned with the person of Christ: at the time of Jesus, she was well established as a symbol of God's relatedness. Paul links the figure of Wisdom with the person of Jesus in 1 Corinthians, arguing that this wisdom, from God, makes the wisdom of the world look foolish. Moreover, it's striking that Paul juxtaposes the true (female) wisdom with the faux-wisdom of (male) scholars, philosophers and wise men – arguably a proto-feminist move.

And yet, Jesus was a man. The female word Sophia lost out to the male word Logos when it came to interpreting the metaphysics of the Son. Daly moved on from Christianity too.

However, there is feminist juice in the Christian stories still, which she implicitly encouraged others to extract. At the heart of the Christian story is the image of a dead man on a cross. He is the victim of male violence – violence in which the God-Father was at least passively complicit. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" the broken figure cries. He is abandoned to the violence of men.

So, the story can be read as transgressive. It's both terrible and hopeful. For a feminist believer, Jesus might be seen as queerly identified with suffering women, thereby offering the hope of redemption by disrupting the cycle of male violence. It's as if the perverse patriarchal ideal of "tender violence", as Daly put it, collapses under the weight of its own hideous contradictions.

Daly might retort that this notion is even more objectionable: the story perpetuates women's reliance on men, even for the alleviation of their suffering. She was not one to let Christian patriarchy off the hook. But at least this reading places responsibility for the violence squarely on the shoulders of men. Daly has inspired a generation to pursue the possibility that Christianity has the capacity to root out its own patriarchy.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Plug and Play Faith

A common acronym among computer tech support people is RTFM. It stands for "Read the F***ing Manual" -- something which most clients, including myself, almost never do. We want to be able to turn our devices on and have them function properly without a lot of programming and effort.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has found the switch from analog to digital TV frustrating. We used to be able to turn on the TV and get an acceptable number of channels immediately, even without cable. No programming a remote control and, in the case of my FIOS control, reprogramming it and reprogramming it ad nauseam. Most of the extra channels I have now are not worth the effort or added expense: shopping, endless evangelical Protestant preachers, B-grade movies, reruns, last year's soccer...

The only thing worse is the portable digital TV I just bought. It can't even find the digital signals for any but a couple of constantly changing channels. I did read the manual and it was worse than useless. It said that I had to take the device outdoors or use it next to a window and far from any other electronic device. This TV is a prissy, finicky piece of junk compared to my old analog one whose worst sin was guzzling batteries.

Change is not always better. It can complicate our lives and make us frustrated. We don't always embrace it willingly.

It is the same with faith. We Catholics like our faith to be "plug and play" too. If we wanted to flip around a written manual, we would have become Episcopalians. One of the beauties of our faith is that we can learn the basics through repetition; we can feel comfortable during Mass with our brains and mouths on autopilot for most of the liturgy. Church is a place where we can relax from the stress of a constantly changing world.

This is why the revised Roman Missal will not go over well. The new responses are awkward. They are imposed from the top and change language that most lay people (and clergy) are content with, while leaving untouched the phrases that are already being changed by popular consent in many parishes because they need to be in order to keep up with modern sensibilities, e.g. the relatively common practice of dropping the unnecessary gender-specific "men" from the Nicene Creed as in "for us men and for our salvation".

Most of all, however, it means CHANGE and it will require us to reprogram our brains and tongues and be vigilant instead of relaxing into the sea of familiar phrases that allows us to tune in to the Word beyond words. As I read about the changes, I feel blessed to be worshipping in a Spanish-speaking community that will not be affected by these revisions. At my age, I don't want to have to memorize a whole new set of responses.

And now we have the new emphasis on the statutes in the Renovación. I suppose we must have statutes to keep the institutional Church happy. I didn't read them beyond one quick preliminary scan when I was coordinator a year ago, neither do most coordinators. Nineteen pages of church legalese is still 18 pages too many. We all learned our job by watching the previous coordinators and either learning from them or trying to avoid their mistakes, along with the occasional correction delivered at the monthly meetings.

I can't tell you what the statutes say and I don't care. Life is complicated enough as it is and, in any case, they don't address our real problems: barely catechized adults who have such an ingrained sense of powerlessness and low self-esteem that they don't volunteer for anything; teenagers who speak a different language, don't want to be there, and sit sullenly throughout the meeting; inadequately supervised and disruptive toddlers; how to balance and evaluate the endless requests for financial assistance and private prayer sessions with the limited resources of the group; and the tensions that spring up between members when things get out of balance and people feel that too much is being asked of them or that so-and-so is not pulling his/her weight...

When these things arise, I don't look to the statutes for answers (which would probably require the gift of interpretation anyway). Instead, I pray and seek the advice of my brothers and sisters in the Lord, especially those who have been in the Renewal for some time. It's quick, it's direct and I don't have to fumble or get frustrated. That is how our faith lives should be.

Earth and Humanity: a shared destiny

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

We have to start the year with hope, because it is necessary to deal with the climate of shock and frustration that marked the COP 15 in Copenhagen. Certainly, global warming involves serious consequences. However, from a more philosophical perspective, the human planetary project would not be destined to be destroyed, but it would be forced to rise to a higher stage to be truly global. It is urgent to move from local to global and national to planetary.

If we look back at the anthropogenesis process, we can state: the current crisis, like previous ones, will not lead to death but to a necessary integration of Earth and Humanity. It will be a geosociety. In that case we would then face a rising sun and not a sunset.

This fact implies a subjective goal: the emergence of global consciousness with the perception that we are a single species occupying a common house, with which we form a common destiny. This has never happened before, it is new to the current phase of history.

It is undeniable that there is an ongoing process that is billions of years old already: the ascent towards consciousness. From the geosphere (Earth) emerged the hydrosphere (water), followed by the lithosphere (continents), then the biosphere (life), anthroposphere (humankind) and for Christians the Christosphere (Christ). Now would be the imminence of another leap in evolution: the emergence of the noosphere which involves a gathering of all peoples in one single place, planet Earth, and with a common global consciousness. Noosphere, as the word suggests (nous in Greek means mind and intelligence), expresses the convergence of minds and hearts, giving rise to a higher and more complex entity.

What we lack, for now, is a Universal Declaration of the Common Good of Earth and Humanity to coordinate the consciences and then make the different policies converge. Until now we have only been thinking about the common good in each country. We extended the horizon by proposing a Declaration of Human Rights. This was the great 20th century cultural struggle. But now there is concern for humanity as a whole and for the Earth, seen not as something inert but as a living superorganism of which we humans are its conscious expression. How to guarantee the rights of the Earth along with the rights of humankind? The Earth Charter that emerged in the early 21st century attempts to answer that demand.

The global crisis demands from us a global government to coordinate global solutions to global problems. Let's hope that totalitarian control centers will not arise, but a network of multidimensional centers of observation, analysis, thought and direction with a goal of overall well-being.

This is only the beginning of a new stage of history, the stage of the Earth united with humanity (which is the conscious expression of the Earth). Or the stage of Humanity (part of the Earth) attached to the Earth itself, together forming a single entity, one and diverse, called Gaia or Great Mother.

Now we are living in the Iron Age of the noosphere, full of contradictions, but even so, we believe that all forces in the universe conspire to reinforce it. Our solar system, perhaps even the entire galaxy, is marching towards it, and even this kind of universe, because according to string theory there may be other, parallel ones. It is fragile and vulnerable, but is full of new energy, able to shape a new future. Perhaps at the moment the noosphere is only a flickering flame, but it represents what should be. And what should be is strong. It tends to come to fulfillment.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Father Miguel Cruzado -- New Jesuit Provincial for Peru

One of the most wonderful trips in my life was going to Paita, Peru, to see Fr. Miguel get ordained before he came back to St. Ann's in Arlington -- his first parish. And now he's one of the youngest provincials in Peruvian Jesuit history! Miguel, ya que estas famoso por favor no nos olvides. Tus amigos aquí en el norte estamos orando por ti para que cumples esta nueva misión con sabiduría y valor. ¡Felicitaciones!

El Tiempo (Peru)

Miguel Cruzado Silveri SJ, a young Jesuit from Paita, an alumnus of the Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola in Piura and the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, was appointed as the new superior of the Peruvian province. The announcement was made public on January 1st, during the Eucharistic celebration for the Day of the Society of Jesus.

The appointment is a decision of Father General Adolfo Nicolás SJ, and Miguel Cruzado thus becomes one of the youngest Jesuits to direct the projects of the Jesuits in Peru for the coming years, which shows the interest of this Catholic congregation in continuing to renew its apostolic mission and social commitment in our country.

Father Miguel will succeed the Spanish Jesuit Carlos Rodriguez Arana SJ at an important stage for the Society of Jesus, which has more than 50 works in various socioeconomic sectors in the country. Miguel's youth, however, is strengthened by a vast spiritual and academic training at prestigious Jesuit institutions.

Defender of the downtrodden

Member of a prominent family from Paita, Miguel Cruzado has been characterized over the years by his boundless sympathy with youth and his staunch defense of the most vulnerable of our country.

In an interview granted in 2005 to the weekly supplement of El Tiempo, he said that his father, Dr. Miguel Cruzado, for whom the main hospital in Paita is named, was one of his closest examples of selflessness, solidarity and social commitment to those who had fewer resources.

"One night they came for my father, a doctor in Paita -- it was at about two in the morning. They were bringing a fisherman hurt by a sea snake that had bitten him horribly (...) Remembering my father, I ask the Lord in this vocation to give me the grace to accompany the people and the communities where they go in difficult times; to go with them when the way forward is not clear, and it isn't for anyone, not for the Church, not even for myself, to accompany the questions, tiredness, doubts, and conflicts of my people."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Adventures in Hispanic Ministry: A Trilogy

1. Bringing hope to Esperanza

Saturday night, I pile into the van with Carlos, the prayer group coordinator, his wife Ana, their three children, and hermano Sebastian. Other members arrive and we crowd into Esperanza’s living room around her home altarcito. Esperanza is a family day care provider and friend of one of the hermanas in our group who has organized this event. She has recently lost two relatives – a 103-year old grandfather-in-law and his 72-year old son. Their photos are on the altar along with an assortment of flickering real and blinking electric candles, an image of the Divine Child, Mary, a cup filled with some sort of liquid offering, a vase of roses, another of purple lilies, a couple of poinsettias, and some odd objects – a little Japanese garden-like bridge, a figurine of a horse-drawn wagon full of produce, and many others whose symbolic significance is only known to Esperanza.

I watch spellbound as Carlos expertly leads us through two rosarios por los difuntos (novenarios, specifically), effortlessly weaving in various popular devotional prayers while barely glancing at his prayer book. He even recites the litany to the Virgin without peeking! This shy accountant turns out to be a proficient rezador – a man in a role that in popular Latino Catholicism is usually performed by women. In between the two rosaries, there is music. We sing alabanzas to the souls of the two departed loved ones and to lift Esperanza’s spirits.

And then Esperanza feeds us: chicken with rice and yucca for the grownups, pizza and juice for the next generation who play video games and chatter with each other in English after standing in silent acquiescent, if not necessarily willing, attention during the prayers. I wonder if these traditional practices will ever mean anything to them. Will they continue them in some way, adapt them to their own needs and language, or scrap them altogether?

2. Escuela

At 7:30 a.m. this morning, over a hundred bleary-eyed members of the Ministerio de Sanación e Intercesión – the backbone of the Spanish charismatic renewal – gather for “school”. I greet old friends in the new year and slip into an inconspicuous corner. “Escuela” is like a regular charismatic prayer group meeting on steroids, followed by the enseñanza (teaching). Today we are getting a refresher on the Renovación’s statutes, the governing rules for this official lay Catholic organization:

Blam!: a blast at political leaders who want to change their country’s constitution to extend their terms in office. Is the speaker talking about Chavez? Zelaya? Who knows? (…but we “are not getting into politics”, oh no!)

Blam!: another blast at those who think there should be women priests…because we are not to criticize our Church, ever. The Holy Father knows best and is always right.

Blam!: a third blast at people who think they can influence clergy appointments by petitions to the bishop, but “they are wasting their time.” Priests are the “property” [sic] of the diocese.

The primary message is that the Catholic Church is NOT a democracy. If other charismatic renewal groups have similar statutes, it’s no wonder the movement was heartily embraced by Cardinal Ratzinger when Pope Paul VI dispatched him to investigate it.

The younger hermanas sitting near me look bored and thumb distractedly through their Bibles. One passes me a note asking for the URL for Fr. Hoyos’ blog. All I want to do is sit and pray for the sick and suffering in the healing Masses just as I do every day privately. This is a high price to pay.

Part of me wants to get up and walk out. The part that wins out, stays and says: “No. It IS possible to be a charismatic and an adult, thinking Catholic at the same time. I refuse to check my intellect and freedom of expression at the door of the Renovación.” I am not going to accept this false, externally-imposed dichotomy between mind and spirit, this definition of “obedience” as silent acquiescence to anything that comes out of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, whether just or unjust. I may be hanging out with the Latino Catholic community but I’m not going to fall into the “así lo quiere Dios” passivity, masquerading as fidelity. And if I ever have to choose between Iglesia Descalza and the Renovación, this blog wins, hands down.

3. Home, Sweet Home

Today at Queen of Peace we are having an early bilingual service so that the Spiritans can get on the road for a meeting of their congregation. I choose to respond in Spanish whenever possible. We get a simple bilingual homily on the Epiphany from Fr. Tim about seeing Christ in the other. Aquí me siento en mi casa. In this church, I am home.

We sing:

“Algo nuevo está naciendo
En mi pueblo está latiendo.
Algo nuevo está naciendo,
Con nosotros va subiendo.
Algo nuevo está naciendo,
Con los pobres va creciendo.”

Something new is being born, beating within my people, growing with the poor. The yoke they bore, the chains they wore, the prison bars they clenched are melted in the fire burning within them. That is what the song says and it ends triumphantly: “Nuestro Dios, SE HIZO PUEBLO!” Our God has been born as one of us, and so our hearts are on fire with a Spirit that will break the bonds both internal and external that hold us captive. You will never hear this song in the Renovación; you won’t hear it in 99% of the Hispanic parishes in this country. But is there a lovelier way of expressing what being touched by God’s Holy Spirit really means?