JUSTeach Newsletter

November 2004

social justice education

November's Saints are "Peace and Justice" Witnesses!
I.  "Officially Canonized Saints"
November 3:  St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639)
"Justice means giving all people what is due to them.  It means defending their rights to such things as food, clothing, and shelter.  How fitting it is that St. Martin de Porres is the patron of social justice.  Not only did he work to help the poor, but he was poor himself.  Not only did he serve groups of people who were looked down on, but he himself was the victim of prejudice [as a biracial young man]."  (from Saints for Children, Kathleen Glavich, SND, Twenty-Third Publications, 1997).
Martin lived as a poor Dominican brother in Peru, and constantly fed and cared for the poor.  He was canonized in 1962 by Pope John XXIII, and named the patron of interracial and social justice.  At that time the Pope said, " ... He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing, and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm laborers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves.  Thus, he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: Martin of Charity."
Suggested Activity:  "Discuss Prejudice" - Discuss how racial prejudice is built on ignorance and fear.   This same ignorance and fear can keep people from reaching out to others even in their own neighborhood or classroom.   Discuss ways the students can become more alert to prejudice of any kind, and how they themselves can be more hospitable to others.  (Activity and preceding paragraph excerpted from Saints and Feast Days: A Resource and Activity Book, The Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio, Loyola Press, 2004).
November 4:  St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)
"Charles Borromeo was born into a life of wealth and high status [and] at age 22 was named a cardinal!  (Note:  "cardinal" meaning a Church administrator, not an ordained bishop as is the norm today.)  One of Charles' greatest accomplishments was the work he did for the Council of Trent, an attempt by Catholic leaders to correct the wrongs named by the Protestants [in Martin Luther's "95 Theses].  The Council had been suspended, but upon Charles' insistence was reopened.  Many important Church reforms resulted.
When Charles was 25, he experienced a deep change in his spirit following a retreat called the Spiritual Exercises, and began to live a life of strict poverty.  Soon he became the bishop of Milan.  Living by the guidelines the Council of Trent had created, Charles became a kind and wise bishop.  Almost no religious education existed then, but Charles wanted everyone, especially children, to understand their faith.  He began the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) and soon had trained enough catechists to teach 40,000 students.   He also made himself available to the poor and needy, giving to them what remained of his possessions.  Charles Borromeo died at the age of 46, and is the patron saint of catechists and catechumens.
(from Companion to the Calendar, Mary Ellen Hynes, Liturgy Training Publications, 1993)
November 11:  St. Martin of Tours (c. 316-397)
"'I am a soldier of Christ.  It is not lawful for me to fight.'  With these words Martin of Tours identified himself forever as a saint of peace.  He was speaking to the emperor at the time, who then imprisoned him.  Today we would call him a conscientious objector.  Martin laid down his weapons [having followed his father into the army and served in France for 3 years], and spent the rest of his life as a soldier for Christ.  Because of his generous life and the miracles of compassion that he worked, people all over Gaul became Christian.
In the 1980s, the Catholic Bishops of the U.S. wrote a teaching letter on peace [The Challenge of Peace, 1983].  They mentioned Martin as an example of someone with the courage to refuse to do violence.  How fitting that his feast day has become a celebration of peace ... !"  (Note:  Our Veterans' Day holiday, celebrated also on November 11, was originally known as "Armistice Day," the official end of World War I.)  (from Companion to the Calendar - as above)
II.  "Beatitude People" (regarded by some as "modern-day saints")
November 14:  Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (1928-1996)
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin worked diligently for social justice in a changing world. Beginning in 1983, Cardinal Bernardin called for a "consistent ethic of life" in an age when modern technologies threatened the sanctity of all human life at every turn, be it abortion, euthanasia, modern warfare, or capital punishment. Cardinal Bernardin consistently spoke out against the increasing violence in Lebanon, Israel, Northern Ireland, and elsewhere.

In 1985, Cardinal Bernardin established an AIDS task force to determine how the Archdiocese might best care for those stricken by the AIDS crisis. In 1989, the Cardinal dedicated Bonaventure House with the help of the Alexian Brothers, a residential facility for people suffering with AIDS.

(from the Archives of the Archdiocese of Chicago:  www.archives.archchicago.org/jcbbio.htm)
November 16:  Jesuits and Staff at the U. of Central America in El Salvador (1989) 

On November 16, 1989, six prominent Jesuits at the Central America University (UCA) in San Salvador, and two women who had asked to stay on the campus that night for their own safety, were brutally assassinated by Salvadoran soldiers. 

Their names are a litany in the martyrology of Latin America and of the church of El Salvador: Ignacio Ellacurma, Segundo Montes, Amando Lspez, Joaqumn Lspez y Lspez, Juan Ramsn Moreno, Ignacio Martmn-Bars, Elba Ramos, Celina Ramos.

For hundreds, even thousands of North Americans, these murders once again brought the Salvadoran reality close. Many people had visited these Jesuits at the UCA, had heard them speak in their communities, had read their books and their reports, had learned to count on them for the truth about El Salvador.

Each of these martyrs witnessed to God's promise of the fullness of life and the content of that promise -- lives of dignity, peace and joy for every human being, created as they are in God's image. Each witnessed the cruel violence and injustice that destroys that promise for the majority of people in our world.

The vast wealth of the US and its dominance over the global economy, its historic role in Central America supporting military dictators and economic elites, and the witness of these 8 martyrs come together to pose perhaps the most important moral challenge of our time.

(from the website of the Religious Task Force on Central America and Mexico; see www.rtfcam.org)

November 29:  Dorothy Day (1897-1980)

"Dorothy Day, a remarkable champion for justice, once said of the Church, 'There was plenty of charity but too little justice."  She showed that loving Christ and living the gospel call for heroic actions that change society.  She believed that the works of mercy were to be lived personally and at a personal sacrifice.  This belief made her a friend to workers, the poor, street people, the sick, and the excluded.  It led her to begin the Catholic Worker Movement, which opened a House of Hospitality in New York and ran soup kitchens.  It led her to protest war and other injustices to the extent that she was sometimes put in jail.

With Peter Maurin, Dorothy began Catholic Worker, a penny newspaper about Catholic teaching on work and justice.  For thirty years, until her death in 1980 at the age of 83, she wrote a column for it.  Dorothy's work lives on.  More than sixty Houses of Hospitality now exist, and Catholic Worker can still be bought for a penny!"

(from Christ Our Life Textbook Series, Grade 7, Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio and Loyola Press, 2002)