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Sabbath Day: Brazil

July 24, 2015


My sabbath day this week was fabulous. The two young men above, Jeff and Ethan, volunteered to help me clean out the History Archive at the church – something that has not been done in a long, long time. We took five hours to remove items, move filing cabinets, sweep, sort, and restock the shelves. It was a sometimes tedious, very dirty, but always fascinating way to spend a day. “I thought this would be boring but it turned out to be a lot of fun,” said one of the volunteers. With music going, lots of jokes, and some serious story-telling, we accomplished a project that has been on the books for years. Both young men came to the church via the White Plains Youth Bureau, looking for a way to spend a meaningful day. They found it.

I had an early dinner with Noelle at Wild Fusion – vegetable sushi roll – and then found a quiet, public place to finish reading Colin Woodward’s American Nations: A History of The Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (2011). This fascinating read has been working itself into my imagination over the last couple of weeks. Woodward argues that “The United States is a federation comprised of the whole or part of eleven regional nations, some of which truly do not see eye to eye with one another.” Here is a nice description of the argument, while this provides a one sentence description of each nation. Rich with information and analysis. I am trying to hold this and the bioregions vision together. Fascinating.


My week of reading multi-national literature began at Maryknoll last week when I came upon a poem by Dom Helder Camara called “Water, My Sister.” It begins

When you were created / did you know / how many would be / the things you must do, / from the most noble / and beautiful / to the most base / and desolate?

I will read this someday before, or during, a baptism.

That same day our retreat group was led in remembering Dorothy Stang, an American nun who was murdered in 2005 because of her witness on behalf of the God’s creation and her support for Brazilian workers who were organizing to protect the Amazon rainforest. Walking alone in the forest, she was confronted by gunmen who asked her if she had any weapons. In response she took out her Bible and said, “This is the only weapon I have.” And she began to read. The gunmen listened for a moment, shot her through the hand which held her Bible, and then shot her six more times.  I have spent part of everyday this week in contemplation of Dorothy and the light of our planet. The whole story is told in Martyr of the Amazon: The Life of Sister Dorothy Stang by Roseanne Murphy.


I rounded out the week with more poetry. I have two volumes of Dom Helder Camara on my shelves, A Thousand Reasons for Living and his poetic theology of liberation The Desert is Fertile. Camara was a bishop in Rio de Janeiro from 1952-1964 and Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in North-East Brazil. In his writings, the spirituality of justice, liberation and peace for people and the planet sounds so simple. Sister Dorothy is a reminder of the great cost that goes with such simple spirituality.


Finally, my Ecco Anthology of International Poetry introduced me to another half-dozen contemporary poets from Brazil, including Adléia Prado, who moved me with the line

How could we know how to live a better life than this,

when even weeping it feels so good to be together?

Amen. Happy sabbathing…

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