Highlights from Faith and Joy, by Fr. Fernando Cardenal
Last annotated on January 21, 2016, references are to pages in the kindle version
Freedom from destitution. Five years later, the synthesis of “the Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice” was officially embraced by the Society of Jesus as the mandatory standard for all our apostolates. No Jesuit should be working only on the propagation of the faith, without also working for the defense of justice; and similarly, no one should be working only for the promotion of justice, without also working for the propagation of the faith. Faith and Justice: always together. I began to understand this synthesis more deeply. My training had been devoted almost exclusively to spiritual formation. In the neighborhood of Paul VI I was awakened to a more complete picture. I became aware of the unbearable poverty that was a widespread reality in our Latin American countries. It was intolerable to me; changing the situation became an imperative, an obsession. My reflections during those months led me to rediscover the God revealed in Jesus—the God who heard the cry of the oppressed and who freed the Hebrew slaves from bondage in Egypt. That is how God appears in the book of Exodus. I began to understand more clearly that that same God continued listening to the cry of the oppressed and that Jesus had come to reveal that same God to us: a God who is not neutral in the face of destitution and injustice, but who has taken the side of the poor, of the least, the weakest, the most marginalized and all those excluded from society. In reflecting on the reality of my neighborhood, I was greatly inspired by the recently published document from the Latin American bishops, whose Second General Conference had occurred the previous year in the same city of Medellín. The bishops said, “There are many studies about the situation of the Latin American people. The misery and abject poverty that besets large masses of human beings in all of our countries is described in studies and expresses itself as injustice, which cries to the heavens.” I found these words captured my feelings and my experience. The bishops’ theological analysis was also very illuminating and new to me. They wrote, “When speaking of injustice, we refer to those realities that constitute a situation of sin.” Previously, my concept of sin was something exclusively personal. I had never seen the concept of sin applied to a social and economic situation as in this text. When I walked around the neighborhood, certain phrases echoed within me: “God hears the cry of the oppressed”…“injustice that cries out to heaven”…“situations of sin.” The words of Pope Paul VI in Bogotá, spoken at the same time as the meeting of the Latin American bishops, also enlightened me. Speaking to the peasants of Latin America, the pope commented on the misery that overwhelmed them: “Today, the problem has worsened because you have become more aware of your needs and suffering and you cannot tolerate the persistence of these conditions without applying a careful remedy.” He was very clear: “you cannot tolerate.” It was at this same time that I came to understand more acutely that the situation of the poor in Latin America was intolerable, it had to be changed, that it required “a careful remedy.” Jesus taught us to pray in the Our Father that the kingdom come, that we make it come with our commitment. If we ask that it come, it is because it has not yet come, but we want it to come, so that “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, and that hallowed be your name.” This was the theme of my spiritual reflection while living among the suffering poor. 329
This parable must have been very hurtful and provocative to Jesus’s listeners. The priest, who is traditionally regarded as the example of holiness, looks bad in the parable. It is the heretic, the one who is despised, who Jesus upholds as the model of love and mercy. Reflecting on Jesus’s parable during my conversation with Marcos, it was not difficult to apply the story to my situation. People regarded as good Christians despised members of the Sandinista Front, calling them subversives, materialists, atheists, and Communists. But these despised people did not walk past the wounded people of Nicaragua. It was the Good Samaritan speaking to me saying, “Fernando, will you come help us to heal the wounded ones of Nicaragua, wounded by abject poverty and the oppression of the Somoza regime?” In those moments I thought to myself, 828
encyclical of Pope Paul VI, “Populorum Progressio” (The Development of Peoples), particularly parts 30 and 31. The first part sets the stage, and for that reason I include the full text: The injustice of certain situations cries out for God’s attention. Lacking the bare necessities of life, whole nations are under the thumb of others—they cannot act on their own initiative, they cannot exercise personal responsibility, they cannot work toward a higher degree of cultural refinement or a greater participation in social and public life. They are sorely tempted to redress insults to their human nature by violent means. And then in paragraph 31, which is the most significant part, it says the following: “Revolutionary uprisings engender new injustices, introduce new inequities and bring new disasters, except where…” And here comes the point that made me think. The pope rejects insurrection in principle but also presents an exception: “Except where there is manifest, longstanding tyranny which would do great damage to fundamental personal rights and dangerous harm to the common good of the country.” This sounded like a portrait of the Nicaragua I witnessed every day. It seemed to me we could also add another condition in line with the pope’s thought, which was the fact that in Nicaragua all nonviolent options had been exhausted. The entire encyclical is very clear and definite about social change and the transformation of society. Entire sections of this illuminating document push readers in the direction of taking action against social injustice. I just want to highlight one section as an example: “We want to be clearly understood on this point: The present state of affairs must be confronted boldly, and its concomitant injustices must be challenged and overcome. Continuing development calls for bold innovations that will work for profound changes. The critical state of affairs must be corrected for the better without delay.” 871
A good friend of mine, who was a wealthy businessman, gave me additional food for thought. He told me it was true there would be deaths in our revolutionary actions, but the aim was to prevent a much larger number of deaths that otherwise grew silently—the thousands who died each day from hunger and malnutrition, produced by the social, political, and economic system of Nicaragua. 898
terrorism. There is no reason in the entire universe that justifies the killing of innocent people as a tactic for struggle. 903
Carlos Fonseca, the founder of the Sandinista Front, said that terrorism is unacceptable. Terrorists, he said, use tactics of terror as their weapon while revolutionaries use love as the means to reach their goals. Out of love and for love, one accepts revolutionary violence, never terrorism. The Sandinista Front never committed acts of terrorism in all of its history. They fought the National Guard face to face. 903
Meanwhile the Christian Revolutionary Movement continued to operate openly. The integration of our youth into the Front brought a whole new type of young person into the guerrilla movement. For the first time in history, a large number of youth from the middle and upper classes became involved. Young Christians who were well versed in Marxism also began to enter the Front. In many cases, they were better trained than some of the older Sandinistas, who tended to be more orthodox, but with less scientific knowledge than the members of the Christian Revolutionary Movement. This would, in time, lead to more effervescence within the ranks of the Sandinista Front. Along with Marxist texts, we also studied texts like Christianity and Revolution by Giulio Girardi, In Cuba by my brother Ernesto, Christianity and Socialism by the Chilean Jesuit Gonzalo Arroyo, as well as many articles by Jesuit theologians Ignacio Ellacuría, Jon Sobrino, Juan Hernandez Pico, and authors Leonardo Boff, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Dom Helder Camara from Brazil, and others. 918
Martha Hannecker and her study on Marx’s historical materialism, which became a useful tool for us in our economic critique of capitalism. During studies for my philosophy degree in the Catholic University of Quito, we studied Marx’s second body of work, only to tear it apart from an ecclesiological, philosophical position. So in that sense you could say my prejudice against Marx was predestined. I found conversations with my brother Ernesto to be very helpful in opening me up and dispelling my fears related to the subject. I was also helped greatly by the works of Giulio Girardi and an extraordinary book titled Marx and the Bible by the then-Jesuit José Porfirio Miranda. The Christian Revolutionary Movement conducted retreats for Christian formation. I remember in one of those retreats I spoke and insisted everything we do must be motivated by love, and we were part of a struggle where everything must be done for and with love. I was interrupted by one young man, Luis Carrion, who said to me, “Do you think any of us would be here were it not for love?” These were young people who for the most part came from rich families. It was clear their presence was motivated by conscience and love. 927
I have to say the peasants in his community were also some of my best theology teachers. I greatly enjoyed the commentaries made by community members in response to the scriptural texts that were read during Mass on Sundays. Each week we would gather in the beautiful little church of Solentiname, a space that is decorated with paintings made by the peasants themselves. The peasants shared their ideas with wonderful simplicity and often, to our surprise, they coincided with what we were reading in the writings of the great theologians of Latin America. The only difference was that the reflections of the peasants came out of their lived experience. They had no need to imagine the perspective of the poor in the word of God. They were the poor! The peasants of Solentiname would listen to and experience the Word of God through the lens of their lived experience as poor Nicaraguans. They then analyzed and reflected, and what emerged from those discussions was truly liberation theology. I gave Ernesto the idea that he should save all the discussions of the peasants, and so he began to use a tape recorder to record the communal faith sharing. I took advantage of the days I was there to teach Bosco Centeno, one of the community members, to use the typewriter. He learned the basics in one week. And so it was out of those discussions and recordings that the groundbreaking book The Gospel of Solentiname emerged. The wonderful text was later translated into various languages. It continues to be sought out and read by people all over the world. As late as 2003 a Mexican Jesuit asked me where he could find the second volume, because he had lost his original copy and it was of great value to him. 943
A fellow Jesuit, Fr. Martín Mateo, told me it was important to create a hymn that would identify the peasants of Nicaragua as a unified class because there were no hymns about their reality. It seemed like a very good idea to me. I think what he was really saying was that a new Mass needed to be written with hymns that allowed peasants to identify with the struggle. 985
Soon a large group of people gathered, and Carlos began to play a bunch of joyful, lighthearted songs that many Nicaraguans knew. Later on I realized that in his concerts, Carlos would lead listeners through several stages of his music. After the initial period of popular songs, he would move to a second stage, as the songs he began to sing were ones that reflected the situation of the extreme poverty of Nicaraguans, and as he sang I began to see the people stopped laughing. They were listening attentively to songs about their own lives and their needs, a very profound experience. After that stage, he began singing well-known protest songs played on the radio. I realized we were moving to a third stage. The songs of the third stage were mostly unknown to the public and not heard on the radio. They were guerrilla songs, songs like the slogan of the Front or the Tomb of the Guerrilla, and songs about the Sandinista Front. These songs were pointing out the solution to the problems of poverty that listeners had heard about in the second stage of the concert. Suddenly our impromptu concert reached its fourth stage, and the National Guard showed up to break up the concert. We left in a hurry to avoid being arrested, and that is how Carlos’s presentation in San Carlos came to an end. He later told me he had been holding these types of concerts in the streets, the plazas, and the atriums of churches. It seemed to me to be a fantastic way of raising awareness among our people. We finally arrived in Solentiname, 995
The primary reason why we as religious accept celibacy has to do fundamentally with the person of Jesus. What I and others call a religious vocation has to do with a special plan that Jesus has for me, which calls me to an all-absorbing and exclusive love, one that empowers my heart to love more and to dedicate my life to improving the lives of others, especially the poorest. Jesus becomes my wife, my children, my father, my mother, and my brothers and sisters. For a celibate, it is not that women are not beautiful, or that marriage, love, and sex are no longer attractive. Rather we believe a larger love is calling us to express our love and passion in a unique way. I consider this calling to be a miracle and one that is only possible through the grace of God in one’s life. Even though, in the future, the Catholic Church might allow its diocesan priests to marry, there will always be those—called by Jesus—who will continue to enter religious life and decide for celibacy. At 1044
The weapons used by the National Guard had been coming from the U.S. government since the time of the very first Somoza, in 1936. 1059
In the Christian Revolutionary Movement, the goal was to create awareness among students, workers, and peasants about the situation in the country. We relied on the Delegates of the Word. 1241
always said the following: “This revolution is going to happen without us Christians, in spite of us, or against us.” I believed and told people it was important the revolution happen with Christians; in other words, the revolution should be carried out with gospel values. But in order for this to happen and to make sure our revolution not be like all the others in history, where revolution took place against Christians or in spite of them, we had to get involved. We had to be the yeast in the flour for it to rise. Be the leaven, as Jesus used to say. If you put the flour on one side, and the leaven on the other, the dough will not rise. 1268
I also said, radically, that I would prefer to be a fool who was used to change an unjust economic and social structure, than to be sensible and stay at home doing nothing to change the horrible reality in which the majority of the population lived. 1274
he told me it was important to organize a group of respected and well-known people within Nicaraguan society. The idea was that this group of well-regarded citizens might be more widely received by Latin American political leaders who were skeptical of guerilla groups. This group of respected citizens might also be more successful in gaining the support of Nicaraguan politicians and citizens who were interested in forming alliances against Somoza. As we talked about this, I remembered around 1975 my brother Ernesto and I had met with Carlos Fonseca, the founder of the Sandinista Front, and he had spoken of the idea. With Daniel Ortega, we began to throw around names of possible candidates for such a group. Later I was charged with contacting and talking to all those we felt might be a good fit, people who would support the Sandinista Front. All of this took place in 1977. 1279
good friend of mine, Emilio Baltodano, showed up at my house in the community of Bosques de Altamira. He was a very wealthy businessman, a bit older than me, who owned coffee farms and was a shareholder in one of the largest coffee companies, Café Soluble Presto, as well as other companies. He came to my house and said, “Fernando, I just finished doing the Spiritual Exercises in the Colegio Centro America (the Jesuit high school) with Fr. Amando López [the principal, who was later martyred in the UCA in El Salvador]. I have always wanted to be successful in business, and we know in capitalist businesses, despite their legality, there is always exploitation of the workers. I have been an exploiter without intending to be, but now, I want my life to serve the poor. I come to put myself in your hands.” 1286
Dr. Ernesto (Tito) Castillo, a lawyer and ex-member of one of the most important legal offices in the country; Felipe Mántica, owner of the largest supermarket chain in the country; Arturo Cruz, high official of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC; Casimiro Sotelo, the principal solidarity leader of the Sandinista Front in San Francisco, California; Carlos Gutiérrez, protector of Nicaraguan exiles in Mexico. 1303
Joaquín Cuadra and Emilio Baltodano had with me after the Mass. Joaquín said, “Emilio, the way you talked in the commentary on the gospel about love for the people, about love, love, love surprised me. I have never thought about the people. I have always thought about my business, my work, and my family. I never thought about the people. I joined this group because I want to hasten the fall of Somoza, and there will be less possibility that they kill my son. I am here only for my son.” 1340
killed. Now he was asking that they use him, intelligently, for a socialist government in Nicaragua. They certainly did use him intelligently. He was named the minister of finance, and as a lawyer who knew all the tricks of large businessmen, he was in the best position to require them to pay all their taxes. Later he became the president of the Central Bank, where he remained until the end of the Sandinista government. 1349
Sin is the ambition for power, fame, money, wanting always to bring forward your own criteria, pride, and arrogance. During the struggle, all of that led to divisions, and later, once in power, to corruption. 1466
United States, Latin America, and Europe. In Tito’s basement, we had a photocopier and everything we needed for our work. It gave me pleasure to see rich businessman stuffing envelopes and gluing them one by one—manual labor that was tiring and tedious. 1510
What Jesus Christ came to teach us is not legalism or canon law. He came to teach us that Christianity is really about loving, not just words. And Fr. Gaspar is a man who truly loved, not only in words. In that love he saw those specific and special circumstances that his work was with 1875
Paul Claudel said young people are made for heroism. Trust in the young people. 2182
He told us some illuminating things, and perhaps his most important point was that literacy work “was not a pedagogical event with political implications, but a political event with pedagogical implications.” 2200
Raising consciousness is a political event that transforms lives and has political consequences in the action of those who complete the campaign. According to Paulo Freire’s method, the peasants not only needed to learn letters, but they also needed to learn how to read their reality. They had what is called magical thinking, interpreting effects of nature such as hurricanes, droughts, crop plagues, and the poverty they suffered as either the result of bad luck or “the will of God.” Consciousness-raising in the course of teaching literacy is achieved through dialogue every day at the beginning of class. The dialogue topics are discovered before the literacy campaign through surveys conducted with people who are illiterate. “Generative words,” as described by Freire, are explored jointly. Words with content that have significance in the lives of those being taught become the generative words. The daily dialogue leads students to learn about their reality and their history. They begin to understand that poverty is not produced by nature but the actions of human beings, that is, those who have economic and political power. Just as human beings create poverty, they can also fight against it and work to abolish it. Raising awareness leads peasants and workers to organization and political action, to build a world where the interests of the majority are taken into account. Paulo Freire came in October and spoke with us. Roberto said, “Professor, thanks for accompanying us. The method and its steps are already defined, and here are the first five lessons that are going to be used to test the pilot project.” He was surprised and said, “Father, lend me those and other supporting documents of the methodological steps, and I am going to read them quietly in the hotel.” He spent one day in the hotel and came the next day and he said, “Father, I have read everything, and I congratulate you. The method ensures learning will take place in a few weeks. It will be a total success.” Freire was very happy with the way the revolution was being run and the way the Literacy Crusade was being planned, so much so that (I remember this perfectly well!), while on his knees, he picked up the phone and called the World Council of Churches and literally said, “This is a beautiful revolution, pure and clean as a baby and you must support the Literacy Crusade.” That phone call won Paulo Freire a donation of $1 million. No subsequent donation surpassed that amount. The work included the selection of participants; the physical and political preparation; organization of the squads, columns, and brigades; selection of the supervisors for each of the structures; motivating the youth; and finally deciding where each one of the structures would be located in the country. One of the first things needed was a census to know exactly how many people were illiterate. The task was gigantic, difficult, and very expensive, according to what the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officials told us (costing thousands of dollars). They said that given the conditions, it would be impossible and that the census would not be completed before the beginning of the Crusade because it would take months. We knew we needed the census, and so, similar to the final stages of the fight against the Somoza dictatorship, we approached the people, in particular the youth, to do what we were told would be impossible. We told the compañeros of the Sandinista Youth Movement that it was urgent to organize volunteers to conduct the census countrywide. The young people, with very little economic support, motivated only by the importance of the mission, went out into the mountains and brought us the necessary information. We needed not only the number of those who could not read or write, but also whether they wanted to learn to read and write, where they lived, etc. There had to be a map in order to effectively distribute the volunteers. We needed to know who the volunteers would be and the people we could count on in each… 2202
Faith, life, justice, and political commitment are put together in that experience. It was our reference point and a well that nourished our hopes during times of doubt and uncertainty. 2341
The preparation of the Crusade was enormously complex, and nearly all of the necessary tasks surpassed Nicaragua’s limited capabilities. There would be sixty thousand young people in the fields and mountains and forty thousand young people and adults in the towns and cities. Almost everything had to be purchased outside of the country and outside of Central America. Everything was urgent, and there was no previous experience in this type of endeavor. 2342
going to live. In addition to the enormous pedagogical challenge of developing the literacy reader, inspired by Paulo Freire’s model, we needed it to be rooted in our reality, using generative words of our own people. Another gigantic problem was the printing of a million primary readers (the title was very beautiful: “Turning darkness into light”) and one hundred thousand literacy manuals. There was no possibility of printing them in Nicaragua. Never before had any one company or printing press printed so much. Mountains of notebooks and pencils were also needed. Someone on the team had the fantastic idea that the blackboard be made of a piece of rubber or a type of leather, which, properly treated, could serve as a blackboard. The literacy worker could roll up the blackboard and take it to the place where class was taught. 2348
Many times, we asked ourselves if the starting day would ever arrive. There were so many obstacles that we wondered if we would really be able to launch the Crusade. Yet there we were on March 23, 1980, the exact date we had planned, beginning to deploy all of the literacy volunteers to the countryside. Every type of vehicle was used. The Sandinista government provided us with the buses and trucks needed for ten days; that is how long it took to transport sixty thousand literacy workers to their assignments. Trucks from the Ministry of Construction and Transportation, many of the public service buses from the cities, and every type of vehicle from the different ministries were used. The government spent millions of córdobas in fuel, and private businesses also lent many vehicles. People showed up from a variety of companies with trucks also offering to pay for the fuel. Although the official send-off day was Sunday, March 23, from the Plaza of the Revolution, we took advantage of the fact that Saturday was easier to secure vehicles, and we sent the first group out on Saturday. I remember that Sunday: the trucks and buses filled to the brim with young people traveling through the plaza, many of them on top of the roof of the buses, and the enthusiastic crowd joyfully sending them off. In my speech I asked the crowd in the plaza, “Are these young people going to some beach?” “Noooooooo,” they responded. “Are these young people going on a field trip to a farm?” “Noooooooo,” the multitudes shouted back. And I said, “These young people are clearly not going on a field trip. They are going to the mountains to live in the homes of peasants where they will experience a thousand difficulties and they will face all kinds of danger, but they are motivated by love and the desire to serve the peasants, teaching them to read and write.” I told the audience that as an educator, I had always tried to instill attitudes of solidarity and a spirit of service, love, and devotion in my students, and I had achieved my goal in a small select minority of students. However, I suddenly realized this immense educational event of the revolution had achieved the propagation of these noble attitudes in thousands and thousands. That is what we witnessed in the plaza—a day overflowing with joy for all involved in the long and complex preparation for the Crusade. After so many difficulties, so many problems, so much work, and so many sleepless nights, the young people were finally leaving to take their places in the countryside to begin the work. There was another aspect of this process that I reveled in, and that was that the revolution was sending a message to the peasants that said, “Brother and sister peasants, you are important. We are sending the best of what we have—our youth. We are sending you the young people from the cities to live with you, because you are important in this revolution.” No government in the history of Nicaragua had done anything even remotely similar. Normally, for the government, peasants were people who were useful for planting corn, beans, rice, and plantains. They were only interested in them to secure votes during elections or to draft them into the army as cannon fodder during the civil wars. However, taking them into account as real people with problems and needs had never happened before. And so sending these young people to live among the peasants was a powerful message. 2426
One of the most important lessons of the great National Literacy Crusade was trusting in the youth, trusting in the people. When a noble cause that is significant for a country is presented to young people (and adults) and credible, trustworthy leaders with moral authority are leading the cause, young people, and people in general, will give of themselves selflessly, unconditionally. This was the profound lesson the Crusade taught us each day. Each volunteer lived in a peasant’s home, and classes were held at the end of the afternoon. During the day, the volunteers would support the peasants in their daily chores; the boys would go to the fields to help with the farming tasks, and the girls normally would engage in domestic work with the peasant women. One of the first things the girls learned was to make tortillas. A deep connection between the volunteers and the peasants developed, and the young people called the parents of their host families dad and mom, and they in turn called the volunteers son and daughter. The best protectors of the girls during those months were the peasants themselves. Friendships developed that have lasted until today 2460
Within the first days, some very concerned parents contacted me because they had heard from their children. They were told their children were eating very poorly, some eating only plantains or tortillas. I told the parents two things: first, we would find an immediate solution to their concerns; and second, peasants did not begin eating poorly when the literacy volunteers arrived in their homes. For centuries, peasants had eaten poorly, and most of the people from the cities were oblivious to this reality. Now that parents learned of this situation through their children, this would help them understand the reason why a revolution took place in Nicaragua. The substandard living conditions of the peasants had to be transformed. We spoke about the problem with Daniel Ortega, and he requested that the minister for internal commerce find a solution to the food situation. The solution was that the Ministry for Internal Commerce would send the food needed to the village delegations of the Crusade, and two rations of food were delivered each month to each peasant presenting a literacy worker identity card. It was a very expensive program. There were 120,000 rations of food per month. But we were able to support all peasants who had a literacy worker in their home so it was no longer a burden on peasant families to have a volunteer living in their homes, and in fact it became a benefit. After this incident, there were no more parent complaints. We prepared a first aid kit for each squad of literacy volunteers, as recommended by the Ministry of Health and the Red Cross for five months of life in the mountains. We were surprised when, shortly after their arrival, we began receiving requests for more medicines because they had used all the meds in kit. We quickly realized we had overlooked the fact that each volunteer was living in a peasant home, and when a member of the family got sick, they of course shared the contents of the kit. New kits were prepared for not only sixty thousand literacy workers but for sixty thousand homes. 2468
I was excited to witness that in all of Nicaragua the new man and the new woman that St. Paul spoke about in the sacred scriptures was being born—that is, people who do not have their spiritual center of gravity in themselves, but rather outside of themselves, in others. That was becoming a reality in the Crusade. Their personal interests moved to second place, and the place of privilege was occupied by others, their neighbors. 2492
Each day I admired the young people more and more. I am convinced that when young people have an ideal, nothing stops them, not even death. I am also convinced that there are some men and women who possess willpower, while others don’t. In reality there are people with an ideal, with meaning in their lives, and others without meaning. Once I told a group of U.S. journalists that Nicaragua was one of the richest countries in the world. They seemed baffled by my statement. I said Nicaragua was one of the richest countries in the world because of its young people, who were a treasure more valuable than all of the gold and oil in the world. 2554
In the Literacy Museum we detailed the stages of the Crusade, including all of the posters. We had a lot of field diaries, in which the volunteers kept track of the literacy progress, the difficulties and solutions, and the pedagogical experiences. They also gathered legends, sayings, songs from the villages, as well as descriptions of places with apparent archaeological deposits. In the museum, there was a central room known as the room of honor, where there were photos of all volunteers who died, their names, and the objects they had with them when they died: their literacy workbook, their boots, and their uniforms. Those were days of great suffering as well as great joy. The dream of every authentic revolutionary is not just the transformation of the political, economic, and social structures, but also the transformation of the person, the new man and new woman, full of great capacity for love and for sacrificing themselves for others. Only those who can free themselves from the temptations of personal glory, of being in the limelight, and the desire for money and power, are capable of transforming societies without falling into corruption and the betrayal of their ideals. 2592
She tells Sr. Inés that the appreciation she had for her might appear strange when she says, “It was not your words but your deeds, your life, and your example.” Teachers not only transmit knowledge about mathematics, geography, or history to students, but it is their examples that influence students and help them construct their own lives. Examples are the determining factors in the classroom, in the home, and in life. As volunteers began teaching, we discovered a large group of peasants, mostly women, were not making progress due to visual impairments caused by the smoke of the firewood stoves. We developed an international campaign with solidarity groups to send eyeglasses. We needed hundreds of pairs of old glasses, the ones that people didn’t use anymore and were stuck in a desk somewhere. The problem was getting the information to each of the homes where unused glasses were stashed away. We needed to motivate people to donate their glasses and find a way to get them to our office. We found a way to secure the eyeglasses, but then another problem cropped up. How could we conduct hundreds of eye exams in the countryside? We met with optometrists in Managua and the idea of preparing a poster surfaced. Instead of letters, the poster for the eye exam would include objects such as houses, cows, and trees of different sizes that peasants could recognize. The exam determined the extent of vision impairment. Later our optometrist friends took on the work of putting the measurements on a piece of paper and sticking them to each pair of glasses. A simple manual was developed, and the literacy workers were able to detect visual impairments. What was most important was the ability to prescribe the correct glasses for each learner. This was the first time we were involved in a task of this magnitude, and we often confronted unforeseen problems. 2654
Perfect. The department is closed. I don’t want business administrators who don’t feel and understand the needs, tragedies, and the problems of the country.” 2798
student asked Fr. Amando Lopez, “Are we always going to be talking about the literacy campaign or about going out to the harvest?” “Yes,” he said “always. Keep in mind that for centuries people like you have been able to study because the sons and daughters of peasants have had to pick cotton. Now in Nicaragua we are all going to carry the economic burden. No longer will one class of people pick cotton so that another class can study and have privileges. Everyone will share the burden.” One week after the triumph of the revolution the entire financial system was nationalized by decree. The state acquired all of the shares of the private banks, and the idea was that the cost would be financed by state bonds. Shortly after that week, all foreign trade was nationalized. Previously it was the middlemen who enjoyed the profits from coffee, cotton, and sugar production. The revolutionary government was now the manager. Before there was a group of millionaires who bought the harvest (but did not harvest themselves), and they earned millions. No longer would these individuals be able to make millions off of the work of others. The Ministry for Foreign Trade was in charge of purchasing cotton, coffee, sugar, and meat to sell on the best markets, and the profits went to the people and not to a small group of wealthy elites. 2800
Rent was reduced by 50 percent. The mines were nationalized within three months of the triumph. 2812
For the first time in our history, a highway was in the process of being built connecting the Pacific side of the country to the Atlantic. Preschool, primary, secondary, and university education were decreed free of charge. We were in a state of abject poverty, but we had an organized plan to alleviate poverty and an economic plan drafted in 1980. A unified health care system was created. For the first time in Nicaraguan history, Social Security covered peasant farmers and domestic workers. 2817
It is said that in the United States, when a candidate is running for president, he promises one thing, but when he comes to office, he does something else. The Sandinista Front had promised the peasants that they would learn to read and write, and within fifteen days of the triumph that promise was kept. The literacy campaign is an expression of the humanity of a revolution that did not gun down its enemies, but rather saw ignorance as an enemy and tackled it. In a postrevolutionary society there is often residual hatred and killing. In Nicaragua the Popular Literacy Army was formed and it was different and unique. It was composed of sixty thousand young people who left their homes to combat ignorance and illiteracy and another forty thousand who got involved. 2837
“The model in Nicaragua is that, there is no model.” If the Nicaraguan revolution has demonstrated anything, it is that no one can tell a country which path it needs to take. Every country needs to find its own way. The only thing that one can do is to help the country on its journey. Sandino and Carlos Fonseca have taught us to create rather than imitate. We learned to create our own history and analyze our reality with our own idiosyncrasies. We also learned to analyze other revolutions. We take the lessons from other experiences and apply them to our own country. These are two of the principle characteristics of our revolution: originality and creativity. 2843
Another characteristic of our revolution is the emphasis on alliances, understanding that we could not bring down the Somoza dictatorship alone, that we needed to add, not subtract. In 1975, our commander and chief, Carlos Fonseca Amador, began to speak of the implementation of the politics of alliances, saying, “We must be firm in our strategy, completely flexible in our tactics, and look for alliances with other sectors that support our struggle.” We sought unity among all, without excluding anyone and incorporating all those who wanted to participate in the fight against Somoza. An entire population came together behind a vanguard movement that knew how to unite the country. Another characteristic of the Sandinista Revolution is its humane nature. On the southern war front, one of the country’s worst criminals, known as the Devil, was wounded and captured. His life was respected, and he was sent to a hospital in Costa Rica, where he died. Our fighters never committed an act of terrorism. In all of the years of struggle there was never an act of terrorism that killed innocent people. The fighting was always face to face, and for this reason, the combatants earned the sympathy of the Nicaraguan people. There is a slogan that captures the lived experience, “Relentless in our struggle, generous in our victories.” I don’t know if another revolution like ours has existed in the world. Not only did they not gun down the enemies, they conducted a literacy campaign for criminals of the National Guardsmen in the prisons. The campaign traveled not only to the blind and to the sick in hospitals, but also to the prisons, to those who had carried out genocide, who threw bombs at civilians. They too have learned to read. This sense of humanity is a fundamental characteristic of the revolution. We lost fifty thousand lives in order to win the right to decide in our own country. The U.S. Congress was debating whether or not to give us a loan for $75 million. It took them months to decide, and you can imagine that for us, $75 million meant a lot. While that debate was going on in Congress, our commanders said publicly they would not accept any terms or conditions. Prior to the triumph in 1979, in a moment when key decisions were being made in the battlefield, the U.S. State Department put pressure on the Sandinista Front, which had already established its governing council in Costa Rica. The State Department told them to admit two more members, a supporter of Somoza and a member of the National Guard. Imagine that type of pressure! I spoke with two members of the leadership, and we agreed this was unacceptable. If we are going to become a new country, it has to be independent. Another very important aspect of the Sandinista Revolution was the participation of Christians. Nicaragua is the only case in the history of revolutions in which Christians have participated massively. Whether in the country or the city, nuns and priests, Christians from all over participated at all levels. There was the case of the Spanish priest, Fr. Gaspar Garcia Laviana, the pastor in Tola, Rivas, who became a guerrilla fighter and reached the rank of commander of a unit in the southern front. There was no conflict between Christian faith and the revolution. Christians were able to prove the project of the Popular Sandinista Revolution had a great deal in common with the Christian project of transforming the world. We share the same values of justice, love, peace, and equality. In Nicaragua, a meeting of about eighty priests and religious men and women came together to meet with Fidel Castro (when he came to celebrate the first anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution). We were discussing the relationship between Marxists and Christians, and Fidel spoke of the alliance that existed between the two. Right behind me, a little nun was seated, and she raised her hand and said, “I object.” Wow, I thought, why is this nun so upset? “I object,” she said “because I am tired of hearing about this strategic alliance between Marxists and Christians…. 2848
The minister of culture, our ideological minister, however, was a priest. A priest was named as the minister of foreign affairs, and I was in charge of the literacy campaign, and when the campaign ended, I asked to work with the Sandinista Youth Movement. In what other country would you see a priest appointed as head of a political party’s youth movement? We cannot fail to mention the widespread presence of the arts in the revolution. Music, poetry, dance, film, and painting have been brought together in the revolution. Practically speaking, we can say the artists are allied with the revolution. The process has been so beautiful that it inspires and promotes artistic creation. The Ministry of Culture never existed before in Nicaragua. Another important characteristic of the Popular Sandinista Revolution was the great sense of solidarity it inspired in the world. Nicaragua became a mecca for thousands of people who wished to see social change in their own countries and who came to be inspired and help us move forward. You are all an example of solidarity and the support we have received from Mexico has been far reaching. I must point out we have also received solidarity from the government of Mexico, which supported us since the time of the struggle against the Somoza Dictatorship. Finally I want to mention something that is unique about our revolution. The name of God is absent, and this is an official rule. Some became scared and said that because we don´t use the name of God we must be Communist. I think some members of the elite forget the commandment in the scriptures that says not to take the name of the Lord in vain. Often people mention God’s name but don’t have God in their hearts. I can attest to the fact that God is profoundly present in the Popular Sandinista Revolution—just as Jesus said he would be, when we give food to the hungry, when we give drink to those who are thirsty, and visit the sick, and I would also add, when we teach the illiterate to read. God is present in the Sandinista Revolution through love. 2883
Fr. Ricardo Falla, a Jesuit companion of mine from Guatemala who is also a wonderful anthropologist, lived in my community and wrote a paper for a conference in Canada that focused on signs and communication. His paper focused on the signs that he found within the Sandinista Revolution. In all civilizations where a society experiences a process of rapid change, people use signs and symbols to express what is happening. He shared about six or seven clear signs he found in the revolution. He explained that one clear sign is the changing of names. In Nicaragua, the name of the airport was changed. Before it was called Las Mercedes; today it is called Augusto C. Sandino. The names of some cities were changed as well as the names of many streets, markets, schools, valleys, mountains, etc. This is a real problem in a place like Managua, when you have to use directions and an address because all of the names have changed. When someone asks, where do you live? Oh, I live next to such-and-such school, which used to be called such-and-such. You always have to mention two names, what it used to be and what it is now. There is a baptismal spirit in the air. When I was in catechism class, I learned about a second kind of baptism, the baptism by blood. Nicaragua was baptized by the blood of fifty thousand dead. There was also a baptismal spirit of wanting to make all things new, and it is out of this spirit that we change the names, just as we do with a child when they are ready to be baptized. The July 19 spirit has been alive in Nicaragua. We wanted something totally new. We were bathed in blood, and now we wanted something new: new names, a sign of God’s presence. Another sign observed was the sense of reverence toward those who have gone before us. In Nicaragua you will see posters of Sandino and Carlos Fonseca everywhere, and you will find the names of martyrs. There is no official meeting that does not end with us evoking the names of some of our heroes followed by the word “presente” [they are present]. In high school, we read about the lives of the saints. In the same way, the lives of our heroes and martyrs are present. This sense of reverence was present in our revolution as are our saints in the church. Our models are those who gave their lives for their country, those who left behind their personal interests and sacrificed so much. The role models are no longer the aggressive managers who made millions. Our models now are our martyrs, those who gave their lives for the people. Another aspect found again and again was a sense of death. Everyone fears death, and we, in Nicaragua, are no exception. But we found the theme of death was present in all of our meetings. We end all of our meetings by saying “A Free Homeland or Death.” You will find mention of death in twenty or thirty slogans, and it is not because we are comfortable with death, but rather we have a profoundly Christian sense of death, not as destruction or disappearance, but rather in death you give your life for others. During the literacy campaign, a slogan emerged, “A literate homeland or death in the process”—always a willingness to die so that the campaign would continue, a Christian path, where God is found. Father Falla told me of other signs—of pardon and the use of the dawn. A great sense of forgiveness was present in the revolution, and the dawn was painted and drawn everywhere. I remembered that when we were choosing the cover of the workbook for the literacy campaign, we chose a photo of a volunteer who is walking in the mountainside at dawn. The title of the booklet was “The Dawn of a People,” and we chose it long before we knew anything about the anthropological studies. We shared a lived experience—one of hope. I began by saying that, during the time of Somoza, life seemed to be the darkest and saddest. In Nicaragua we have not arrived at noon, nor are we close. In Nicaragua we are in the dawn and light can be seen. 2899
As the literacy campaign drew to a close, my feelings of wanting to be close to the energy and wisdom of young people only strengthened. If I have had any merit in life, it has been the decision to work with young people, allowing myself to be led by them. 2931
They were organized in all of the universities, as well as high schools and primary schools. We were dedicated to building the revolution, and we were living through one of the most intense and heroic periods of history in Nicaragua. The end of the literacy campaign had opened a new phase, in which an entire generation of young men and women were prepared to give of themselves selflessly in service to their neighbors. This was the job for me! Some of the meetings at the national office began with a criticism and self-criticism session. These were sometimes very harsh, and I found them difficult because there was no sugarcoating. They were often brutally frank. 2934
Although the majority of the young people working at the Sandinista Youth’s national office came from Christian backgrounds, their passion for the revolution was so great that the revolution, in effect, became a religion for them. Faith was left on the sidelines and would often dissipate, in part as a result of mounting conflicts between the leaders of the revolution and the church hierarchy, who were viewed as adversaries. There were some young people who came from a Marxist background, and the whole issue of faith was of little interest to them. In terms of being a priest, my stance with the Sandinista Youth was one of preevangelization, and I gave myself to the task wholeheartedly. It’s like the work of a missionary in an Islamic country where you do not talk about Christianity. You simply begin to work for the people, to serve them in education and health, to help the community in any way possible. After many years, people begin to ask why someone would be so interested in their well-being, why they loved them so much, and what in their religion would lead them to share their lives in this way. I saw myself as this type of missionary. I didn’t speak of Christian faith; my position was to demonstrate with my life that one could be both a Christian and a revolutionary. I tried to demonstrate that my faith and my life as a priest were never obstacles to my commitment to the revolution or to my membership in the Sandinista Youth. I wanted my Christianity to be seen as the force that pushed me to love, to serve, and to work. I wanted to show that Christianity is beautiful and that its fundamental commandment was love. 2942
Sergio Ramirez does a great job of summing up the environment and spirit of the Sandinista Youth in a chapter titled “Living like Saints” in his book Adios Muchachos. I include a paragraph here: The philosophy at the time was that there was no greater merit than in giving one’s life. This idea became the highest form of ethics. The only heroes were the dead, the fallen ones, the ones to whom we owed everything. They had been the best. Everyone else, referring to the living, should be reprimanded for mundane vanity. ‘Presente!’ referred to the dead, the remembrance of what they had given, but it was also a declaration of commitment and victory. The tomb was the altar. The mourning mothers were always given a space in the front row at public gatherings, carrying the photos of their dead sons. Graduation photos, or an identification card, a picture of a son cut out of a family photo at a family party or outing. All those young people, dead at the height of their existence, to become heroes who never grew old. Every single day in my prayers, I thanked God for letting me be part of the revolution and allowing me to be surrounded by people who gave themselves so fully to the cause of the poor. It was truly a privilege to share my life with people of such caliber. I was surrounded by the greatest examples of humanity and heroism. It was like being at a banquet, a continuous feeding of the soul. I consider myself privileged to have participated in the revolution, the literacy campaign, and the Sandinista Youth Movement. 3002
On July 19, the fifth anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, the plaza was overflowing with people. I was on the central stage because of my position as a member of the Sandinista Assembly, and Daniel Ortega said something unexpected. These were his words: This is the revolution of the just, a revolution defended by its people. This is a revolution that respects the religious beliefs and practices of the people. It is said that the people of God make up the church, and it is said that the voice of the people is the voice of God. There are those who lock themselves up in the temples and cover their ears with selfishness. Christ called them whitened sepulchers and Pharisees, and whipping them, he threw them out of the temple. This revolution wants to propose a minister of God who is not locked up in the temple, beating his breast. You, people of Sandino and of Christ, are you in agreement with the nomination of Fr. Fernando Cardenal to direct the education of our youth? So that there can be no doubt, those who are in agreement raise your hands and flags. There was a huge roar in the plaza with thousands of flags unfurled in the wind. Daniel continued, “I hope that finally there are ears that hear the voice of the people of God in Nicaragua crying out, we want peace!” Later, jokingly, I said to Daniel that he would not be able to remove me from the post very easily since I had been named by the multitude, and he would have to consult the multitude again! There were some members of the Sandinista Front working in the ministry who distrusted me as a priest and because of my bourgeois origins. As Marxists, they didn’t think I was the right person to lead national education. The president sent a member of the leadership to mediate and explain that a revolutionary is not determined by one’s class origin, just as coming from working-class origins does not necessarily make one a revolutionary. We began a process of respect by listening to one another and building trust among the team. In the end, it was one of the great successes of my time as minister. 3017
The effects of the contra war became devastating. The loss of lives and the destruction of infrastructure and the economy began to takes its toll. At the beginning of the revolution, every day, two classrooms were built in the countryside. That meant that every three days a new primary school was built. By 1984 when I came to the ministry, most of the national budget went to defense, and much less money was available for building. We continued to work despite the limitations. By 1989, inflation skyrocketed to over 30,000 percent. The situation mirrored Berlin after the Second World War. We created something I called education in poverty, which did not mean a poor education, but rather an education grounded in our reality. Despite so many limitations, the spirit we tried to promote was one of initiative and creativity with educators in their communities. The call was to not drown in discouragement, whether preparing a physics laboratory or building a new classroom. The idea was to seize the opportunity as one of growth. It was clear we could not change the economic situation, but we had to continue to educate, move forward, and grow, despite the challenges. The approach and spirit came from the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola that asks us to grow in the face of the difficulties, to go beyond, to try to go ever farther. This is a basic theme in Jesuit spirituality—what we call magis, the Latin word for more. Personally I carried out the spirit of magis every Thursday by visiting schools in the capital and in all of the provinces. This was my contact with the reality of the poor and a way to extend the spirit of education in poverty. My salary as minister never reached a hundred dollars. I did not want to keep the entire salary of a minister so I received the salary of a secondary school teacher, and the rest went to an emergency fund for the support staff at my office. At a meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Mexico, I shared the concept of education in poverty, and it had a great impact. The education experts understood the concept and felt it was extremely valuable, given all of the difficulties Latin America faced. The idea was that human beings, and specifically teachers, needed to grow despite the challenges they faced and that creativity and initiative were not dependent on economic means alone. 3033
In 1984, the fiftieth anniversary of the murder of our national hero, General August C. Sandino, we faced another serious challenge. A group of two thousand Cuban teachers working in the most remote areas of the country were ending their five-year commitment to Nicaragua, and two thousand classrooms would be left without teachers. Where was I going to find two thousand teachers? We did what we had always done: we went to the youth. We asked for volunteers to take over the posts of the Cuban primary teachers. Undoubtedly they would not be experienced teachers, but it was the only solution. We shared the concept of education in poverty, and two thousand young people volunteered. Thanks to the spirit of sacrifice, devotion, and generosity of the Nicaraguan youth, we founded the Fiftieth Anniversary Brigade. Once again the revolution found its solution in the young people. The measure gave us two years to prepare other teachers. 3049
My hope is sustained not because those who struggle are heroes, but my enthusiasm is rooted in the cause of the poor, which is the ultimate goal. I will not waiver. The meaning of my life and my enthusiasm is radically and realistically embedded in the cause of the poor. After we lost the election of 1990, I wrote an article that was published in the local newspaper, directed at the new authorities of the Ministry of Education. The article talked about the youth we were delivering and about the responsibility they had of delivering a youth that was the same or better when they ended their period. These are some words from that article, “The Youth We Are Delivering”: I want to put forward an element of judgment to describe the ideology that we used in education during these last ten years. Let us apply the gospel norm: “A tree is known by its fruits.” No bad tree bears good fruit. Let us look at the results, let us observe the type of youth that the Sandinista ideology harvested. We find ourselves in Nicaragua with students who have mostly demonstrated that they are capable of devoting themselves to serving their neighbors out of love. They have assimilated the lesson that we should make our individual interests coincide with social and national interests. We see them happily sacrificing their vacations to go harvest coffee or cotton, renounce any holiday to join the vaccination campaigns…. We are leaving a field planted with good wheat. 12 Ecclesiastical Storm The Nicaraguan bishops used the media to order priests working in the Sandinista Revolution to leave their posts. 3110
I accepted canon law, specifically Canon 285, which prohibits priests from working in government posts or political parties. In general it made sense. However, a series of extraordinary circumstances unfolding in Nicaragua justified our work in the revolution as an extraordinary exception. All revolutions in history had taken place without Christians, in spite of Christians, or against Christians, while the Sandinista Revolution was the first revolution with widespread participation by Christians. As priests, our presence in the revolution became enormously important for Nicaragua and for the history of the church in Latin America. 3125
Congregation 34 confirmed those statements. To quote one number of the decree, “Servants of the Mission of Christ,” I quote no. 14: “We reaffirm what was said in decree 2 of the General Congregation 32: ‘The service of faith and the promotion of justice cannot be for us a simple ministry among many others. It has to be the integrating factor of all our ministries, not only of these, but of our interior lives as individuals, as communities, as an extended fraternity throughout the world.’” The mission of the Society can be synthesized in two words: faith and justice. As explained in the documents, they should never be separated: not just the service of faith without the promotion of justice, but neither the promotion of justice without the service of faith. Always, faith and justice together, in all Jesuits and in all Jesuit works. 3174
“Our work begins where the asphalt ends.” A holistic popular education and social promotion movement has taken shape with Fe y Alegria. We do not call our sites schools, but rather educational centers, because the idea is that they should be a center and motor for development in the community. 3679
government, I work in my beloved Fe y Alegría in over sixty school centers and meet weekly with the small group of very poor friends from the neighborhood where I lived. I was able to finish these memoirs during Holy Week. 3682
and girls of Nicaragua as long as I can, until God shows me he wants something different for me. When I reflect on my experience and the experiences of the many young people with whom I have worked, it is clear that in all of us there was a deep commitment to the cause of the poor, and that commitment was always connected to profound joy. I think it was a cause-and-effect relationship. In other words, our commitment produced joy. When I think of the Christian Revolutionary Movement I think of “commitment.” Their devotion and unconditional commitment was admirable, and at the same time I remember them all, full of a great joy, always teasing one another. Similar to other groups in the revolution, their joy was so great that they did not need drugs to feel good. We spent many moments in meetings on farms and beaches with no drugs. Commitment and joy—I am reminded of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet: I slept and dreamt that life was joy, I awoke and saw that life was service. I served and saw that service was joy. 3686
For me there is another dimension, which is the spiritual. The famous text of Matthew 25 illuminates my relationships with my friends of the Edgar Munguía barrio. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew 25:31ff., Jesus describes the final judgment, and there we see that the only subject matter for that exam will be love. Jesus tells us that He will be in each poor person we serve, that what we do to each one of our poorest brothers and sisters, be it good or bad, we are really doing to Him. Encountering Jesus in our neighbors is a privilege that should not be wasted. Jesus does not say that He will consider as done to Him what we might do for the poor; that alone would be pretty serious. But what Jesus really says is that what we do to the poor, good or bad, we are doing to Him. 3694
When I prepare myself to meet my friends, I deepen my awareness and understanding that I will be meeting with Jesus, that really it is Jesus whom I am going to help. This gives me deep joy, and in spite of the fact that I come home tired from the day’s work, I get energy thinking I am serving Jesus. And when sometimes, for whatever reason, I get impatient, it is from Jesus that I ask forgiveness, sorrowful for having offended him. Without fail, I meet Jesus in my daily Mass, and without fail I meet Jesus at least three times a week, when I receive my poor friends from the Edgar Munguía barrio. My poor friends deserve all of my support, and they deserve compassion and solidarity just because they are human beings, but for me there is another element that propels me to help them; that is the oath I swore thirty-eight years ago to defend their rights and defend their cause. But there is still another reason that strengthens my devotion to these friends, and that is the fact that Jesus, with the force of His all-powerful word, the same force that created the universe, tells us that He is in the poor. In the Christian life there are very simple things that give us great joy. 3700
second, they need credible people with moral authority leading that cause. 3718
hope, commitment is absent. It would not make sense to work for change in society if I did not believe change is possible. I identify with a phrase of my friend Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga, who lives in the jungle of Brazil: “We are defeated soldiers of an invincible cause.” We have lost the battles, but I believe our cause is invincible because it is the cause of justice, the cause of love. In recent years over one hundred thousand people from all over the world have gathered for the World Social Forum, in places such as Porto Alegre, Brazil, Mumbai, India, and Caracas, Venezuela, and proclaimed that “Another World Is Possible.” All those who gathered are participants in social movements—not just members of political parties, but believers in solidarity, people who are convinced a more just and humane world is possible. We must learn from the poor, from the movements of African descendants and Indigenous peoples. A Quechua pastoral leader said in the meeting of Indigenous Pastoral Workers in December 1989 in Palmar Sur, Costa Rica, “Our elders have told us that we are not defeated, that we continue to resist and advance.” After five hundred years of domination, they have not lost hope; they continue to struggle and move forward. I want to end my memoirs with thoughts from The Ethical Revolution, by my Mexican friend Carlos Nuñez. He speaks of the unbreakable will to recover the right to dream and the right to build dreams, which are fundamental pieces of an ethical revolution, a revolution needed by the world in order to proclaim “We have not lost hope!” As the motto of St. Ignatius of Loyola puts it, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam (To the Greater Glory of God). 3720
Comment on Good Reads Meagen Farrell rated it it was amazing
In many ways, this is a story too amazing to be true. It is a book I have been looking to read for a long time. Years ago, I read a swath of Paulo Friere’s work, hoping for practical details about how he implemented his wildly successful adult literacy campaigns in Brazil and around the world. I was also looking for clues about how Friere’s faith and the Second Vatican Council impacted his philosophy and systems. Unfortunately, it was not overtly present in Friere’s prolific written works; for me, his transcendence is the downfall of his writing. I needed more information to move from inspired, to active. But Fr Fernando has been there, succeeded, and shared.
As both an adult educator struggling to serve underserved adults in the U.S., and a Catholic struggling to find the crux between social change and lived faith, I needed this book. I was attracted to Fr Fernando’s example as both a Jesuit Priest and the leader of a massive adult literacy campaign in Nicaragua. This book is not transcendent: it is a very particular and personal description of the life and experiences of a very unique man who had a central role in a revolutionary moment. His memoir gives the details I was looking for… and in the process helped me determine the secrets to his success.
In short, he heard and responded to the deep needs of the people. « I wanted my Christianity to be seen as the force that pushed me to love, to serve, and to work. I wanted to show that Christianity is beautiful and that its fundamental commandment was love. » He was also able to work with the reality of circumstances and people. As Minister of Education, « We created something I called education in poverty, which did not mean a poor education, but rather an education grounded in our reality. Despite so many limitations, the spirit we tried to promote was one of initiative and creativity with educators in their communities. » This is the truth and beauty of the Gospel, translated to the 20th century. We are finite beings, living within constraints, but with generosity and community and love, we can accomplish the improbable.
Most improbable was Fr Fernando’s re-admittance to the Jesuit order after choosing to remain in the Sandinista government against the orders of the Pope and Canon Law. His was truly a unique case: the only reinstatement in the history of the order. Again, the particulars of his story matter a great deal. How can one remain faithful to a calling and a hierarchy after such a dramatic conflict? The personal recollections and details of the exchanges over the years is truly dramatic, and a read that I found increased my own faith and joy. (less)
Two Catholic Visions of the Teaching Vocation
1. Two Catholic Visions of the Teaching Vocation: Paulo Freire and the Second Vatican Council April 2013 Photo Soure: http://forumeja.org.br/book/export/html/1412
3. Objectives• Introduce Paulo Freire and the Second Vatican Council.• Compare their visions for the ideal educator.• Consider the implications of these viewpoints for educators and Catholics.
4. What do you know about Vatican II?
5. What was the Second Vatican Council? Called by Pope John XXIII to “open the windows” of the church. 1961-1965, bishops from around the world gathered in St Peter’s Basilica for sessions. Committees developed a series of documents on which bishops debated and voted.Photo source: http://www.leadertelegram.com/news/front_page/article_2607663a-82ee-11e2-8805-001a4bcf887a.html
6. What do you know about Paulo Freire?
7. Who was Paulo Freire?• Catholic, Brazilian educator who led a mass literacy campaign in 1963 for 2 million adults.• Literacy gave voting rights.• Military responded with a coup & exiled Freire until 1979.• In exile, he led literacy campaigns around the world.Photo source: http://mensagens.culturamix.com/frases/pensamentos/pensamentos-de-paulo-freire
8. Why is Paulo Freire important for educators?Dialogic approach• Wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed and other international classics on adult education.• Critiqued the “banking system of education” emphasizing lecture & passive students.• Promoted the opposite: communication & dialogue.Photo source: http://melaniecervantes.tumblr.com/page/3 via ROMCLibrary.org
9. A Sample of the Freirean Method• I need volunteers to take turns to read.
10. Identification with the Oppressed• Paulo Freire:• Humanization is humanity’s vocation, which “is thwarted by injustice, exploitation, oppression, and the violence of the oppressors; it is affirmed by the yearning of the oppressed for freedom and justice, and by their struggle to recover their lost humanity” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed 28).
11. Identification with the Oppressed• Second Vatican Council:• “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts” (Gaudium et Spes 1).
12. Necessity of Formation for the Teaching Vocation• Paulo Freire:• “Nobody becomes an educator on a Tuesday at four in the afternoon. Nobody is born an educator or marked to be one. We make ourselves educators, we develop ourselves as educators permanently, in the practice and through reflection upon the practice” (Paulo Freire Reader 232).
13. Necessity of Formation for the Teaching Vocation• Second Vatican Council:• “Splendid, therefore, and of highest importance is the vocation of those who *…undertake+ a teaching career. This vocation requires special qualities of mind and heart, most careful preparation and a constant readiness to accept new ideas and to adapt the old” (Gravissimum Educationis 5).
14. Parents as the First Teachers• Paulo Freire:• “One of my concerns, at the time, as valid then as it is now, was with the political consequences of that kind of relationship between parents and children, which later becomes that between teachers and pupils, when it came to the learning process of our infant democracy” (Pedagogy of Hope 14).
15. Parents as the First Teachers• Second Vatican Council:• “Since it is the parents who have given life to their children, on them lies the gravest obligation of educating their family. *…+ The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute” (Gravissimum Educationis 3).
16. Need for Political & Social Transformation• Paulo Freire:• “Now the person who has this new understanding can engage in a political struggle for the transformation of the concrete conditions in which the oppression prevails” (Pedagogy of Hope 23).
17. Need for Political & Social Transformation• Second Vatican Council:• The Church “recognizes in those who are poor and who suffer, the likeness of the poor and suffering founder. It does all in its power to relieve their need and in them it endeavors to serve Christ” (Lumen Gentium 8).
18. Who Should Lead Theological Education?• Paulo Freire:• “The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed 54).• “This conditioning *to think about the people instead of with the people] affects the theological training of the leadership of the militant church, as well as the education dispensed by the church. Even theological education and reflection are touched” (Politics of Education 130).
19. Who Should Lead Theological Education?• Second Vatican Council:• “Among the more important duties of bishops, that of preaching the Gospel has pride of place. For bishops *…+ are authentic teachers *…+ they vigilantly ward off whatever errors threaten their flock (see 2 Tim 4:14). *…+ the faithful, for their part, should concur with their bishop’s judgment, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and adhere to it with religious docility of spirit” (Lumen Gentium 25). [emphasis mine]
20. What is one word or phrase that stood out to you?
21. What are similarities & differences between Freire & Vatican II?
22. What do you think this means? • For Catholics? • For educators? • For students?
23. Thanks for coming!• Join me at 3:30pm in Admin 225 for my next session: “Crowd-funding for Student Scholarship” where I will discuss…
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