I call you friends

“Dear Ellacu: For years, I’ve thought about what I’d be saying at the Mass of your martyrdom. I’ve had the same feeling as I had about Archbishop Romero. His martyrdom was inevitable, too, and yet I never wanted to admit to myself that it would finally come. But your death was so likely that it was simply impossible for me to get the idea out of my head.” –A Letter to Ignacio Ellacuria (1990) by Jon Sobrino, S.J.

“Friendship saves. Friendship liberates.” –Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P.

Jesuit liberation theologian Jon Sobrino, aged seventy-four, is not someone you immediately notice when he walks into a room. On Monday, the slight, gray-headed man in the unseasonable blue sweater tentatively crept through our classroom door. He almost whispered his “hi,” adding offhandedly that “my name is Jon.” It took me several seconds before I got it.

Sobrino is at Boston College to teach his summer course on “The Crucified People.” He warned us that his health was bad. He might get exhausted and have to leave early some days. It’s already happened a couple times. He sits at his desk, speaking softly and simply, but very intensely, while reflecting theologically on the 20th century martyrs of Latin America. To a great extent, he had to invent that theological reflection. No one before him had done it.

He keeps asking us if we understand what he is saying. We do. Sometimes he feels he does not have the right English words. So he speaks in Spanish to his co-teacher, Barry University theologian James Nickoloff, who translates for him. The first morning, someone brought Sobrino a styrofoam cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Sobrino, a Salvadoran Jesuit whose lifestyle steers clear of many consumer conveniences, looked mystified as he tried to locate the tab on a rather elaborate lid.

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Thoughts on an Old Friendship between the Institution and Me

Earlier this week an unfortunate miscommunication with a life-long friend led to a hopeful and very productive conversation about the evolution of our friendship. We talked for a long while about how different our lives are today compared to the carefree, relatively unfettered existences we had when we first met as young girls in grade school, and the parallel lives we lived in junior high and high school.  Now, amid very different spaces in life, our needs as individuals and our expectations for the friendship have changed.  Consequently, we concluded that we need to negotiate new expectations for the friendship if it is going to remain fulfilling and sustainable.

This recent incident has me thinking about my relationship with the institutional church in terms of a long-standing friendship.   Continue reading